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Peter Diamandis

A New York Times and Amazon.com bestseller – Buy now

Get the crowd to innovate for you!

Cooperative tools and exponential technologies are reshaping our globe. You no longer have to sit on the sidelines and wait for the future to happen. You are now empowered to get involved to change the world. If you’re sick of the doom and gloom and ready to get in the game, explore the resources below. Here are some great crowdsourcing and collaboration tools on the web:

  • CoFundos (cofundos.org): cheap and really good platform for the development of open-source software.
  • Genius Rocket (geniusrocket.com): solid crowdsourced creative design agency composed solely of vetted video production professionals producing content as a fraction of the cost of a traditional ad agency.
  • Amazon Mechanical Turk (mturk.com): popular and powerful crowdsourcing platform for simple tasks that computers cannot perform(yet), such as podcasts transcribing or text editing. There are also companies, like CrowdFlower, that leverage Mechanical Turk (and similar tools) for even more elegant solutions.
  • Innocentive (www.innocentive.com): one of today’s best online platform for open innovation, crowdsourcing and innovation contests. This is where organizations access the world’s brightest problem solvers.
  • UTest (http://www.utest.com): the world’s largest marketplace for software testing services.
  • IdeaConnection (www.ideaconnection.com): open innovation challenge site for new inventions, innovations and products.
  • NineSigma (www.ninesigma.com): open innovation service provider, connecting clients with a global innovation network of experts.
  • Ennovent (www.ennovent.com): worldwide expert platform seeking solutions for sustainable development in energy, food, water, health and education in rural India.
  • TopCoder (www.topcoder.com): the world’s largest competitive software development & creative design community, with over 200,000 at your fingertips.
  • CrowdRise (www.crowdrise.com): Crowdrise is an innovative, crowd-sourced community of volunteers and online fundraisers that have come together to support online fundraising for charity, events and special projects. It’s a way to raise money in new ways, turning participants and supporters into effective online fundraisers.
  • Kickstarter (www.Kickstarter.com): Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. In 2011 the platform raised over $100 million for projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields. Uniquely, on Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands, it’s an “all or nothing model”.
  • IndieGoGo (www.indiegogo.com): IndieGoGo you can create a funding campaign to raise money quickly and securely. This trusted platform has helped to raise millions of dollars for over 65,000 campaigns, across 211 countries.

Abundance – The Future Is Better Than You Think

I was in a coffee shop recently and overheard a young couple discussing whether or not it was morally responsible to bring a child into today’s world given all of the global challenges we face.
What’s curious about their question and the dark contemporary mood it represents is that in a very measurable way, the world is better off than its ever been.

I’ll start with poverty, which has declined more the in the past 50 years than the previous 500. Over the last 50 years, in fact, even while the population on Earth has doubled, the average per capita income globally (adjusted for inflation) has tripled.

We’re not just richer than ever before, we’re healthier as well. During the past century, maternal mortality has decreased by 90 percent, child mortality has decreased by 99 percent, while the length of the average human lifespan has more than doubled.

As Steven Pinker has lately made clear, since the middle ages, violence on Earth has been in constant decline. Homicide rates are a hundred-fold less than they were when they peaked 500 years ago. So we’re not only healthier, we’re safer as well.

If your measure of prosperity is tilted towards the availability of goods and services, consider that even the poorest American’s today (those below the poverty line) have access to phones, toilets, running water, air conditioning and even a car. Go back 150 years and the wealthiest robber barons couldn’t have never hoped for such wealth.

Right now, a Maasai Warrior on mobile phone has better mobile communications than the president did 25 years ago; And, if they’re on Google, they have access to more information than the president did just 15 years ago. They are effectively living in a world of communications and information abundance.

Even more impressive are the vast array of tools and services now disguised as free mobile apps that this same Maasai Warrior can access: a GPS locator, video teleconferencing hardware and software, an HD video camera, a regular camera, a stereo system, a vast library of books, films, games and music. Go back 20 years and add the cost of these goods and services together — you’ll get a total well in excess of a million dollars. Today, they come standard with a smart phone.

So this brings us back to the question of our contemporary mood. If this is really the true picture of the world, why are so many of us convinced otherwise?

Turns out there are about a dozen reasons. Alongside my co-author Steven Kotler, I have a new book coming out (Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think) in which we address all of them. There isn’t time for that here, but I do want to mention a few.

For starters, the amygdala. Every second our brains are bombarded with a deluge of data, working continuously to sift through and sort the information, trying to tease apart the critical from the casual. And since nothing is more critical to the brain than survival, the first filter most of this incoming information encounters is the amygdala.

The amygdala is the part of the temporal lobe responsible for primal emotions like rage, hate, and fear. It’s our early warning system, an organ always on high alert, whose job is to find anything in our environment that could threaten survival. So potent is the amygdala’s response to potential threats that once turned on, it’s almost impossible to shut off, and this is a problem in the modern world.

These days, we are saturated with information. We have millions of news outlets competing for our mind share. And how do they compete? By vying for the amygdala’s attention. The old newspaper saw “If it bleeds, it leads” works because the first stop that all incoming information encounters is an organ already primed to look for danger. We’re feeding a fiend. Bad news sells because the amygdala is always looking for something to fear.

