NASA's Upcoming Centennial Challenge
This coming Wednesday, NASA will be launching its third three-day-long annual >Sample Return Robot Challenge at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute's campus in Worcester, Massachusetts. By Friday, June 13th, one lucky team of citizen inventors from across the world will be chosen as the victor of the contest, taking home with them a whopping sum of nearly 1.5 million dollars.
The teams have been working to create and demonstrate "a robot that can locate and collect geological samples from a wide and varied landscape without human control."
According to NASA, "The objective is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies... Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as enhance the nation's robotic technology for use in industries and applications on Earth."
The competition is the latest of a long series of NASA Centennial Challenges, and the third to take place on WPI's campus. In an interview prior to the competition at WPI last year, NASA Space Technology Program Director Michael Gazarik nicely stated the overarching purpose of these contests: "Contests like NASA's Centennial Challenges are an excellent example of government sparking the engine of American innovation and prosperity through competition while keeping our nation on the cutting edge of advanced robotics technology."
Click here for a video featuring the final rovers from last year's competition.
As far as this week goes, the teams are chosen, the site is prepared, and people from all around the globe are getting ready to tune in for a show of the ingenuities and innovations of the most talented scientists in the world.
The event is a free and open to the public, so if you live near the Massachusetts area sign up here and experience the competition up close.
Otherwise, you can support your favorite rover from the comfort of your home, at www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc.