Good News for Centennial Challenges?

Dave pointed out to me earlier today that it looks like Centennial Challenges is finally going to get more funding this year (see on page 182 about 3/4 of the way to the bottom). The new amount is the full $4M that the Obama Administration asked for earlier this year.

While this is only a smidge over the $3.65M that was awarded this year, it’s good to finally see Congress taking this program more seriously. I guess having multiple winners across four prizes finally got some attention. I do hope they’ve noticed that any prize worth offering real money for is going to take a while for people to claim, and that therefore if they want regular visible successes, they’ll need to provide regular funding for new prizes.

The good news is that $4M can go a long way with a prize program like this. That should be at least enough for another prize on the scale of the Lunar Lander Challenge, as well as one or more smaller prizes. I’d love to see the Centennial Challenges program eventually funded to the point where it can offer prizes all the way from tiny $10-20k ones for stuff like the Aerocapture Algorithms prize suggestion they got all the way up to $50-100M class prizes for demonstrating significant capabilities like Orbital RLVs or demonstration Propellant Depots or Space Tugs. But in the meantime, $4M should give the program some new life and the opportunity to start expanding into some cool new prizes. The LLC was an adventure for all involved, that I know has at least got some kids (and adults!) paying more attention to space and science. I’m looking forward to watching and possibly participating in more competitions like this in the future.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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6 Responses to Good News for Centennial Challenges?

  1. john hare says:

    Is there any clue as to the nature of the next set of challenges?

  2. No, though they have a list of suggestions they got over on their webpage:

    Several of them were really good (lining up pretty well with my old list of key spacefaring technologies), but some of them were pretty wacked out. I particularly liked the “try out my crackpot idea” prizes that weren’t actually prizes at all but were just cranks demonstrating why they haven’t had much success in convincing people of the merits of their ideas. 🙂

    Nuclear Lightbulb SSTO Prize! Woot! 😉

  3. A_M_Swallow says:

    One of the prizes could be to launch the prototype equipment on a NASA provided rocket. A tiny team may be able to assemble say a 1000 kg demo propellant depot in his back garden but not afford the $10 million needed to launch it on a Falcon 1e. Ten tonne payload Falcon 9 and twenty metric ton Atlas V cost even more.

  4. john hare says:

    I particularly liked the “try out my crackpot idea” prizes that weren’t actually prizes at all but were just cranks demonstrating why they haven’t had much success in convincing people of the merits of their ideas.

    Ouch, if I had any feelings, they would be hurt. 🙂

  5. Jonathan Goff Jonathan Goff says:

    I just mean like when someone solicits questions, and someone asks a 5 minute long statement without a single question in it. Just something that’s always annoyed me. As you put it once, the one thing that makes the biggest difference between us and cranks like Gaetano or Elf-head is that we actually are capable of skepticism about our own ideas. 🙂


    That nuclear lightbulb SSTO prize wasn’t your idea was it? 😉

  6. john hare says:


    No, I didn’t post any suggestions there. I was just joking about the crazy idea comment. New ideas should be guilty until proven innocent. I just wish there was a good way to get that point across to the sincere.


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