The N-Prize. The best idea in space flight since Sputnik.

Being the anorak that I can’t deny I am, I keep a close eye on what’s happening in space. Whether it’s the life and times of Phoenix, Spirit and Opportunity on Mars or New Horizons on the way to Pluto, if it flies or rolls and it’s somewhere up (or down) there, I’m keen. Now a chap called Dr. Paul Dear has come up with the N-Prize. Obviously a tongue in cheeck version of the X-Prize, it’s rules are simple:

The N-Prize is a cash prize of £9, 999.99 (nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine pounds and ninety-nine pence, sterling), which will be awarded to the first person or group to put into orbit, around the Earth, a satellite with a mass of between 9.99 and 19.99 grams, and to prove that it has completed at least 9 orbits. The cost of the launch (but not ground facilities) must fall within a budget of £999.99. Imaginative use of string and chewing gum is encouraged. Entrants are responsible for everything, organisers are responsible for nothing.

There are already some teams from all over the world at work, with the most advanced from the UK, although it’s tricky to decide what’s hyperbole and what’s truth. Good luck to them anyway. The cheap and clever way to achieve low earth orbit, making it achievable for hobbyists to get up there (hopefully) must be the easier way to democratise space than handing 200.000$ (US) to Richard Branson to enjoy 3 minutes of weightlessness. 200.000 dollars given to one of the N-Prize teams is probably going to be enough to help these guys achieve their goal and buy them 100 gallons of beer and some sausages to celebrate their success.

Maybe I should put my money where my mouth is and sponsor one of them.

Where’s the paypal button where you need it…

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