The Night Rover Challenge - Energy Storage for Lunar Exploration
Presentation by and interview with Sam Ortega, NASA Centennial Challenges Program Manager
on May 24, 2012
"It's all about how we challenge America," Explains Sam Ortega, Program Manager of NASA Centennial Challenges. "What do we do to make America better? We make America better through exploration".
For most of us, that innate spirit of exploration so evident in childhood is often lost as we grow into adults, and “mature” for the daily grind of life on earth. Not so if you work for NASA, one of the few institutions where (very smart) adults are paid to explore. There, it is your job to pursue dreams all the way into the depth of the universe…
NASA also rewards those who can come up with smart tools for that exploration. Believing that "competitions and prizes increase productivity and facilitate innovative solutions to challenging problems", NASA Office of Centennial Challenges sponsors technical challenges intended to "drive progress in aerospace technology." Since 2006, the Centennial Challenges has supported 13 such competitions, awarding a total of $6 million to 15 teams. And as an Early Stage Innovation program, it “encourages the participation of independent teams, individual inventors, student groups and private companies of all sizes in aerospace research and development”.
The Night Rover Challenge is the newest of this series. With a prize purse of $1.5 million, it calls for an energy storage system that will allow a simulated lunar rover to operate through 14 days of darkness (the lunar night). Cleantech Open, the world’s largest clean technology start-up competition, will be managing this challenge. On March 23, the 100th birthday of Wernher von Braun, perhaps the greatest rocket scientist in history, and a key man behind the first moon landing, NASA Centennial Challenges and Cleantech Open kicked off the Night Rover Challenge at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
This video is an excerpt of Sam's presentation to the launch party attendees explaining the reasons behind the Night Rover Challenge, followed by my interview.
After all the discussions about technology, innovation and the "cutting edge", Sam also entertained my more esoteric question about spirituality and the universe. Hearing the story about astronauts and Bhutanese monks meeting and conversing for NASA's 50th anniversary, I realized that perhaps my question was not so esoteric after all.
Essinova Host, BeiBei Song
Tags: NASA, Centennial Challenges, energy storage, lunar exploration, moon, Wernher von Braun, Night Rover