Pictures from the Green Room at SXSW.

News from the South

Greetings GLXP fans, and happy Friday!

I am reporting to you from Austin, Texas, at the SxSW ("South by Southwest") Interactive festival, where I'll be for the next several days. As I've heard it described by several people, SxSW is where "the entire internet meets in person" for one week. This is the first really big online tech conference that I've been to, and I am pretty excited for a number of reasons, which I'll tell you about later in another post (possibly a video).

BUT FIRST -- I want to announce the winners from last week's Friday Fun Day! For #FFD last week, we had the community submit artwork using the new Google image tool, Picnik. The winners will receive such coveted prizes as Google Lunar X PRIZE t-shirts and hats! The votes are in, so without further ado... congratulations to our winners, @Snibble and @mattcollister!

From The Launch Pad

From The Launch Pad

Great artwork, guys, and thanks to everyone that contributed to last week's contest.

Over the next few days, stay tuned to this blog and the #SXSWi hashtag on Twitter to keep up with GLXP. We'll have some great stuff to share.

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day -- a day set aside to honor the achievements of women, past and present, from around the globe. This got me thinking about all of the great women in the space community, so I posed the question on Twitter: Who are the women in the space community that have inspired you?

There have been some great responses. Here is a listing of the suggestions so far:

Jill Tarter, Director of the Center for SETI Research. Beyond being a brilliant scientist and astronomer, her work was featured in Carl Sagan's book, "Contact", and the protagonist in the film was based on her. How cool is that?

Vera Rubin, astronomer. A pioneer for her work on galaxy rotation rates (via @womanastronomer and @dmasten)

Svetlana Savitskaya, Russian cosmonaut. The first woman ever to perform a space walk -- in 1984! She also set 18 international world records on MiG aircraft. Impressive.  (via @jimmic)

Space/NASA Twitterati -- @BethBeck, @kennicosmith, @flyingjenny,  @VeronicaMcG@jhjones, @txflygirl, @CatherineQ, @iamjem, @absolutspacegrl, @arielwaldman (,  and @rocketshadow (XCOR) all received mentions for the great work they do in sharing the excitement of space with others!

Esther Dyson, journalist, philanthropist, entrepreneur. She has invested in XCOR, Zero-G, and Space Adventures, and trained as a back-up spaceflight participant to Charles Simonyi. (via @chris_radcliff)

Samantha Cristoforetti, first Italian woman astronaut. (via @amoroso)

Sally Ride, physicist, astronaut. The first American woman to go to space. (via @dmasten)

Eileen Collins, astronaut. First female pilot and first female commander of the Space Shuttle (via @womanastronomer)

Anousheh Ansari, entrepreneur and spaceflight participant. The first female private space explorer and the first Iranian astronaut. Not to mention the sponsor of the very first X PRIZE! (via @ageekmom and @nearvanna)

Shannon Lucid, biochemist and astronaut. Spent many weeks aboard Mir, held the record for the longest stay in space by a woman (until 2007). (via @ageekmom)

Judy Resnik, engineer and astronaut. The second American woman to go to space, and was sadly lost in the Space Shuttle Challenger accident in 1986. (via @spionchen)

Christa McAuliffe, educator and astronaut. "I touch the future. I teach."As @ageekmom commented on Twitter, "we lost her too soon" in the Challenger accident.

Peggy Whitson, biochemistry researcher and astronaut. NASA's most experienced astronaut with 376 days spent in space! Amazing. She was also the first commander of the International Space Station twice. (via @txflygirl and @jimcook310)

Mae Jemison, physician and astronaut. She was the first African American woman in space, and is still active in promoting STEM education. (via @absolutspacegrl and @nearvanna)

Early aviation pioneers Amelia Earhart and Bessie Coleman -- awesome suggestions from @txflygirl.