Compounding this, our early warning system evolved in an era of immediacy, when threats were of the tiger-in-the-bush variety. Things have changed since. Many of today’s dangers are probabilistic — the economy might nose-dive, there could be a terrorist attack — and the amygdala can’t tell the difference. Worse, the system is also designed not to shut off until the potential danger has vanished completely, but probabilistic dangers never vanish completely. Add in an impossible-to-avoid media continuously scaring us in an attempt to capture market share, and you have a brain convinced that it’s living in a state of siege and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

But nothing could be farther from the truth. Today the average citizen is more empowered to change the world than ever before.

A wide range of very powerful exponentially growing technologies (infinite computing, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, robotics, digital medicine, etc.) are now allowing small teams of dedicated individuals to take on the kinds of challenges that were once the sole province of governments. A global communications network has arisen where individuals can problem solve together, like never before. Lastly, thanks to the continual spread of the Internet and smart phones into the developing world, over the next decade, our collective meta-intelligence, is set to expand from 2 billion to 5 billion people on line, adding 3 billion news minds into the global conversation.

Nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of the world. So while I can’t tell you if bringing a child into this world is the morally-responsible to do, I can say that the future, much like the present, is going to be a whole lot better than you think.

X PRIZE Benefit Celebrates Innovation in Oil Cleanup, Sets Sights on Breakthroughs in Life Sciences, Education & Global Development

San Francisco, CA (October 25, 2011) — The X PRIZE Foundation honored the benefactor and winners of the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE, during its 2011 Radical Benefit for Humanity at the Regency Center in San Francisco on October 20. More than 400 “who’s who” from San Francisco, the Silicon Valley and around the globe attended the event that raised more the $2.7 million. The event, to benefit the nonprofit X PRIZE Foundation, was co-hosted by luminaries Wendy Schmidt and James & Suzy Cameron. CNN’s Chief Business Correspondent Ali Velshi served as Master of Ceremonies.

Academy Award winning filmmaker and explorer, James Cameron set the tone. “I joined the X PRIZE Foundation’s Board of Trustees because I believe that many, if not most, of humanity’s challenges can be solved by passionate, dedicated teams empowered by today’s exponentially growing technologies,” he explained. “Personally, I’m excited to work with the Foundation to help create the prizes that will inspire and motivate innovators to drive radical breakthroughs.”

Inspiring remarks throughout the evening included those of Dr. Diamandis, Chairman & CEO and Robert K. Weiss, Vice Chairman & President of the X PRIZE Foundation; Wendy Schmidt, President, The Schmidt Family Foundation, and Title Donor, Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE; and Don Johnson, team leader, Elastec/American Marine that recently won the first place prize in the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE by nearly quadrupling the industry’s previous best oil recovery rate tested in controlled conditions.

“As a friend and supporter of the X PRIZE Foundation for several years, I’ve been consistently inspired by the idea that incentive competitions are a great way to spur innovation and create real opportunities for positive change,” said Wendy Schmidt. “It is the best kind of experience for a philanthropist – to have such a measurable and valuable outcome delivered to the world. For those of you who have challenges you want to solve, I encourage you to talk to the X PRIZE Foundation about creating your own X PRIZE or X CHALLENGE competition.”

“This was an amazing evening for the X PRIZE Foundation. Our incredible co-hosts, donors, sponsors and staff made this possible. The funds we raised will develop critical X PRIZES and X CHALLENGES that will address global problems in markets that are currently ‘stuck’ without solutions,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman & CEO, X PRIZE Foundation, headquartered in Los Angeles. “The incredible results of the recent Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE show how we can inspire and incentivize people from around the world to go beyond what is acceptable and find the real solutions to real problems.”

Dr. Diamandis continues, “We are particularly grateful to Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, his wife, Heidi, and the Roddenberry Foundation for their support. As the largest donor of the night, we are proud to partner with them in solving critical global issues in areas focused on science, technology, environment, education and humanitarian advances. Among the many concepts in development, we look forward to making his father’s, Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek vision a reality with the medical ‘Tricorder’ competition.”
VIP attendees included Ron Conway, Founder, Angel Investors LP; James Gianopulos, Chairman & CEO, Fox Filmed Entertainment; Honorable Gavin Newsom, California Lieutenant Governor; Goldie Hawn, Actress, Film Director and Producer; Bill Brady, Chairman, Credit Suisse; Princess Beatrice of York; David Clark, Astronaut Relations, Virgin Galactic; George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic; Dennis Crowley, Founder, Foursquare; Naveen Jain, Chairman, Intelius; and Zachary Bogue, Co-Founder, Founders Den.

During the reception, guests viewed exhibits that offered overviews of the Foundation’s awarded, current and the future competitions as well as its other activities in areas where innovation is needed. Among the exhibits, Ekso Bionics (previously Berkeley Bionics) demonstrated its technology that helps people with physical limitations improve their ability to function independently. Following the reception, Ajay Verma, Vice President of Biogen Idec, addressed the crowd, reinforcing the need for innovation and breakthrough technologies.

