Technology Entertainment and Design (TED)


This week is the second TEDxNASA conference at the NASA/Langley Research Center (LaRC).  They have been leading the agency in creating these outstanding and innovative conferences to bring together various perspectives.  I would definitely encourage anyone that is familiar with TED events to take a look at the videos from last year’s TedxNASA Space to Create. You will definitely enjoy the talks.  Additionally on November 20th, NASA/LaRC and NASA/Johnson Space Center will be hosting events in support of TEDxYouthDay.  Held on Universal Children’s Day – “TEDx organizers across the globe will host events for (and by) young people. These events will vary widely in size, format and theme, but they will share a common vision: inspiring curiosity, igniting new ideas, empowering young leaders.”


So as I thought about bringing together the worlds of technology, entertainment and design I am reminded of an experiment that we are trying at JSC.  Two months ago we asked Pat Rawlings to help bring together the world of technology and entertainment in looking at a possible future for the Johnson Space Center.   He combined his insights on technology trends with a graphic novel format to describe what the future might look like at the 100th anniversary of the lunar landing. In his depiction of the future he introduces the Butterfly Effect Environmental Software (B.E.E.S) that used massive amounts of data to better predict the weather and other events.  If you are curious about what this might look like I would recommend that you look at the external posting of the JSC 2069 story.   


When I reflected on the TED activities, what struck me more than our story about the possibilities was the reality that was recently announced by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).  They introduced a new facility with a “state-of-the-art supercomputer to give NOAA a powerful new tool in climate and weather modeling”.  It is reminiscent of Jules Verne and submarines or da Vinci and airplanes.   When you combine technology and the arts (left and right sides of the brain) new realities are possible.  Of course the JSC 2069 story did not result in NOAA’s announcement, but like Jules Verne it opens up the possibilities for future applications of a nascent technology/capability. 


Therefore, I applaud the team at Langley for pushing to bring together the different world views from technology, entertainment and design.  I can’t wait to see the possibilities that will emerge from the discussions.


Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office


Peaks and Valleys


Usually I focus on the future direction of the agency, but this week I want to acknowledge the current environment and the challenges facing our workforce during this time of transition.  Earlier this month the NASA Administrator informed congress of the agency’s plan to inform the Constellation contractor community of the action required to prepare for termination costs to be incurred in the next fiscal year.  Yes, I know.  What does that mean in English?  The bottom line is that some of our friends in the aerospace community are being laid off.


Sure, I could sugar coat it with a string of buzz words.  The truth of the matter is that families are being impacted as the agency goes through a period of transformation.  Outstanding engineers are going to work wondering if a letter is waiting for them when they arrive at the office or when they get home.  No matter the industry you are in, having friends who are worried about their own future and how they will provide for their families makes for a tense environment.  Yet, to the credit of these outstanding employees they are giving 110% in the midst of all of the uncertainty.  Once again my hat goes off to the amazing dedicated team that gives so much to our national space program.


For those of us who will be able to carry on the dream of “boldly going where no one has gone before” let me offer the above  image from Pat Rawlings.  It is a perfect metaphor for the position that the agency currently finds itself and at the same time reminds us of the destination that the President asked us to reach in the mid 2035 time frame.  In the image above you have an astronaut descending down into the unknown valley.  You can’t see the bottom of the valley.  Instead you can see the peak in the distance that the other astronaut is scouting out.  You get the feeling that she is taking one final look at the destination that they are planning to reach.  Trying to hold that image in her mind as a reminder of where she needs to go once she descends with her colleague into the valley. 


NASA is about to enter that valley.  It is leaving a peak of human exploration with three large programs (Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation) and is descending into a valley where a lot of uncertainty resides.  It reminds me of a scenario planning exercise that we had conducted about 3 years ago where the facilitator shared the story of IBM’s turnaround by Lou Gerstner.  He used the same metaphor but added one additional component to the analogy.  The challenge in most companies is that they want to go from Peak to Peak without descending into the valley.  They are looking for continual growth without ever having to go back down to regroup and prepare to climb an even higher peak.  Yet those that are willing to navigate the valley and keep their vision on the next peak (even when it might not be visible) will be able to reach higher ground.  Another great discussion on this concept is found in Spencer Johnson’s, Peak and Valleys. 