Loretta Hidalgo-Whitesides, astrobiologist and space advocate. Founder of Yuri's Night. (via @nearvanna)

The Mercury 13 (suggested by @txflygirl) and specifically Jerrie Cobb, the first woman to pass NASA astronaut training (from @absolutspacegrl)

Dr. June Scobee Rogers, educator. Widow of Dick Scobee (commander of Challenger STS-51-L). Became the founder of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. (via @ageekmom)

Vanna Bonta, actress, novelist, poet, and inventor of 2suit. Also a member of Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge team BonNova. (via @the2suit)

Pam Melroy (aka "Pambo"), ret. Air Force officer, astronaut. Flew on STS-120 as the 2nd-ever female Space Shuttle commander. (via @jimcook310)

Barbara Morgan, teacher and astronaut. Barbara was Christa McAuliffe's backup for the Teacher in Space program, and eventually flew on STS-118 as NASA's first educator-astronaut to space. (via @jimcook310 and @ageekmom)

Valentina Tereshkova, cosmonaut. First woman in space in 1963. (via @absolutspacegrl)

Ellen Ochoa, engineer and astronaut. First Hispanic woman in space. Current deputy director of the NASA Johnson Space Center. (via @absolutspacegrl)

Some of the earliest pioneers in science and space: Hypatia of Alexandria - one of the first women scientists (370 - 415), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) devised maps of the universe, and Caroline Herschel, first woman appointed to Court Astronomer, and discoverer of comets in the 1800's. Thanks for the historical perspective, @nearvanna!

Inspirational women currently working in the space industry for @DariaT are Dr. Cynthia Null, Human Factors guru at NASA Ames Research Center and Laurie Leshin, deputy director for science and technology at NASA.

Poppy Northcutt, mathematician, NASA flight controller. The only woman working in Mission Control at the time of the Apollo 13 emergency.  (via @absolutspacegrl)

Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark, NASA astronauts lost in the STS-107 Columbia accident. Kalpana was the first Indian-born woman to fly in space.  (via matthewhoey and @absolutspacegrl)

On a side note, @absolutspacegrl pointed out the @STEMinist Twitter account, which provides great links and stories about women in science, tech, engineering, and math, and a "Profiles of Frontierswomen" website.

Are there others would you like to add? Feel free to comment here, or @-reply us on Twitter.

A Science and Technology Program That Is Transforming Our Culture and Changing Young People’s Minds About What They Want To Be When They Grow Up.

In reviewing some of the greatest pioneering programs in STEM education, I thought it would be valuable to share a program that I believe to be one of the most inspiring out there. Many of you may be aware of this program and some of you may even be involved in it. (We-Google Lunar X PRIZE have even blogged about it before in earlier posts.) For those that aren’t aware of this program, I wanted to take some time and summarize it, along with posting a few new facts.

Founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nationwide 501c program that organizes adults and youth to work together in a mentor based program that fosters science, engineering and technology skills. Youth build self confidence, communication and leadership skills through their innovative designs of robot constructions. Depending on which program youth are involved in, robots can be designed using common kits, modular platforms, LEGO MINDSTORM technologies or LEGO bricks.

Who supports FIRST and how many youth are involved? In cooperation with 90,000 volunteers and over 3,500 corporations, education and professional organizations, this program currently reaches 212,000+ students worldwide.

FIRST Program Age/Grade Groups
- FIRST Robotics for Grades 9-12: 45, 225 students
- FIRST Tech Challenge for Grades 9-12: 11,000 students
- FIRST Lego League for Grades 4-8: 147,250 students
- Junior FIRST LEGO League for Grades K-3: 9,000 students

How is this program affecting the change in attitude for science and engineering careers? The Brandies University Center for Youth and Communities conducted an independent retrospective survey of the FIRST Robotics Competition participants and compared results to a group of non-FIRST students with similar backgrounds and academic experiences. When compared with the comparison group, FIRST students are:

• More than 3 times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
• Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree.
• More than twice as likely to pursue a career in science and technology.
• Roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship or co- op job in their freshman year.

How will Google Lunar X PRIZE be involved? We will be visiting one of many regional competitions taking place this month. As a spectator, we will get the pleasure to watch teams compete locally in Long Beach, California on March 25th-27th. We will be posting pictures and information about this regional competition on The Launch Pad. We will also be attending the FIRST Championship as a spectator on April 15th-17th in Atlanta, Georgia. X PRIZE will be joining LEGO and National Instruments at their resource booths to disseminate information about up and coming education programs related to the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

Click here to get information about FIRST robotic regional championships and tournaments being held this month. These events are free and open to the public.

Weekend Roundup Part 2 - The Non-Twitter Side

Stephen Hawking to Accept Cosmos Award in Cambridge, England - The Planetary Society - Note that the award presentation was a week ago (the linked press release is from February 24).

Greetings From Space Up in Sunny San Diego! - The Planetary Society reviews the unconference, including photos of people and hardware from Unreasonable Rocket and Masten Space Systems.

