CHALLENGE GOALS & BACKGROUND
At NASA, there is no ambiguity in our mission: we reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind. Doing so however, doesn’t just require groundbreaking technologies, it requires visionary people – people who are unwilling to quit despite the most difficult of circumstances. Naturally, this environment lends itself well to the collaboration with entrepreneurs and the startup companies they found.
In 2020, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) announced a pilot program conducted in partnership with Starburst, the “Entrepreneurs Challenge”. The goal of the challenge was to support the development of new science instruments and related technologies with the potential to advance the Agency’s science exploration goals.
SMD sought novel ideas that were currently trending in the commercial sector, particularly in areas such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, and advanced sensors. SMD recognized the potential for valuable contributions from entrepreneurs, where much of the innovation currently resides. Under this new initiative, SMD issued nearly $1,000,000 in prize funding to more than 10 commercial startup companies.
In July 2021, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate announced plans to issue the challenge again to continue to identify fresh ideas and new participants in the NASA technology development process.