Now, back to Pat’s image.  There is something subtle that is implied in the image.  The key to their success lies in the leader clearly identifying the peak/destination that the team will follow.  It takes leadership to help the rest of the team see their destination during those times when it may not be obviously visible.  Without the leadership’s vision it is easy to get stuck and lost in the valley.  Luckily NASA is working hard to define that next peak before we enter the valley.  One such activity is the Human Exploration Framework Team (HEFT) that is working to clarify the path to the destinations that the President articulated on April 15th (human mission to an asteroid in the 2025 timeframe and to Mars in the 2035 timeframe).  The products due from the team this summer will give NASA a path through the uncertainty that looms ahead of us. 


Shortly after the Apollo missions, NASA was pushed to reinvent itself after we lost a portion of our workforce.  Coming out of that period we created the most incredible spacecrafts in the world, the Space Shuttle fleet.  We did it once and knowing my fellow colleagues we will do it again. I for one can’t wait to see the new heights that NASA will reach after it passes through this time of transition.


Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

Innovation: Selectively forgetting the past

Last week I was struck by a thought shared by Vijay Govindarajan, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, at the Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston.  In his talk on the “Business Model of Innovation” he shared a 3 stage model that included, 1) Managing the present; 2) Selectively forgetting the past and 3) Creating the future.   It was the “selectively forgetting the past” that resonated with me the most.  It reminded me of the quote by Alan Kay, “In some sense our ability to open the future will depend not on how well we learn anymore but on how well we are able to unlearn” and by John Maynard Keynes who stated that “The difficulty lies, not in new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” 


This was the sense I had last month when I walked from booth to booth at the incredible Innovation 2010 event at the NASA/Johnson Space Center.  The event had booths and presentations that were filled with engineers, scientists, information technology specialists, human resources and other disciplines sharing their innovations.  Mixed in amongst incredible technology would be a booth that broke from the traditional practices at the Center.   An idea that challenged the status quo and “selectively forgot” what was accepted as a standard practice for JSC.  Listening to these innovators caused me to pause and reflect on the “Why” of NASA. 


What is it that people associate with NASA beyond the landing of the moon?  Whenever a survey is done the impression that is heard over and over again is that NASA does that stuff that can’t be found anywhere else.  It is the place where we “selectively forget” or suspend what is possible.  Or as was a popular phrase years ago, “Where Science fiction is made science fact.” 


NASA is truest to its “why” when it can escape from old ideas. It is when we pursue the disruptive (game changing) technologies that the NASA Chief Technologist, Robert Braun is asking the agency to invest in that we fulfill the expectations from the world.  It is so easy to stick with the vast amount of knowledge that we have gathered over the past 50 years of Human Exploration, but sometimes we need to unlearn what we have discovered in order to open new paths to the stars.


Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office


Can we Talk?

This week I had 4 different thoughts that I wanted to discuss and couldn’t decide which one to choose, but then realized that they were actually all connected.  The connection actually lies in the title of a movie that my family experienced early in the week.  The Human Experience” is the “story of a band of brothers who travel the world in search of the answers to the burning questions: “Who am I” Who is Man: Why do we search for meaning?”  In their travels they live with the homeless in New York City, visit the lost children of Peru and the lepers in Ghana, Africa.  Watching it our family couldn’t help but be amazed by the incredible human spirit that thrives even in the toughest of situations.  Over and over again the message was reiterated how the full spectrum of human experiences is what unites us and lifts us up.  Stories of strength and hope in the most adverse conditions remind us of the depth of the human spirit.

Then a friend of mine shared with me Neil deGrasse Tyson’s, “What NASA means to America’s Future” speech at the University of Buffalo.  During his speech Dr. Tyson, stated that “NASA is a force of nature like no other” and that “NASA can dream about tomorrow” and we “need someone to keep the flame going.”  I like that. A force of nature that carries dreams forward.  It is not just the dream of those that work in the agency but it carries the unfettered dreams of a nation and the world. 


