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John Bluck
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000

October 18, 2005
NASA Gives $100,000 for Tether/Robot Climber Contest Prizes
MEDIA ADVISORY:You are invited to NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 22, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT, and Sunday Oct. 23, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT, to see a dozen contestants competing to win $100,000 in prize money for demonstrating the best 'space tethers' and 'tether climber' robots. To reach NASA Ames, take the Moffett Field exit from Highway 101, and drive east to the main gate. Just before reaching the gate, turn left onto R.T. Jones Road and drive about one block. The outdoor contest area will be in a parking lot on the right side of the road near NASA Ames Gate 18. Media representatives do not need NASA-issued visitor 'badges.' Reporters will be able to interview contestants. In addition, there will be a space tether and tether climber robot photo opportunity Friday, Oct. 21, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT at the Spaceward Foundation, Mountain View, Calif. To reach Spaceward from Highway 101, take the Shoreline Blvd. exit south. Cross Middlefield Road, drive one-half block, and turn left into the Spaceward (Gizmonics) parking lot at 709 N. Shoreline Blvd.

A dozen contestants will vie for $100,000 in prizes Oct. 22 – Oct. 23 for the best space tethers and beamed-power, 'tether climber' robots at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley.

The NASA Centennial Challenges Program is providing the prize money for the contest conducted by the Spaceward Foundation, Mountain View, Calif., in partnership with NASA.

"This is an exciting start for the Centennial Challenges program," said Brant Sponberg, program manager for Centennial Challenges at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "The innovations from these competitions will help support advances in aerospace materials and structures, new approaches to robotic and human planetary surface operations, and even futuristic concepts like space elevators and space solar power satellites," Sponberg said.

The Beam Power Challenge focuses on the development of wireless power technologies for a wide range of exploration purposes, such as human-lunar exploration and long-duration Mars reconnaissance. For this challenge, teams developed wireless power transmission systems, including transmitters and receivers, for powering robotic climbers. The robotic climbers will be tested to see which one will lift the most weight to the top of a 164-foot (50-meter) cable in less than three minutes.

"We are thrilled with our partnership with NASA, and we're excited to take the tether and beam power challenges to the next level," said Meekk Shelef, president of the Spaceward Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to furthering the cause of space access in educational curricula and the public. "These two competitions focus on the development of lightweight, yet strong tether materials and wireless power transmission technologies, two of the key technologies required for future space applications such as the space elevator," Shelef noted.

Contest organizers say that improved tether and power beam technologies are required to enable a 'space elevator.' If built, a space elevator may well provide a safe, low-cost way to lift payloads, such as satellites, into orbit. Engineers envision that a space elevator would include a ribbon about three feet (one meter) wide, extending from an anchor at Earth's surface to a counterweight orbiting above the planet. Electric 'climber' machines would travel up the ribbon carrying payloads into orbit.

NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate manages the Centennial Challenges program. During the program's first two years, prizes will total $400,000 for four prize competitions. The winners of each initial 2005 challenge will receive $50,000. A second set of tether and beam power challenges in 2006 will be more difficult. Each challenge will award $100,000, $40,000 and $10,000 for first, second and third places. For more information about the Centennial Challenges, the competitions, the Spaceward Foundation and high-resolution images, please visit:


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