Entrepreneurs, NASA shoot for the moon
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
At the intersection of science and technology, 2007 was overrun by robots and space adventures.
was in the spotlight this year, as scientists around the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of space flight. In the 1950s, Russia's Sputnik satellite kicked off the space race, the formation of NASA, and that touch our lives every day. That reflection brought on questions about the exploration and --will we in the next 50 years?
Meanwhile, the space agency developed futureand manned missions into space, including and sending astronauts back to the moon by 2020. And NASA plans to , as early as fall 2008. Robotic space probes like , a craft that's due to arrive at Pluto by the summer of 2015, also rendered new discoveries about the solar system's largest planet, Jupiter.
The private space industry also got further off the ground this year. Private space companies including Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Robert Bigelow's Bigelow Aerospace, and Elon Musk's Space X all pulled off successful tests of their space vehicles. And tourist companies liketo the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.
NASA supported these and other experiments in the private sector. Among other prize competitions, NASA sponsored the, a contest to build and fly an efficient so-called air car, and the , a race to build and fly a lunar rover. Next year, the , but contestants now can opt to compete in the privately funded .
The year'swas clearly the DARPA Urban Challenge, the third in a series of sponsored by the defense department. Carnegie Mellon University, which raced a modified Land Rover, won the $2 million prize for first place, performing the cleanest and fastest, driving on roughly 60 miles of urban terrain. It was a milestone in the development of autonomous vehicles.
Scientists and futurists also thought about thefor artificial intelligence and the to one day outthink humans. In the meantime, and other robots that can help people with everyday chores--and maybe a few scientific breakthroughs.
The Urban Challenge's competitive drama seeds the idea in people's minds that self-driving cars are possible.
The only team competing failed to complete more than two flights, leaving the challenge unmet for another year.
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NASA thinks so, and it's offering prize money for teams heading to the skies in a contest starting Saturday.
Space agency says it's making great progress on the successor to the space shuttle, which could ultimately take astronauts back to the moon.
From MIT professors to high school dropouts, humans are the driving force as the urban challenge draws closer.
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