And as President Obama stated at his speech at the Kennedy Space Center, “Now, little more than 40 years ago, astronauts descended the nine-rung ladder of the lunar module called Eagle, … It wasn’t just the greatest achievement in NASA’s history — it was one of the greatest achievements in human history. And the question for us now is whether that was the beginning of something or the end of something. I choose to believe it was only the beginning.”  It doesn’t matter which camp you are on whether NASA should provide access to Low Earth Orbit or transition that to the commercial providers because at the end of the day I believe we all agree that NASA has always been and will always be here for the benefit of all humanity.  So I believe the focus of our conversations should move from how do we get to space to how do we add to the human experience?  What can we do to benefit all of humanity?


Or better yet, why not tackle the challenge posed by the former Director of DARPA, Dr. Tony Tether, at the recent JSC Innovation 2010 event.  (A great event that I will share in my next blog.)  After his presentation he was asked what he thinks should be the mission or rallying cry to focus NASA’s innovation?  His answer was priceless and so to paraphrase his response, 


“When NASA first went to the moon, we all wanted to go.  Forty years later we still ALL want to go.  NASA has forgotten that we all want to go.  If it can remember that fact, then there is nothing that can stop it from achieving the impossible.”  It is the human experience … we all want to go.  It is the pushing forward against impossible odds that lifts the human condition.  So how do we lift the human experience beyond the boundaries of this Earth AND lift the human condition back on Earth?  That is a “noble purpose” worth talking about.


Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office


Edutainment- Another way to inspire

I am at the Bayou Regional FIRST robotics competition and am amazed at the NBA atmosphere of the event.  Filled with everything from the bleacher stomping “We will Rock you” to the sound system that gives you a second heart beat and team mascots cheering on the adrenaline filled crowds.  A bunch of wanna be engineers along with scores of families and friends that are excited by the 6 robots battling out to score the most points by kicking a soccer ball into a goal.  Today these future engineers and scientists are the rock stars of the Alario Center in New Orleans.  My hats off to the Stennis Space Center for their support of an outstanding event and inspiring our next generation.


There is much talk about the lack of a destination and how we need one to inspire our future generations but I think there is much to be said about making science, technology, engineering and math fun. Watching this crowd I think more will be inspired by their achievement in making a robot that will go to the national competition than a Mars mission by the end of this decade.  Yes there is a place for a destination but that is not the only way we can inspire.  We should not underestimate the power of mixing education with entertainment to attract our future workforce.  I know some will say that I’ve gone to the “dark side” but then again how many of us were attracted to the world of engineering because of the creations of Lucas and Roddenberry?


Edutainment cannot only inspire but it can also educate the world about the scientific and technical advancements we are making. Even though many are inspired by the amazing images from our technical achievements like the images from Hubble, engineers are not the best ones to share our discoveries and educate the public of our discoveries.  Just ask my family.  My thespian daughter can weave a tale that will keep us engaged throughout dinner while my tales may last through desert.  I like what Will Pomerantz , Manager of Google Lunar X-Prize, recently shared in his blog about the power of mixing the entertainment industry with our engineering discoveries, “Scientists and Engineers have fundamentally important and exciting things to tell the world about–but are ill suited to do the telling. By working together with entertainers, they hope to play to each group’s strengths, with the end result of conveying the key messages to an audience in an understandable way. To that end, the National Academy of Sciences is organizing events like last night’s salon, and even offering free scientific consultation to film makers and other entertainers who want to improve the scientific accuracy of their products.”


I believe it will take artists, entertainers, writers and the left brain people of the world to create the stories that will inspire and educate our nation.  It is images like the one at the right, from an artist that I continually get my inspiration from, Pat Rawlings, that will inspire a future entrepreneur to create the first Ivy league campus on the moon or for us Texans, a Texas A&M satellite campus near Tranquility base.  What engineer wouldn’t want to be part of this cathedral building project? 


What if we not only used robotics but video games as well? What are the other possibilities to inspire if we mixed NASA’s discoveries with the world of entertainment?   


Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office


Out there. Thataway


Ok, my turn.  Everyone and their sister have given their spin on the new NASA budget and the views have covered the full spectrum of the death of Human Spaceflight to the birth of a new era and the rebirth of robotic exploration.   But before I weigh in on the discussion I first would like to take my hat off to all of my friends and colleagues that have given so much of their lives, energy and passion to support the congressional and presidential direction of the previous administration.  As a government agency we know that we are subject to the winds of change with each election but it does not stop us from committing our hearts and minds to fulfilling the visions and expectations of the American public and the officials that they place in office.  There is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on regarding the Constellation program, but not enough is being said about the dedicated individuals that gave up time with family to help America retain its ability to reach to the stars.  Again, my hat goes off to them.


Now, back to the direction given by the President.  For me there are three main thrusts that I would like to offer my perspectives.  The first is the move to shift access to Low Earth Orbit to the commercial community.  Many are surprised by this move, but for me it was only a matter of time.  Back in 2008 I had shared how there was a growth in the commercial space community and we would eventually need to answer what affect this growth will have in our role in the Human Exploration of Space.  As I shared in It’s Getting Crowded out there, we would have to make a choice whether to compete in this era of growing capability or lead the way beyond earth’s orbit.  Well, the decision has been made for NASA and now we have to make it work.  It is akin to the explorers that would burn the ships in order to keep them from turning back.  NASA is being pushed to the stars and out of the access to space business.  That being said, NASA has a responsibility to work with the commercial community to share their 40 years of Human Spaceflight experience and expertise.  It is incumbent upon us to help them to learn from our successes and mistakes in the hope that they will not repeat the lessons we learned.  How this is to be done is yet to be defined but I for one am looking forward to the release of the strategy of how we make this transition. 


Secondly there is a return to “transformational technologies”.  I am amused by all of the eye rolling that is associated with that phrase.  Weren’t the technologies that enabled the Saturn V, transformational?  Weren’t the technologies that enabled the computers on the Lunar Lander transformational?  Isn’t the technology that allows us to look back to the birth of the universe transformational?  I think this agency has been and should always be about transformational technologies.  It has always been about pushing the envelope of what is possible or as some like to say “making science fiction a reality.”  Yes, I agree you cannot schedule when a miracle will occur.  We cannot say that “On July 29th, we will discover how to tap into the limitless supply of ‘zero point energy’ in the vacuum of space and it will enable us to power our voyage to Mars.”  No, but just because it can’t be scheduled doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work hard to discover the next leap in technology.  Let commercial space focus on technologies that we know and let NASA focus on technologies yet to be discovered.


Finally there is the anxiety related to a lack of destination.  The recurring sentiment is that we need a bold direction like, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Similarly the question is raised, “How can we focus on transformational technologies if we don’t know where we are going?”  Although valid perspectives I believe that NASA has an opportunity to rethink how it explores.  We always think of exploring as starting from the Earth’s surface.  It focuses on a certain set of solutions that require breaking the gravitational pull of the Earth.  But what if we started thinking of exploration starting from space?  What would be required to start our journey from space?  What vehicle would be required if it never encountered the Earth’s atmosphere?  What would you need to create a vehicle in space?  NASA has learned quite a bit from its 10 years of constructing the International Space Station.  How can we use this knowledge to create an interplanetary vehicle?  What would it take to fuel a new vehicle in space?  With a space port would you have to limit your destinations?


Yes a destination would be nice, but I kind of like the perspective from Kirk in the first Star Trek movie when asked where they should go, “Out there, Thataway.”  NASA shouldn’t think point to point but create the ability for us to go “out there.”


Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

Sustainability in Space = Sustainability on Earth


Earlier this month the next generation of explorers weighed in on the recommendations made by the Augustine Committee. The Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) in Support of the United Nations Programme on Outer Space Applications offered the following observation when it came to the purpose of Human Spaceflight, “However, it also evidences that the concept of human spaceflight no longer fits the Kennedy paradigm in the minds of the incoming space generation. We, as humans, should not only go because it is hard and because “that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” In the view of many of our members, we go for clear, concrete benefits and programmes – for specifics, not purely for inspiration.”  Yes, I am one of those that believe that “To boldly go where no one has gone before” is sufficient reason to invest in the human exploration of space and yet I also believe that the exploration of space should be tied to a noble purpose.  It should not only inspire humanity but benefit “all mankind” (to paraphrase the plaque on the Lunar Lander, Eagle).  I believe that our efforts to extend sustainable human presence in space should lead to the sustainable human presence on Earth.  And there is precedence for this.  For example the same technology developed by NASA to provide for refrigeration for the remote habitats in space has been used to provide refrigeration to remote areas on Earth where there they don’t have access to electrical power.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg. 


