The Centennial Challenge
The Centennial Challenges are contests sponsored by NASA. There are many challenges, including: the Tether Challenge, the Beam Power Challenge, the Moon Regolith Oxygen or MoonROx Challenge, the Regolith Excavation Challenge, Astronaut Glove Challenge, Vertical Lander Challenge, the Lunar Lander Challenge and the Suborbital Payload Challenge.
The Tether Challenge
This is a challenge to create super-strong tethers, a major component in a space elevator. The prize money for this in 2007 was $500,000.
The Beam Power Challenge
In this challenge the contestant is trying to create a wirelessly powered ribbon-climbing robot. In this contest the robot has to be able to lift a sizeable payload within a limited time. In 2005 two teams competed for $50,000, but neither met the required 1m/s benchmark for their robot. In 2006 the prize money rose to $200,000. In 2007 the prize money was $500,000.
Moon Regolith Oxygen Challenge (MoonROx Challenge)
In this challenge teams compete to extract breathable oxygen from simulated lunar soil before June 1, 2008. There are mass and power limits for the hardware that the teams build to extract the oxygen. The teams’ hardware must be able to extract at least 5 kilograms of breathable oxygen from simulated lunar soil within 8 hours. The winners of this contest will receive $250,000.
Regolith Excavation Challenge
Teams will build an autonomous, mobile excavator that can extract the most simulated lunar regolith within time, mass, and power constraints. The prize money is $750,000.
Astronaut Glove Challenge
This is a challenge in which contestants attempt to make the best performing astronaut glove. The first competition took place On May 2nd and 3rd, 2007 at the New England Air Museum at Bradley International Airport, Windsor Locks, Connecticut. NASA offered $ 200,000 to the team that could design and manufacture the best astronaut glove. This was awarded to Peter K. Homer. An extra $50,000 was offered to the team that “best demonstrates Mechanical Counter Pressure gloves.” The $50,000 went unclaimed and will roll over to 2008.
Vertical Lander Challenge
NASA, Public domain (link).
For this challenge you need to have a suborbital rocket that can vertically take off and vertically land. The rocket also has to be able to achieve altitudes and launch “energies that are equivalent to what would be needed for a lunar lander." The rocket has to be able to go up to a 50 meter minimum altitude, a horizontal distance of 100 meters, a flight time of 90 seconds, and land on a smooth surface and return to its original location after refueling. This has a first prize of $350,000
Lunar Lander Challenge
In this challenge the flight time doubles from the vertical lander challenge for a flight time of 180 seconds. Then the contestants have to land on a rocky surface. The first prize is in excess of $350,000.
Suborbital Payload Challenge
The goal of this challenge is to “achieve suborbital altitudes that provide enough linger time for the kind of microgravity research NASA needs.” It is run by the X PRIZE Foundation. The prize will be worth more than $250,000.