Live auction items included one-of-a-kind experiences such as a Scripps Institution of Oceanography adventure for two on a research ship to the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on Earth; a Virgin Galactic sub-orbital flight on SpaceShipTwo with Dr. Diamandis during its first year of commercial operation; a weightless flight aboard ZERO G for six people with one of the participating astronauts, Anousheh Ansari, Richard Garriott de Cayeux or Brian Binnie; and original paintings of Steve Jobs and Bono created by Erik Wahl during an inspiring stage performance.

2011 Radical Benefit for Humanity Co-Hosts Suzy & James Cameron and Wendy Schmidt join Dr. Peter Diamandis, Chairman & CEO of X PRIZE Foundation, for the annual fundraiser to support the Foundation’s ongoing mission to solve the world’s Grand Challenges.

ABOUT THE X PRIZE FOUNDATION

Founded in 1995, the X PRIZE Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself. The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity. The X PRIZE Foundation conducts competitions in four Prize Groups: Education & Global Development; Energy & Environment; Life Sciences; and Exploration. Prizes won include the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private, suborbital space flight; the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE for creating safe, affordable, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG energy equivalent (MPGe); the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE for advanced rocket development; and the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE for highly effective oil spill cleanup methods. Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE and the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco.

Edison2, X Prize Winner, Claims 350 M.P.G. Equivalent for Prototype

Edison2, the tiny, Virginia-based engineering company that won the $5 million mainstream class in the Automotive X Prize last year, recently tested the performance of its all-electric, four-passenger Very Light Car design — a rounded pod with outboard-mounted wheels — at Roush Laboratories in Livonia, Mich.

The design slips through the air with very little resistance, returning a drag coefficient of 0.16, and weighs in at just 1,140 pounds. And the company claims gaudy efficiency for the E.V., a combined rating of 350 miles per gallon equivalent on the dynamometer. The electric prototype also achieved a per-charge range of 114 miles in the company’s tests.

The car that won the X Prize had a small turbocharged gasoline engine that ran on E85. For the E.V., the company used a relatively small 10.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-polymer battery and a modest 41-kilowatt, 55-horsepower electric motor to make the technology financially scalable for production. According to Brad Jaeger, Edison2’s director of research and development, a production version of the car could be built for $25,000 or less.

With such a small battery, the vehicle takes about seven hours to charge from a standard 110 outlet.

Mr. Jaeger said that a production version could be built with a 200-mile range, which may require a larger battery. Crash testing would be a hurdle, but Mr. Jaeger said that the Roush testing offered encouragement on the Very Light Car’s safety performance.

“By focusing on platform efficiency, we can reduce the size of the battery pack, cut back on the charging time and give greater range,” Mr. Jaeger said in a telephone interview. “Our car has a battery that is 40 percent the size of the pack in the Nissan Leaf, and yet it can travel farther on a charge.”

Oliver Kuttner, the founder and chief executive of Edison2, said in an interview that the company has never intended to become an automaker.

“Too many people like me have tried to build a car and gone bankrupt,” he said. Instead, Edison2 hopes to license its technology. Mr. Kuttner said that he had a letter of intent from a California-based company, Eckhaus Fleet, that wanted to produce electric meter-maid vehicles with 140-mile range using Edison2’s proprietary technology. Tim Yopp, Eckhaus’s chief technology officer, confirmed the letter of intent, adding that that there was an opening in the market for such a vehicle, which could offer reduced pollution, maintenance and operating costs.

Mr. Kuttner also said that Edison2 was in discussions with a large Chinese company to produce a plug-in hybrid vehicle, with some similarities to the Chevrolet Volt, for the Chinese market, but he would not reveal the company’s name.

The Edison2’s aerodynamic design is, by its makers’ own admission, unconventional, but the vehicle’s basic form factor was seen recently in numerous concepts shown at the Frankfurt auto show, including the Volkswagen Nils and Audi Urban Concept, offering some vindication to the company. The Aptera, another electric car of that type, has been unable to reach production.

Mr. Kuttner stands by the shape, saying that the teardrop-like fuselage represented a pathway to the highly efficient cars of the future. “It can’t be done any other way,” he said.

Illinois Team Wins Oil Spill Cleanup X CHALLENGE

Team Elastec, an Illinois-based veteran company in the oil spill cleanup business, developed giant grooved discs that skimmed oil more than three times better than the industry standard to capture the $1 million top prize in the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE, the X PRIZE Foundation announced today.

In a competition born out of frustration of oil cleanup technology in last year’s BP Gulf oil spill, Elastec/American Marine company of Carmi, Illinois, and Cocoa, Florida, deployed a system that slurped oil in the test tank at a rate of 4,670 gallons (17,677 liters) per minute, with an efficiency of 89.5 percent. (Only 10.5 percent of the oily mix in the recovery tanks was water.)

(See all the competitors and their technologies: “Pictures: X PRIZE Contest Seeks Improved Oil Spill Cleanup”)

X PRIZE officials said the recovery rate was three times the industry standard, and in fact conventional systems tested in the facility where the competition took place typically achieve 900 gallons (3,400 liters) per minute. And as for typical efficiency: The U.S. government concluded that only 3 percent of the 4.9 million barrels (206 million gallons/780 million liters) spilled in last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster was retrieved by skimmers. It drove home to the world that technology had not advanced since the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska 21 years earlier, where only 14 percent of the oil was recovered by cleanup crews.