Last month at the AAS Imagine 2009 conference, Evan Thomas, shared how NASA engineers are volunteering and applying the experience that they gained in solving space exploration challenges to help provide solutions for communities that have limited natural resources available to them.  Along with highlighting the valuable contribution made by this team of Engineers without Borders, Evan’s other goal in his presentation was to show how closely tied are the solutions for the challenges of the sustainability of life on Earth and in space.  This was most clearly captured on slide 20 that he, along with a number of his colleagues, created to show the linkage between the United Nations Millenium goals and NASA’s technical needs. 


For me to be able to simultaneously contribute to the ensuring our future both in space and on Earth is a noble purpose.  So maybe we don’t do this because “it is hard.”  Maybe we do this “for the benefit of all mankind.”


Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

2010: Gotta Wear Shades!

Yes, I’m a glass half full kind of guy (and the only reason it is half full is because I already enjoyed the first half).  Recently I took a “change style indicator” assessment that captures a person’s preferred style in approaching change.  The range includes those that are Conservers, Pragmatists and Originators.  I was not surprised to find that I was way over on the Originator side, the side that is more comfortable with change. 

Therefore when I look at 2010 I am excited by the change that is ahead of us.  2010 ends one era, with the completion of the Shuttle program, making room for the next generation of space vehicles.  Yes, the Space Shuttle is an awesome vehicle.  Its capabilities are unmatched and it has served us well over the past 30 years and now it is time to extend our reach.  Now that we have our orbiting International laboratory, it is time to leverage it to enable us to reach new destinations like an asteroid, Lagrange points or even to the moons of Mars.  But it is not just the possibilities of a “flexible path” to extend humanity’s reach to Mars and beyond that is exciting about this coming year.  There are also other changes in the environment that marks us fully entering a new era in Space Exploration. 

This month we saw Richard Branson unveil his latest vehicle, the “Enterprise”, in the midst of a windstorm in California’s Mojave Desert.  The latest Enterprise vehicle is worthy of the name since it will be the first commercial vehicle to take more people closer to space.  We also will see this year the launch of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and get another step closer to commercial cargo access to the International Space Station.  Internationally we will see the first module of the Chinese Space Station, Shenzhou-8, being launched and connected in the future to Shenzhou-9.  Therefore soon we will have two orbiting laboratories in space and some speculate that this will also be an International Space Station with the partners including Iran, Pakistan and possibly North Korea.  Even though this partnership in space could cause some to be concerned, I am reminded of how NASA’s presence in space has created friends out of old enemies.  If it could happen before then I believe that space will allow us once again to create new alliances. Pollyanna?  I don’t think so.  The recent announcement of how NASA is inspiring Muslim students in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) fields through a collaboration with the Arab Youth Venture Foundation in Abu Dhabi is once again a demonstration of how the agency can bring the world together. In space there are no borders and NASA has continually demonstrated through its exploration programs and inspiration that it exists for the benefit of humanity. 

So get out your sun glasses because 2010 will be bright with the glow of humanity reaching collectively to the stars.

Sharing the Vision,
Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

How about NASA's Grand Challenge?

Last September the President laid out his Strategy for American Innovation. The strategy is broken into three parts:    

1.      Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation.

2.      Promote Competitive Markets that Spur Productive Entrepreneurship.

3.      Catalyze Breakthroughs for National Priorities.

In the final section the President outlines eight “Grand Challenges” of the 21st Century.

The challenges are great.  I have a personal interest in the success of the first challenge to battle cancer and also like the idea of solar cells as cheap as paint or the “highly accurate and real-time translation between the major languages of the world” (can you say Babel fish).  Yet, as I read the Strategy for American Innovation I was struck with what missing from the strategy, NASA.  Other government agencies including the National Institute of Health, Department of Energy, and DARPA are mentioned but NASA is not found anywhere in the strategy.  Now I’m not going to try to comment on why NASA is not in the strategy but instead would like to propose an additional “Grand Challenge” that is worthy of American innovation and NASA expertise.


