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NASA Prize Targets Inclusive Community Building for Tech Development

Astronaut and college student watching laser demonstration.
Howard University student Miles Phillips gives NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins a demonstration of his work with lasers during a tour of the Laser Spectroscopy Laboratory at Howard University, Friday, March 31, 2023, in Washington.
NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Revolutionary space technology research and development relies on novel ideas across America. To that end, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is rolling out an innovative engagement strategy to help enhance outreach efforts, reduce barriers to entry, and attract high-quality proposals from a diverse pool of researchers.

A new NASA Space Tech Catalyst Prize sets out to expand the agency’s network of proposers and foster effective engagement approaches within NASA’s Early-Stage Innovations and Partnerships (ESIP) portfolio. Through this prize, NASA will recognize U.S. individuals and/or organizations that share effective best practices on approaches and methods for how they successfully engage underrepresented and diverse space technology innovators, researchers, technologists, and entrepreneurs.

“Diversity leads to greater innovation in space technology, better research, deeper discoveries, and achievements in human spaceflight,” said Shahra Lambert, senior advisor for engagement and equity at NASA. “We won’t discover new possibilities alone – it will take the best of all of us to get us there. When we enable more people to participate, we provide space for all possible talent, perspectives, and innovations. This empowers NASA to achieve the greatest success in discovering and expanding knowledge for the benefit of all humanity.”

Numerous individuals and/or teams will each be awarded $25,000, and the cohort of winners will be invited to an in-person event at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. During the event, NASA aims to learn industry best practices for engaging and building a diverse community of space technology research and development professionals to inform future NASA plans and grow partnership potential.

Applicants may include teachers, mentors, and other individuals. Universities, non-profits, businesses, and other organizations are also encouraged to apply. Interested and eligible individuals and organizations should register and fill out the submission form on the competition website, provide references, and submit a short video. Applicants will be asked to describe the groups they currently engage with, what barriers their engagement approaches have addressed, an explanation of how NASA investment will further their work, and more.

“We want to create a network of NASA space technology champions that bring our funding opportunities to their communities and new ideas to NASA,” said Jenn Gustetic, the Early-Stage Innovation and Partnerships director in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.  “The agency can learn a lot from individuals and organizations already doing successful outreach to and engagement with underrepresented groups to inform our future engagement and capacity building efforts to researchers and businesses that haven’t worked with NASA ESIP.”

Interested applicants should register online by Feb. 8, 2024. Applications must be completed and submitted by Feb. 22, 2024.

For more information about the NASA Space Tech Catalyst Prize and details on eligibility criteria and how to participate, visit:

The Space Technology Mission Directorate and ESIP annually invests in more than 700 early-stage projects and activities through six programs.



Last Updated
Mar 07, 2024
Loura Hall