The X PRIZE Foundation launched the challenge last summer even before the well was permanently capped, when Wendy Schmidt, president of the energy and natural resources-focused Schmidt Family Foundation and wife of Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, stepped forward to sponsor the competition. It was designed “to challenge the status quo,” said Schmidt at the awards ceremony in New York, “and to do so in a matter of months, not years.”

Elastec emerged at the top of set of ten finalists, who were chosen from more than 350 applicants to share in the $1.4 million prize purse.

Second prize of $300,000 went to Norway’s Team Nofi, which deployed V-shaped flexible boom to capture 2,712 gallons (10,266 liters) per minute and an efficiency of 83 percent. None of the other teams achieved the competition minimum recovery rate, so the $100,000 third prize was not awarded, and will be returned to the X PRIZE Foundation for further contests focused on marine and ocean environmental issues. But the third and fourth place teams, OilShaver of Norway and Team Koseq of The Netherlands, both achieved recovery rates and efficiency rates in excess of the 2,000 gallons per minute and with efficiencies of about 90 percent.

The winners were announced in an event center overlooking the East River in Manhattan, only about 20 miles (32 kilomters) north of the saltwater tank on the coast of Sandy Hook Bay in New Jersey where the ten teams took turns this summer demonstrating their technologies. The tests were held at the 2.6-million gallon (10-million liter) tank at the U.S. Government’s Ohmsett facility. Run by the Department of Interior but located on the high-security Naval Weapons Station Earle, Ohmsett is the largest saltwater wave tank in North America and the only facility in the world designed for full-scale oil spill response research and training in controlled conditions.

The X CHALLENGE required the largest volume oil ever used in more than four decades of testing at Ohmsett.

Inconceivable Recovery Rate

Elastec already is the largest oil spill cleanup manufacturer in the United States, exporting its systems to 20 countries. Its own Hydro-Fire® Boom was used in last year’s BP spill for the controlled burns that actually eliminated more oil from the water oil than skimmers.

For a skimmer to achieve a more than 2,500 gallons (9,500 liters) per minute recovery rate, with an efficiency of 70 percent (no more than 30 percent water in the mix) “wasn’t even conceivable” prior to the BP oil spill, Elastec team leader Don Johnson when he stepped up to the podium to accept the prize. But he said if his company would have developed the grooved disc technology before the Macondo well blowout, “We would have been hard-pressed to find a customer willing to buy it.”

Only the spill of oil for 87 days from BP’s out-of-control well off the coast of Louisiana underscored the need for the technological breakthrough his team achieved. “The lesson we all learned is we need to be prepared,” he said. “It created a demand for this equipment.”

The oil spill cleanup challenge was well suited to a competition, said Peter Diamandis, chairman and chief executive of the X PRIZE Foundation, which he said seeks to step into “places where market failures exist and where capitalism has not done its job.” Since its founding in 1996, the X PRIZE Foundation has been staging competitions designed to prompt research collaborations to tackle urgent world challenges in energy and environment, education, life sciences, and space and ocean exploration. Its informal motto is “revolution through competition.”

“What these teams were able to accomplish is truly remarkable and will have a significant impact on future oil cleanup efforts and better protect our ocean ecosystems and economies,” Diamandis said.

Since its founding in 1996, the X PRIZE Foundation has been staging competitions designed to prompt research collaborations to tackle urgent world challenges in energy and environment, education, life sciences, and space and ocean exploration. Its informal motto is “revolution through competition.”

The disc skimmers in Elastec’s system are four to five times larger than the disc skimmers typical in the industry and they are attached to huge rows of drums. By applying groove technology to drum skimmers they increased the surface area and also made a channel that the oil could adhere to, creating a capillary effect. Johnson said it was also important for the team to develop a vessel that could maneuver well and was capable of high transition speeds to work seamlessly with the grooved disc skimmers.

Norway’s Team Nofi took home the second-place prize with a system that corralled oil into the end of its V-Shaped boom, where a separator removes it from water. The team became a favorite among the X PRIZE contest officials for unflappably handling the interruption of its tests on the New Jersey shore in late August when Hurricane Irene struck. The team had to evacuate inland for five days until power could be restored to the test facility.

“Opposed to what almost everybody thinks, the main reason [oil spill cleanup technology] fails is not waves, it is current,” said Dag Nilsen, team leader. “Normal oil booms cannot be towed or used in areas with current, since oil escapes [underneath] even if the surface is a smooth as a mirror. This technology solves this current problem. I know we are going to benefit from this system.”

Nilsen praised the X CHALLENGE competition “for being a catalyst and a practical motivator for developing better cleanup.”

