Brief Reflections on my Five Year X-iversary

Today marks a fairly major milestone for me: it was five years ago today, on July 1, 2010, that I became a full-time employee at the X PRIZE Foundation.* Some how, in the intervening five years, I've become a graybeard by X PRIZE standards--only Peter Diamandis and Elke Stoll can boast of longer tenures as full time employees.** Yes, this fact is still bizarre for me.

It's fairly remarkable how much the Foundation has changed over the course of those five years. When I joined the Foundation, I was employee number 11 or so. We had just moved in our first real office, which was drastically too small for the staff, but did have affectionate nicknames like "Deep Space". The Foundation had a whopping total of zero active prizes, and were really just getting started with kicking around the concepts that would eventually grow into the Archon Genomics X PRIZE and the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. We were also fleshing the idea for what would become the X PRIZE Cup.

I had been brought in to help help brainstorm what space prizes the Foundation would undertake in the future. In the early days, there were three front-runners: an Orbital follow-on to the Ansari X PRIZE, the concept that eventually became the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE, and another X CHALLENGE-level competition for reusable, advanced sounding rockets (somewhat similar to this). Other ideas, from methane propellants and advanced RCS X CHALLENGES to an Asteroid Detection X PRIZE, were kicked about. It was, as you can imagine, and fun time.

It's immensely gratifying to think of all that has happened since then. There have been frustrations and missteps along the way, of course, but in sum, there is an awful lot to be proud of. The X PRIZE family has launched three X PRIZEs and one X CHALLENGE. The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE really helped grow an industry from the ground up, turning a few relatively unknown groups into important industry players, and helping bring some much deserved attention to some new aerospace heroes.*** We put on very fun X PRIZE Cup events for a few years, events that helped lead to the birth of new SEDS chapters, the growth of emerging entrepreneurial space firms, and the construction of a impressive new spaceport in Southern New Mexico. On a more personal note, the X PRIZE has given me the chance to work with some amazing, inspiring people, and to make some new friendships that will last a lifetime.

Who knows what the next five years will bring? But as I celebrate this particular milestone, I wanted to be sure to thank the countless people who have made the past five years what they were, the countless donors, volunteers, partners, staffers, blog readers, and friends who help us do what we do here. Here's to you!


* - I'd been a volunteer during the Ansari X PRIZE days, and then a half time employee for much of June, but when considering anniversaries, the full time start date seems to make the most sense.

** - Although applying the term "full time" to Peter is almost nonsensical. Time clearly operates differently for Peter than it does for the rest of us.

*** - You may think this is a bit of hyperbole, but I absolutely know of people whose lives have been changed by being inspired by NGLLXC competitors like Paul Breed and Scott Zeeb. If that doesn't qualify them as heroes, I don't know what does.

blog comments powered by Disqus