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NASA ramps up research challenges

NASA on Tuesday announced six new goals as part of its Centennial Challenges Program, which gives financial incentives to encourage private research in space exploration. The space agency laid out draft rules for each of the new challenges and is now asking for feedback from groups that might participate in order to finalize those rules.

Some of the new goals are to engineer a lunar all-terrain vehicle, space suit, orbital sample return and solar sails. Prizes for the challenges will vary and are still not finalized, but could range from $500,000 to $5 million.

"Today's releases represent the initial step towards some of our larger prize competitions," said program manager Brant Sponberg in a statement. "We want to know what adjustments we should make to draft rules and what collaborations we should use to ensure these competitions are challenging, achievable, and valuable to both NASA and the competing teams."

The six challenges are as follows: Fuel Depot Demonstration Challenge; Human Lunar All-Terrain Vehicle Challenge; Low-Cost Space Pressure Suit Challenge; Lunar Night Power Source Challenge; Micro Re-entry Vehicle Challenge; and Station-Keeping Solar Sail Challenge.