Only The Beginning

David Lawrence, executive vice president for exploration for Shell* Upstream Americas, a supporting sponsor of the competition, struck a similar note. “All of us will benefit from this competition,” he said. Shell provided its support, including the test oil and $1.4 million toward rental of the Ohmsett facility because of the importance of the effort to improve industry safety, he said. “The world will need more energy,” said Lawrence. “Energy demand is expected to double by 2050. We need to provide that energy, we need to do it safely and we need to do it cleanly. This competition will help us meet those goals.”

He stressed that not just the winning technologies, but all of the technologies tested have the possibility of helping improve oil spill response. The next steps will be more testing in performance outside of the controlled tank environment. “If you think this is the end, this is nowhere near the end,” Lawrence told the competitors. “This will be commercialized, further developed and further advanced.”

X CHALLENGE benefactor Schmidt said that such advancements were crucial.

The winners were announced in an event center overlooking the East River in Manhattan, only about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of the saltwater tank on the coast of Sandy Hook Bay in New Jersey where the ten teams took turns this summer demonstrating their technologies. The tests were held at the 2.6-million gallon (10-million liter) tank at the U.S. Government’s Ohmsett facility. It is the largest saltwater wave tank in North America and the only facility in the world designed for full-scale oil spill response research and training in controlled conditions. Twenty-four countries and numerous private companies have conducted oil spill cleanup testing there.

“We know that today’s success is only the beginning,” said Schmidt. “And while all you’ve done is impressive and meaningful and will be a positive addition to the toolkit available in the marketplace, we have not solved the problem of oil spills. We’ve only created a better band-aid. We haven’t addressed the bleeding. We haven’t addressed the disease that causes the bleeding.

“We are all participants in a system” whose failures can be catastrophic, she said. Due to “our relentless demand,” the oil industry is venturing into more risky environments, including into deep water. “And although the safety of the industry has improved over time, this is a fundamentally dangerous business. It dangerous for people, for ecosystems, for the whole intricate web of life we are only beginning to understand.”

*Shell is sponsor of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge initiative. National Geographic maintains autonomy over content.

Forbes – Wendy Schmidt’s X Prize Oil Cleanup Challenge Names Winners

Think the X Prize and lunar landings, robotic cars and other futuristic endeavors pursued by tech geeks in garages come to mind. But on Tuesday, the X Prize Foundation awarded more a million dollars for a more down-to-earth innovation: technology to clean up oil spills.

The Wendy Schmidt (yes, that Schmidt) Oil Cleanup Challenge named Elastec/American Marine, an Illinois firm, the winner of the $1 million grand prize for developing a more efficient skimmer technology to sop up petroleum spills. The second-place $300,000 award went to a Norwegian company called NOFI that has built a boom that collects oil and then separates it from the water.

“Last summer as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was under way, management and the trustees started to talk about what we could do to help the situation,” says Cristin Dorgelo Lindsay, the X Prize Foundation’s vice president of prize operations. “We sent out a request to donors and trustees about whether there was interest in taking on an X Prize competition for something that could be a shorter-term response. Wendy Schmidt stepped right up.”

Or as the competition guidelines put it, “While many important efforts are devoted to the development of new, cleaner, and renewable energy sources, the world remains fundamentally dependent on oil to drive many sectors of our economies. As long as oil continues to be a significant energy source, the risks associated with accidental release of oil will continue to pose a threat that must be managed.”

“Breakthroughs are needed to increase the efficiency and scope of efforts to clean up oil spilled into the environment,” the X Prize Foundation stated.

The urgency of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico led the Oil Cleanup Challenge to focus on mechanical cleanup technologies rather than absorbents (such as the recycled surfboard waste I wrote about in the current issue of Forbes) or chemical dispersants.

That meant the judges – cleanup specialists from industry, government and non-profits – were looking less for a moon shot than for technologies that could be developed and launched in a short time, according to Lindsay.

“How quickly could this be assembled and deployed in real world was the focus,” she says. “How much would it cost? How hard would it be to deploy, how hard to rig?”

The judges decided not to award a third-place prize, concluding that none of the eight other finalists met that criteria after the teams put their entries through real-world testing.

“That there was no third place winner shows where we had to draw the line between audacity and practicality,” says Lindsay.

Private Industry’s “Moon Race” Now Underway

by James Heiser

With the landing last week of America’s last space shuttle, the nation stands at a critical point in the history of space exploration. For some, the last flight of Atlantis — a mission officially designated as STS-135, was “bittersweet,” as one writer termed it. The landing of Atlantis may presage a difficult era in the “Space Age,” or it may herald the beginning of the end of the government’s virtual monopoly on mankind’s exploration of the heavens.

As reported previously for The New American, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has been marked by significant controversy regarding both the future of his agency, and the future of manned space flight. The Obama administration quickly killed George Bush’s “Constellation” program, which had set a return to the Moon and an eventual mission to Mars as part of U.S. space policy. However, NASA’s new, Obama-era goals quickly put the Moon and Mars back on the timetable — but pushed them farther away. Meanwhile, NASA’s budget remains fundamentally stable, despite the end of a shuttle program which had previously consumed a substantial portion of the budget. As Mike Wall recently wrote in an article for Space.com:

When NASA’s space shuttle program was announced back in 1972, it was billed as a major advance — a key step in humanity’s quest to exploit and explore space.