“Ensuring the sustainability of Life on Earth and in Space.”    For me these two are closely linked and can enable tremendous American innovation for the “benefit of all humanity.”  First of all space offers us a unique view of the Earth and allows us to understand how we are impacting the Earth’s environment.  The unique perspective from space has been focused on understanding but maybe part of ensuring sustainability of life on Earth should consider how we might help the Earth’s ecosystem from space.  I know this will sound farfetched but to help stretch your imagination, what if we used the vantage point of space to control the weather (hey, they did it in Back to the Future  J).  What if we could direct rain to drought stricken areas of the world or focus showers during the yearly fires that threaten the California coast?  Or as a friend shared recently, what if we could use position in space to decrease the eye of a hurricane?  We still have much to learn about the Earth from space, but maybe it is time to move from learning to proactive measures that are only possible from Space.


Secondly much is being written about the depletion of resources on the Earth, including fresh water and energy.  This same challenge is found in ensuring sustainability of life in Space.  There is no water authority in space where the astronauts can tap into for their “tang” (ok, bad pun).  Plus there is not a power grid that they plug into for their electricity.  In space we have to tap into the renewable energy from the sun and recycle the water in the International Space Station.  A grand challenge on the sustainability of life as it relates to renewable resources (beyond cheap solar cells) will have far reaching impacts to sustained human presence in space and benefit nations across the world.  For an interesting discussion on this grand challenge on the Earth side of the equation, I would recommend Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded”.  


Finally sustainability of life on Earth and Space requires advances in the delivery of medicine to remote locations.  In space there is not an emergency room or a 24 hour clinic that you can drive to on the weekend (I don’t know about your family but it seems that when our kids were young, they would always get sick on the weekends when the doctor’s office was closed).  We need to be able to ensure access to medical treatment as we get further and further away from the Earth.  While back on Earth there are millions who need access to medical treatment since to them the nearest hospital may seem to them like it is in Low Earth Orbit. 


Anyone up for a new “Grand Challenge”?


Sharing the Vision,

Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office


Creating the Future: One Giant Leap at a time

Last month the Advanced Planning Office pulled together a team to look at possible vision statements for the agency. I know a rather tall order, but it is always great to see the energy and creativity found within our JSC when it is unleashed. You can browse some of the ideas at the Open NASA post, NASA Vision and Mission. I know it isn’t really a vision statement, but the one phrase that has stuck with me is “Creating the Future: One Giant Leap at a time.” I really like the way it sums up the spirit of NASA and honors our past at the same time.

And the more that reflected on that phrase, the more I was struck by the recent events that demonstrated NASA’s role in taking these giant leaps. The most recent is LaserMotive LLC winning $900,000 in NASA’s 2009 Power Beaming Challenge. This one prize captures the imaginations of two communities and could seed a giant leap in either solar power beaming or a space elevator. LaserMotive won the prize by using a laser to power its robotic climber up a 900 meter cable that was suspended from a helicopter at Edwards Air Force Base in Mojave, California. The climber reached the top in just over 4 minutes, for an average speed of 3.7 meters per second and later repeated the feat at of 3.9 meters per second. Then on October 30th, Masten Space Systems won the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge. What is great about this joint prize between NASA and the X PRIZE Foundation is the community it is creating. I love the quote from Masten Space System’s CEO, David Masten, “To come from not flying at all last year to qualifying for level one AND level two of the LLC this year shows how far our technology has progressed.” Mark another one in the win column for NASA’s ability to spur on Commercial Space.

Yet, what more can we do to take a giant leap forward. Could we partner with Japan on their plans to construct a solar power station in space and use it to beam energy down to Earth using lasers? Or do we build a space only cruiser? What would a space cruiser look like if it never needed to fight the gravity to get off the Earth or a planetary destination? Or is it too farfetched to create a prize for a non-rocket vehicle for access to LEO? While Commercial Space companies are investing in low cost access to Low Earth Orbit using rocket’s should NASA partner up to create a prize that will look at the physics for the next LEAP forward in access to space?

OK, I have to say it… I’ll even settle for a WARP drive X Prize.

So what prize would you create to make the next LEAP forward?

Sharing the Vision,
Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office