NASA Announces Space Invention Awards

Prize winners named for innovations in exercise technology, food storage, and solar-flare prediction that improve astronaut health and performance.

Elizabeth Montalbano, Contributor

July 14, 2010

2 Min Read

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As part of an ongoing plan to foster innovations in technology and science, NASA has awarded three individuals for a variety of inventions to improve human space exploration.

The Space Life Sciences Directorate (SLSD) at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston chose winners for devising inventions to address astronaut health and performance challenges. The awardees were selected from submissions received via the NASA Innovation Pavilion on the InnoCentive open marketplace.

InnoCentive lists various scientific and technological challenges and invites people to solve them, offering awards for solutions. Although 1,317 people from 65 countries opened "project rooms" to address the three NASA SLSD challenges, in the end NASA received 128 submissions.

One partial award went to Yury Bodrov, a Russian scientist, for proposing new flexible graphite material for food packaging. The material is lightweight and can maintain food quality over three years, according to NASA.

NASA gave a full challenge award to Alex Altshuler, an American mechanical engineer, for proposing a new compact aerobic exercise device for astronauts in space. As designed, the device would deliver the proper motions for exercises in space under limited or zero gravity. It also meets very specific size and space requirements.

A full award also went to Bruce Cragin, a retired American radio frequency engineer, for a way to forecast solar activity, something that generally poses serious risk to humans or aircraft during space exploration.

An award for a fourth challenge related to extraterrestrial research is still pending.

NASA posted three new challenges on its InnoCentive Innovation Pavilion on May 27; the deadline for submissions is July 27.

NASA also awards financial prizes to individuals, businesses, and others outside of the usual network of aerospace contractors via its Centennial Challenges. The agency unveiled three new opportunities on Tuesday.

The ultimate goal of all of these challenges is to seek innovations for technologies and inventions NASA may use from the general public.

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