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Press Release
Media Contact: 800-787-7223 or press@space-frontier.org
NASA's Budget is No Prize! Space Frontier Foundation Calls for NASA to Greatly Expand "Centennial Challenges" Project

Nasa 2005 budget image
Image from the cover of NASA's 2005 budget. Artwork courtesy NASA.
Los Angeles, CA, June 14, 2004 – As NASA's first Centennial Challenges workshop got underway at the Washington Hilton today, the Space Frontier Foundation praised the Centennial Challenges program, which would allocate up to $20 million in prizes to reward “actual accomplishments rather than proposals” in space and aviation technologies. Unfortunately, the Foundation said, the rest of NASA's $16-billion budget request is no prize.

"We congratulate NASA for spending one-eighth of one percent of its budget on what it says will be actual accomplishments rather than proposals," said Foundation Founder Rick Tumlinson. "If this trend continues, we foresee a day that when NASA gets new technologies, it might spend one-quarter or even one-half of a percent on real, proven hardware, instead of paper studies and pork. Although we are glad some people of vision at the agency are trying to do the right thing, the project is too small, and its goals are too limited. Meanwhile, NASA will continue to pour billions into dead end studies and projects while not opening space to the people. As taxpayers, however, we think NASA can do better than that.”

The Centennial Challenge prizes are modeled after the privately funded X-Prize for sub-orbital space flight and successful aviation and seafaring prizes of the past. The Foundation notes that the $10 million X-Prize has already resulted in tens of millions of dollars in private investment in space transportation, inspired dozens of teams around the world to develop new technologies for entering space and led to the spectacular record-breaking flights by Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne.

"The U.S. government has spent billions of dollars on planned or experimental vehicles like the National Aerospace Plane, X-33, X-34, X-37, X-38, and Orbital Space Plane,” remarked Tumlinson (who was a Founding Trustee of the X-Prize). “Now they are proposing to spend another $10 billion or so on a new vehicle program that will never fly – if past results are any indicator. Yet, for less than $40 million, SpaceShipOne has already flown higher, farther and more often than all of those past X-vehicles combined. SpaceShipOne shows that prizes work. Orbital Space Plane and its ilk show that current government development projects do not.”

The Foundation contends that if the U.S. is serious about keeping people permanently on the Moon and Mars, NASA must lose its “not-invented here” attitude, and use a majority of its funds to help spawn a new space industry to support the effort long term. It wants the agency to replace traditional cost-plus insider contracts with prizes, data purchases, payment on delivery for payloads carried into space and other market incentives – and not just on a token level. The group believes that unless NASA is forced to adopt these methods, and do so immediately, the Moon, Mars and Beyond program will fail.

The Space Frontier Foundation is an organization of people dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. Our goals include protecting the Earth's fragile biosphere and creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space. Our purpose is to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System.

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The Frontier Enabling Test
Our definition of a "frontier enabling" technology or policy is one which has as its effect the acceleration of the creation of low cost access to the space frontier for private citizens and companies, enables or accelerates our use of space resources, and/or accelerates the rate at which wealth can be generated in space. In other words, is the project or policy going to provide a return on the national investment, if we define "return" to be the economically sustainable human habitation of space?

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