The shuttle would enable safe, frequent and affordable access to space, the argument went, with flights occurring as often as once per week and costing as little as $20 million each. But much of that original vision didn’t come to pass. Two of the program’s 134 flights have ended in tragedy, killing 14 astronauts in all. Recent NASA estimates peg the shuttle program’s cost through the end of last year at $209 billion (in 2010 dollars), yielding a per-flight cost of nearly $1.6 billion. And the orbiter fleet never flew more than nine missions in a single year.

In other words, the shuttle was a government program, which means that by definition it came with appropriately astronomical high costs and chronic underachievement — at least in terms of the lofty prognostications of the program’s early proponents. The shuttle program carried out at least ten missions for the Department of Defense (a department nearly defined by budgetary bloat) and accomplished numerous scientific achievements, including launching, repairing and maintaining the Hubble space telescope. However, two of the 135 missions ended in disaster, with 40 percent of the fleet — two of the five shuttles — being destroyed. The program has been a powerful reminder that the exploration of space is not without its risks and costs. Still, public opinion has not rejected the concept of manned space flight on the basis of such expenses.

Now, the post-shuttle era begins, and private industry is demonstrating an eagerness to expand its role on the new frontier. New York Times writer Kenneth Chang observes that “Now that the last space shuttle has landed back on Earth, a new generation of space entrepreneurs would like to whip up excitement about the prospect of returning to the moon.” Google’s $30 million cash prize for the first private venture the Moon has certainly proven a significant incentive, but only insofar as it helps fuel a drive which was already underway to reach out into the heavens without hitching a ride with Uncle Sam. Google’s Lunar XPrize provides an incentive to contestants, offering the winner the opportunity to recover some of the expenses for a private sector Moon race. In Chang’s words:

Spurred by a $30 million purse put up by Google, 29 teams have signed up for a competition to become the first private venture to land on the moon. Most of them are unlikely to overcome the financial and technical challenges to meet the contest deadline of December 2015, but several teams think they have a good shot to win — and to take an early lead in a race to take commercial advantage of our celestial neighbor.

While NASA had wanted to send astronauts back to the moon, its program was canceled last year, a victim of budget cuts and shifting priorities. But it has awarded $500,000 each to Moon Express, Astrobotic and a third competitor, Rocket City Space Pioneers, the first installments of up to $30 million that it will contribute to the X Prize efforts.George Xenofos, manager of NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data program, said he expected one or more teams to make it to the moon.

“It’s definitely not the technical issues that’s stopping them,” he said.The contestants’ goals do not appear to face legal hurdles. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, ratified by 100 nations including the United States, bars countries from claiming sovereignty over any part of the moon but does not prevent private companies from setting up shop. As for mining the moon, it could fall under similar legal parameters as fishing in international waters.

Given such an understanding of the Outer Space Treaty, private industry may prove that it can “boldly go” where government cannot go: Establishing a human presence off of the Earth’s surface and possibly beginning a process which could eventually lead to human settlements throughout the solar system. The first tentative steps were taken being taken even as the shuttle neared its last days; it remains to be seen whether or not such efforts will accelerate and take flight in the days to come.

Teams Begin Testing in the Final Stage of the $1.4 Million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE

Leonardo, N.J. (July 28, 2011) – The X PRIZE Foundation, the leading nonprofit organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, global incentivized competitions, began the field testing phase of the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE on July 22 at the OHMSETT – The National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility in Leonardo, NJ. OHMSETT is a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) facility and is the largest outdoor saltwater wave/tow facility inNorth America. Developed in July 2010 in the wake of the deepwater horizon spill, this X CHALLENGE is designed to inspire entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists worldwide to develop innovative, rapidly deployable, and highly efficient methods of capturing crude oil from the ocean surface.

“The X PRIZE Foundation and our expert panel of judges are eager to see these innovative technologies at work during the testing phase of this competition,” said Cristin Dorgelo Lindsay, Vice President of Prize Operations for the X PRIZE Foundation. “We look forward to seeing these technological advancements having a positive and significant impact on future oil cleanup efforts and better protect our ocean ecosystems and economies.”

Teams are scheduled to test their equipment individually over a 10 week period. The teams will be overseen by an experienced panel of judges as they demonstrate their technology’s ability to recover oil on the sea-water surface. The team who displays the highest oil recovery rate (ORR) above 2,500 gallons per minute with an oil recovery efficiency (ORE) of greater than 70% will win the $1 million Grand Prize. Second place will win $300,000 and third place will win $100,000.

Shell, the only industry participant, in an effort to ensure that advancing technologies emerge and are introduced into the marketplace, has pledged its support and collaboration to the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. As part of this ongoing association, Shell is assisting with direct support for the technical, operational and scientific components of the Competition, creating a valued partnership within the X PRIZE Foundation.