Masten Space Systems Update - - Jon from Masten links to another picture from the unconference in this discussion.

Let's put robots AND humans in space - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Astrobotic's David Gump considers NASA's new budget proposal. Much of the debate over this budget concerns a controversy over whether NASA should use its own systems, commercial systems, or both to give NASA astronauts access to space. This article focuses on a less-debated, but essential, part of the new plan that goes beyond the old astronauts-vs-robotics debate: a new line of robotic astronaut precursor missions to do things like travel to the Moon's surface and demonstrate production of rocket propellant from lunar ice.

NASA Wants to Fund Centennial Challenges at $10 Million Per Year - Parabolic Arc

Bankrupt Sea Launch Gets More Financing – Heinlein Prize Trust Involved - Parabolic Arc

Centennial Challenges gathering… - The Space Elevator Blog

“One of the problems we had last year was wind-induced oscillation…” - The Space Elevator Blog points to some video clips from Bitter Jester Creative, Inc.

Announcing the Artsutanov and Pearson awards - The Space Elevator Blog

Marshall hosts the 2010 Great Moonbuggy Race - Lunar Networks

Ted Southern - Eyebeam Art + Technology Center

You can see more photos of Ted's astronaut glove at his Glove & Hands page. From there you can also get to his other projects.

A wry report on regolith removal - RLV News

Explore Mars, Inc. opens - Space for All:

... We are pleased to announce the formation of Explore Mars, Inc. ( ... In the first half of 2010, Explore Mars will launch a series of technology development challenges relating to Mars exploration, with prizes ranging from $10,000 - $100,000. ... the first of these challenges will focus on in situ resource utilization - technologies that will allows us to "live off the land" on other planets. ... collaborating with Aerojet and NASA's Spaceward Bound, we will be creating the Mars Education Challenge that will challenge educators to design new and innovative Mars curriculum. ... Explore Mars plans to announce details of at least two prizes in the first half of 2010. The Explore Mars team includes individuals such as Apollo 11 Astronaut, Buzz Aldrin; NASA Planetary scientist, Dr. Chris McKay; Space historian, Andy Chaikin; former Biosphere 2 director of science and research, Bruno D.V. Marino; and many others.

Aero Club of Atlanta presents Epps Award -

... Huffman has inspired students who later become astronauts, including two students from Henderson High School, the only known school in the world to graduate two NASA astronauts. ... She is the founder of the SEMAA (NASA’s Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy) LINKS Engineering team and sponsored the Wild Blue Wonders Team America Rocketry Challenge. ...

The latest NewSpace News links to an article by Peter Diamandis, Beam Power team LaserMotive, and information about the 2010 Space Access conference that includes numerous space prize teams.

Johns Hopkins Engineering - Winter 2010 - One of the features in this article is on the JHU Robotics Team. The team participates in the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle competition and the International Aerial Robotics competition.

Working on Blue and.... - Unreasonable Rocket

Volanz Aerospace Thanks Secor Strategies - Secor Strategies

OpenNASA Prize Ideas

OpenNASA invites you to contribute ideas on making NASA more efficient, innovative, and open within the agency and to the outside world. You can discuss and vote on other contributors' ideas, too. Some of the ideas there feature prizes or competitions of one sort or another. Here are a few examples:

Create a Science Data API Challenge

Junior Astronaut Corps - Allow students to compete for 25 coveted slots in the Junior Astronaut Corps -- using much of the same criteria (but age-appropriate) as we use to select astronauts. ...

Millennial Challenges ... Centennial Challenges on Steroids

Step-by-step prizes for Flexible Path goals

Incentive awards 4 creative thinking (new participatory office)

Weekend Twitter Space Prize Roundup

Here's a stack of space prize tweets I gathered over the last week or so, interspersed with a few comments.

@InnoCentiveCEO: NEw $20K NASA Challenge: Coordination of Sensor Swarms for Extraterrestrial Research Very cool!

The deadline on that new NASA InnoCentive competition is April 26. From the challenge overview:

... but a much more revolutionary idea is the concept of Sensor Swarming, where the swarm itself exhibits ’emergent behavior’ or ’intelligence’. This Challenge asks solvers to develop and simulate a high performing sensor swarm coordinate protocol.

Check InnoCentive's NASA Innovation Pavilion to keep up to date on all of their NASA challenges.

