Dave pointed out to me earlier today that it looks like Centennial Challenges is finally going to get more funding this year (see http://docs.house.gov/rules/omni2010/hr3288cr_divb_jes.pdf 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.