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NASA’s Centennial Challenges to Advance Technologies


WASHINGTON - From Oct. 19 to 21, more than 20 teams from across the nation and around the world will compete for a total of $1,000,000 from NASA for the development of cutting-edge technologies. The Beam Power Challenge and Tether Challenge, two of NASA’s seven Centennial Challenges, will take place at the 2007 Space Elevator Games at the Davis County Event Center in Salt Lake City.

“The innovations from these competitions will help support advances in aerospace materials and structures, new approaches to robotic and human planetary surface operations, and even futuristic concepts,” said Ken Davidian, program manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges, Headquarters, Washington.

The Spaceward Foundation is conducting the challenges as part of the Space Elevator Games at no cost to NASA.

The Beam Power Challenge promotes the development of new power distribution technologies that can be applied to space exploration. This competition requires teams to design and build a climber machine that can travel up and down a ribbon while carrying a payload. Power will be beamed from a transmitter to a receiver on the climber. Each climber must scale a height of approximately 330 feet traveling at a minimum speed of 2 meters per second. As many as three teams with the highest qualifying scores could win the competition and share the $500,000 purse. Technologies demonstrated in this competition could have applications for future planetary surface operation with robots or humans.

The purpose of the Tether Challenge is to develop very strong, lightweight material. Super-strong tethers could enable advances in aerospace capability, including rocket weight reduction, habitable space structures, solar sails, or tether-based propulsion systems. The challenge will be conducted in two rounds that test the strength of each team’s tether. As many as three teams could share the $500,000 prize. The winners must demonstrate a technology at least 50 percent stronger than a baseline, state-of-the-art tether that uses off-the-shelf materials.

The space elevator is an Earth-to-space transportation system proposed in the 1960s and enhanced in 2000 by Dr. Bradley Edwards of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The system is comprised of a stationary cable moving in unison with the Earth, with one end anchored to the surface of the planet and the other in space. Electric cars then would travel up and down the cable, carrying cargo and people.

For more information about the competitions, visit:

Centennial Challenges, an element of NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program, promotes technical innovation through prize competitions to make revolutionary advances to support NASA’s mission, including the return to the moon and journey to Mars. For more information about the Innovative Partnerships Program and Centennial Challenges, visit:


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