One team and one judge will be at OHMSETT during each week of testing in the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. The schedule is as follows:

7/22-8/3: Vor-Tek (California) and Judge John Joe Dec, retired U.S. Coast Guard hazardous substance spill response professional
7/29-8/10: Pacific Petroleum Recovery (PPR) (Washington) and Judge Dave Westerholm, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration
8/5-8/17: OilShaver (Norway) and Judge Peter K. Velez, global emergency response manager for Shell International Exploration and Production
8/12-8/24: Elastec (Illinois) and Judge Skip Przelomski, vice president and senior technical advisor of the Clean Caribbean & Americas (CCA)
8/19-8/31: CRUCIAL (Louisiana) and Judge Hung Nguyen of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE)
8/26-9/8: NOFI (Norway) and Judge Eugene Johnson, retired U.S. Coast Guard captain and former chief of marine safety for the Fifth U.S. Coast Guard District
9/1-9/14: Voraxial (Florida) and Judge Donald A. Toenshoff, Jr., executive vice president of the Marine Spill Response Corporation
9/9-9/21: Koseq (Netherlands) and Judge John Joe Dec, retired U.S. Coast Guard hazardous substance spill response professional
9/16-9/28: Lamor (Finland) and Judge Skip Przelomski, vice president and senior technical advisor of the Clean Caribbean & Americas (CCA)
9/23-10/5: OilWhale (Finland) and Judge Dennis Takahashi-Kelso, director of science and policy direction for the Ocean Conservancy

The winners of the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE will be announced at an Award Ceremony in October. This competition is part of the X PRIZE Foundation’s Energy & Environment Prize Group presented by Cisco.

ABOUT THE WENDY SCHMIDT OIL CLEANUP X CHALLENGE
The $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE is a competition designed to inspire a new generation of innovative solutions that will speed the pace of cleaning up seawater surface oil resulting from spillage from ocean platforms, tankers, and other sources. It is a one-year competition with head-to-head competitive demonstrations taking place at the OHMSETT – National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility in Leonardo, NJ, USA(www.ohmsett.com). A $1 million prize will be awarded to the team that demonstrates the ability to recover oil on the sea surface at the highest oil recovery rate (ORR) and the highest Oil Recovery Efficiency (ORE). For more information, visit www.iprizecleanoceans.org.

ABOUT THE X PRIZE FOUNDATION
Founded in 1995, the X PRIZE Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself. The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity. The X PRIZE Foundation conducts competitions in four Prize Groups: Education & Global Development; Energy & Environment; Life Sciences; and Exploration (Ocean and Deep Space). Prizes won include the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private, suborbital space flight; the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE for creating safe, affordable, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG energy equivalent (MPGe); and the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE CHALLENGE for advanced rocket development. Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE, and the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. For more information, visit www.xprize.org.

ABOUT WENDY SCHMIDT
Wendy Schmidt is President of The Schmidt Family Foundation that works to advance the development of clean energy and support the wiser use of natural resources. She is founder of the foundation’s 11th Hour Project and of Climate Central. Her other work, at ReMain Nantucket, focuses on generating a model for smart community downtown development on the island. With her husband, Eric, Wendy created the Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009 to provide future opportunities aboard research vessels for urgent ocean studies. Wendy earned an M.A. in Journalism from The University of California at Berkeley, and a B.A. magna cum laude from Smith College. She serves on the boards of GRIST, The Nantucket Dreamland Foundation, The Natural Resources Defense Council, The California Academy of Sciences, and The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

ABOUT CISCO
Cisco, (NASDAQ: CSCO), sponsor of the X PRIZE Foundation’s Energy & Environment Prize Group, is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. This year celebrates 25 years of technology innovation, operational excellence and corporate social responsibility. Information about Cisco can be found at www.cisco.com. For ongoing news, go to http://newsroom.cisco.com.

Media Contact:
Alan Zack
alan.zack@xprize.org
(310) 741-4880

Race to the Moon Heats Up for Private Firms

by Kenneth Chang

Now that the last space shuttle has landed back on Earth, a new generation of space entrepreneurs would like to whip up excitement about the prospect of returning to the Moon.

Spurred by a $30 million purse put up by Google, 29 teams have signed up for a competition to become the first private venture to land on the Moon. Most of them are unlikely to overcome the financial and technical challenges to meet the contest deadline of December 2015, but several teams think they have a good shot to win — and to take an early lead in a race to take commercial advantage of our celestial neighbor.

At the very least, a flotilla of unmanned spacecraft could be headed Moonward within the next few years, with goals that range from lofty to goofy.

One Silicon Valley venture, Moon Express, is positioning itself as a future FedEx for Moon deliveries: if you have something to send there, the company would like to take it. Moon Express was having a party on Thursday night to show off the flight capabilities of its lunar lander, based on technology it licensed from NASA, and “to begin the next era of the private commercial race to the Moon,” as the invitation put it.

“In the near future, the Moon Express lunar lander will be mining the Moon for precious resources that we need here on Earth,” the invitation promised. “Years from now, we will all remember we were there.”

Naveen Jain, an Internet billionaire and a founder of Moon Express, says the company will spend $70 million to $100 million to try to win the Google Lunar X Prize, but could recoup its investment on its first flight. He envisions selling exclusive broadcast rights for video from the Moon, as well as sponsorships, à la Nascar, for companies to put their logos on the lander.

