NASA Centennial Challenges were initiated in 2005 to directly engage the public in the process of advanced technology development. The program offers incentive prizes to generate revolutionary solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation. The program seeks innovations from diverse and non-traditional sources. Competitors are not supported by government funding and awards are only made to successful teams when the challenges are met.
In keeping with the spirit of the Wright Brothers and other American innovators, the Centennial Challenge prizes are offered to independent inventors including small businesses, student groups and individuals. These independent inventors are sought to generate innovative solutions for technical problems of interest to NASA and the nation and to provide them with the opportunity to stimulate or create new business ventures.
The President’s budget request includes $4 million per year for Centennial Challenges prizes to allow further growth in the scope and range of prize competitions and even greater opportunities for the citizen-inventor to participate in NASA’s research and development.
Sample Return Robot Challenge
The Sample Return Robot Challenge, sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, offers a total $1.5 million to teams that can demonstrate an autonomous capability to locate and retrieve specific sample types from various locations over a wide and varied terrain and return those samples to a designated zone in a specified amount of time with limited mapping data.
3-D Printed Habitat Challenge
NASA and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, known as America Makes, are holding a new $2.25 million competition to design and build a 3-D printed habitat for deep space exploration, including the agency’s journey to Mars.
Mars Ascent Vehicle Prize
The Centennial Challenges Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) Prize is helping to advance the technology to return samples from Mars. The challenge focuses on getting the samples from the Martian surface to Mars orbit for collection and return to Earth.
The Cube Quest competition, sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Centennial Challenge Program, offers a total of $5 million to teams that meet the challenge objectives of designing, building and delivering flight-qualified, small satellites capable of advanced operations near and beyond the moon.