InnoCentive has many other innovation competitions. Here's one:

@InnoCentiveCEO: New $100K Competition: Predictive Data Analysis Teams Eligible!

@jetlab: Watch Students Compete Using Lego Robotics: Watch school teams test their software-enabled Lego robots via a...

This is on the Southern California NASA Explorer Schools Robotics Competition, part of FIRST. The competition will be held on Tuesday at JPL.

@glxp: Anousheh Ansari's new memoir, "My Dream of Stars", is now available on Amazon:

Here's a look back at the NASA Centennial Challenge recognition ceremony:

@Doug_Comstock: Check out images of all winning teams and allied organizations from last week's CC recognition event.

... and here's a 3-tweets-for-one collection from the winner of the 2009 Beam Power Centennial Challenge, showing that they're looking into business applications for their technology:

@LaserMotive: Tom is heading to San Diego today for a UAV conference. Power beaming could enable 'eternal' UAVs.

Here's the UAV conference website:

Day one of the UAV conference went well. Tom spoke to a number of people about power beaming for UAVs, and they were very interested.

The neXt PRIZE blog has been active lately. This brings our attention to the most recent post there:

@Pomerantz: A new blog post my from colleagues in Prize Development: "PRIZE Development - Where It All Begins..." #XPRIZE

The post compares the X PRIZEs to X CHALLENGEs:

... An X CHALLENGE, on the other hand, is a prize of up to $2.5M, awarded for solving a well-defined technical problem that has no clear path to a solution or is perceived as difficult. Unlike an X PRIZE, which seeks to stimulate or catalyze an entire market (including the social and regulatory aspects of that market), an X CHALLENGE seeks to produce a breakthrough technological or behavioral solution to a specific market need.

I'm sure most of you have seen this news:

@Odyssey_Moon: Odyssey_Moon Chief Scientist Paul Spudis says >1.3 trillion lbs of water at Moon's north pole @GLXP

The mass isn't the only consideration. Here's a comment from Dr. Spudis at NASA Watch:

The ice we're seeing is nearly pure and is located within the interiors of craters with diameters of 2-15 km. It's at least a couple meters thick, with maybe 50 cm of dry regolith on top of it.

To a mining engineer, it's almost the perfect ore body.

Dr. Spudis gives more details here: Ice at the north pole of the Moon - The Once and Future Moon (Air and Space Smithsonian Magazine)

Here are some updates from a couple of N Prize teams (Team Prometheus is also participating with Team FREDNET in the Google Lunar X PRIZE):

@TeamPrometheus: We have aquired a 24' Box Truck for Missiom Control.

@ValkyrieFed: We will be at the Montreal Twestival, March 25th, at the Bain Mathieu!

The next few tweets show what some of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge teams are doing after the competition:

@unrocket: Have to build new tethers and cat pack, then fly blue ball again. Hoped to be ready for FAR on the 6th, now thinking 20th, taking my time.

@glxp: - The @unrocket folks are here with Blue! Here is the venue #spaceup

This video made me think that maybe Masten Space Systems should have taken the name of one of their NG-LLC competitors, SpeedUp:

@wikkit: Two hours of work in two minutes: taking apart #ngllc winning rocket Xoie in December:

@wikkit: The sexy aeroshell design I came up with didn't survive today's analysis. This whole having an atomsphere thing, it's tricky.

The link in the following tweet is to a COSMIC LOG article, "Inventors take the prize", that covers the Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize Program:

@Pomerantz: I'm partial to incentive prizes, but the other kind work well, too! (via @b0yle)

@Eurospaceward: Abstracts due May 15 for the newly announced Pearson and Artsutanov SE Prizes, paper deadline July 1, 2010. Contest details:

Here are more details from the ISEC Prizes page:

ISEC has created these prizes to foster research about topics related to building a Space Elevator. ... The Pearson Prize is open to all college undergraduate students currently enrolled in a two or four year undergraduate curriculum. Papers submitted for the Pearson prize must have a specific theme as its topic. For 2010, this theme is "Space Debris Mitigation". ... The Artsutanov prize is open to all entrants and papers can be on any space-elevator related subject.

The winner of the Pearson Prize will win a cash award of $1,500 while the winner of the Artsutanov Prize will win a cash award of $2,500. In addition, the winners (one per paper in case of multiple authors of a single paper) will be invited to the 2010 Space Elevator Conference to present their papers and to receive their award. ISEC will reimburse the winner's travel and hotel expenses ...