Or, perhaps, a tie-in to reality television.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a ‘Moon Idol,’ just like ‘American Idol?’ “ suggested Mr. Jain, who previously founded Infospace and Intelius. “You take the top 10 contestants and play their voices on the Moon, record it and see who sounds the best.”

(There is no air on the Moon to transmit sound waves, but “you could play it through the dust and see what it sounds like when you play it right on the surface,” Mr. Jain said. His point was that with cheap lunar transportation, there was no predicting what might catch people’s fancies.)

Another competitor, Astrobotic Technology, intends to sell berths on its lunar lander to space agencies and scientific institutions, which would pay $820,000 a pound to send up their experiments. The company, a spinoff from Carnegie Mellon University, is building a large craft — much bigger than Moon Express’s — capable of carrying 240 pounds of payload (read: $200 million of cargo) and hopes to be ready to launch in December 2013.

“We can make a lot of money even if we do not win the prize,” said David Gump, president of Astrobotic, which is based in Pittsburgh. “We will be making substantial profit on the first flight. Basically, we’ll break even by selling a third of the payload.”

The X Prize competitors might all be beaten by landers and rovers that China, Russia and India plan to send up over the next couple of years. But those fall more in the mold of traditional, government-built science probes.

While NASA had wanted to send astronauts back to the Moon, its program was canceled last year, a victim of budget cuts and shifting priorities. But it has awarded $500,000 each to Moon Express, Astrobotic and a third competitor, Rocket City Space Pioneers, the first installments of up to $30 million that it will contribute to the X Prize efforts.

George Xenofos, manager of NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data program, said he expected one or more teams to make it to the Moon. “It’s definitely not the technical issues that’s stopping them,” he said.

The contestants’ goals do not appear to face legal hurdles. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, ratified by 100 nations, bars countries from claiming sovereignty over any part of the Moon, but does not prevent private companies from setting up shop. As for mining the Moon, it could fall under similar legal parameters as fishing in international waters.

Although some orbiting spacecraft have crashed into the Moon in recent years, 35 years have passed since anything from Earth made a soft landing there. To some people, this looks like an overdue invitation.

“It’s probably the biggest wealth creation opportunity in modern history,” said Barney Pell, a former NASA computer scientist turned entrepreneur and now a co-founder of Moon Express. While Moon Express might initially make money by sending small payloads, the big fortune would come from bringing back platinum and other rare metals, Dr. Pell said.

“Long term, the market is massive, no doubt,” he said. “This is not a question of if. It’s a question of who and when. We hope it’s us and soon.”

Spaceflight Is Getting Cheaper. But It’s Still Not Cheap Enough.

by David Kestenbaum

Elon Musk wants humans to live on other planets one day. But he’s worried about the cost of getting there. So in 2002, he took the fortune he made in Internet start-ups and started his own rocket company. He called it SpaceX.

The company is still in its early days. It’s had seven launches, four of which made it into orbit. According to the company’s website, the price to put stuff in orbit runs around $2,000 to $3,000 per pound.

Musk says SpaceX’s latest rocket in development, the Falcon Heavy, will be able to do it for as little as $1,000 a pound.

Historically, that’s pretty low. Using the Space Shuttle to get a pound of something to the Space Station, for example, costs around $10,000.

But it isn’t cheap enough to make spaceflight an ordinary event. Even at $1,000 a pound, sending a person into orbit would still run to more than $100,000.

“Clearly that’s still too much,” Musk says. “We really need to get to well under $100 a pound.”

It’s hard to say precisely how those prices compare with SpaceX’s competitors’. The industry is pretty secretive. Companies usually don’t post prices on their websites and customers don’t often talk about how much they spent.

But Jeff Foust, an analyst with the Futron Corporation, has done some calculations with the available data. He says that it’s pretty clear to him that SpaceX is cheaper than its competitors. Perhaps even twice as cheap.

How has SpaceX been able to get the price so low?

The answer isn’t in any big technological breakthroughs. Musk says that his company is just lean and smart. They make the engines themselves, for example, which saves money. He says his competitors, industry giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing, are wasteful and inefficient.

But Michael Gass, the President and CEO of United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, points out that price isn’t the only thing to look at. There’s also reliability: you don’t want your multimillion dollar satellite blowing up on the launchpad.

Lockheed and Boeing have been launching for 50 years, they’ve done over 1,000 launches, and Gass says they have a history of reliability. SpaceX is just getting started.

As to why United Launch Alliance doesn’t post prices on its website, Gass says the answer is simple. There is no one price. It depends on how far you’re going: 200 miles or 22,000 miles.

Elon Musk argues that prices should be lower. One reason is the lack of competition in the launch business. After Lockheed and Boeing merged, they had a monopoly on the market:

If you read the press release announcing the merger, it reads like something out of an Orwell novel. They actually announced that the reason they were merging was to save the US government money. Now I did at the time ask for examples in history of a monopoly that was formed that subsequently resulted in prices going down and I did not receive an answer.

Michael Gass says the companies merged because there wasn’t enough business to sustain both of them. But If Elon Musk and SpaceX think they have a better way of doing things, Gass says he welcomes the competition.

As for how cheap space flight should be, Gass agrees with Musk: $100 a pound to orbit could one day be possible.

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