Thursday, November 5, 2009

Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Awards

Today I attended the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC in the Rayburn House Office Building. I did make a few notes. I also ran into -- or at least saw -- some of the people one usually sees at important space related Washington, DC events.

The event began with Doug Comstock, Director of the Innovative Partnerships Program Office at NASA HQ. He began by recognizing both Masten and Armadillo for their innovative work. He also mentioned, among other things, the green challenge and the astronaut glove challenge that NASA is also sponsoring. He then introduced NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. Among other NASA HQ people I saw were Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, Chief of Staff George Whitesides and Seth Statler, assistant administrator of NASA's Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs. All had genuine smiles on their faces.

Charlie Bolden said he wanted to be at this event in order to meet the winners. He made several points in his brief, but exciting, talk:

  • The challenge is not about the money, but the vision and inspiration.
  • Charlie has known Peter Diamandis for a long time. Peter was also smiling throughout.
  • The United States can't give up and lose our technology lead.
  • Prizes work.
  • He mentioned the Augustine committee's praise of prizes.

The next man to speak was Tom Kalil (spelling?) of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He said the White House was an advocate of prizes. He went on to praise the X Prize and Peter Diamandis. During his talk he also made several points:

  • The White House is enthusiastic about prizes.
  • Prizes pay for performance.
  • Prizes allow freedom of various approaches.
  • Prizes serve as a catalyst of private investment.
  • Prizes involve nontraditional players.
  • Prizes excite the public.

Georege Nield of the FAA was the next speaker. He said his agency's work was to ensure public safety. He also said the FAA wanted to encourage and promote commercial space transportation. He concluded that his agency was looking forward to working with commerce that would make profits.

Mitch Waldman of Northrop Grumman was the next speaker. He was happy to be part of the team with NASA and the X Prize. He added:

  • Northrop Grumman was committed everyday to getting the best value for the nation.
  • Partnership is vital for innovation.
  • Innovations come from work in many places done in partnership.
  • Innovations come from individuals.

The next speaker was Peter Diamandis. He said this was a great day for the space community. The twelve teams who participated contributed 100K person hours to this work. The efforts of these teams considerably surpassed DC-X.

Next to speak was Congressman Ralph Hall of Texas. He also stressed that prize money was a very effective means of helping bring about progress. He also praised Armadillo from his home town.

The next speaker was Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He and his staff take science and engineering seriously. He congratulated the winners. He concluded by saying he looked forward hearing about the challenges.

The next speaker was Dave Masten of Masten Space Systems. he began by thanking NASA, Northrop Grumman and the X Prize. He added thanks to the citizens of Mojave, California (where Masten is based) for their support. He noted that there were a number of experimental rocket societies to whom great thanks was owed because of their support. He made an unusually friendly comment about the FAA, saying it was hard to believe that he and others worked with a bureaucracy that was responsive without sacrificing safety. He concluded his brief remarks by saying he was looking for others to participate.

Phil Eaton of Armadillo was the next to speak. He reported than John Carmack was not able to come because of the late term pregnancy of his wife. He really appreciated the opportunity to participate. He also commented:

  • It was wonderful to find himself among friends.
  • He wanted to build relationships to move from prizes to profits.
  • He thanked NASA for its support. He was working to build relationships with NASA.
  • Armadillo and all involved in this work needed to grow through solid research and development.
  • He then thanked Northrop Grumman for its support.
  • Still more development was needed.
  • Building relationships with customers was essential.

Bolden then presented the prizes to the winners.

All in all, everyone present seemed happy with the event and the outcomes. It was a happy time for the space community -- especially the New Space community.

Now it is off to my next event. This one is about data and art. The speaker is Dan Goods of JPL.


Inda Loop said...

The person from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is Tom Kalil. He wrote a paper about the value of prizes a few years ago.

Chuck Divine said...

Inda Loop,

Thanks for the correction. I had never encountered this man before. Your link was most informative.



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