Sam Ortega, Program Manager, NASA Centennial Challenges, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL

NTB: What other contests and challenges are in the works?

Ortega: We have some coming up for robotics. One is a sample return robot: an autonomous robot that’s being done by Worcester Polytechnic Institute. They’ll be doing that in June of this year. The idea of autonomous control: Instead of having someone on the ground with a 90-second delay trying to control a robot on a planet or maybe on a moon, you want to have the ability to just drop the robot, and have it go off by itself autonomously, maneuver around, not get stuck anywhere or fall over, and find samples. It knows already, by the algorithms in its software, what is an important sample and what is not an important sample. The robot can then collect it, come back to a designated point, and then you can fly it back home. All that would be done autonomously.    ——NTB: What would you say is the state of aviation now? How much work still needs to be done from an efficiency standpoint?

Ortega: In the US, I think there’s minimal effort being done right now for general aviation efficiency improvements. Right now, I think Boeing has been doing some significant work with their development for larger aircraft efficiency improvements, but we have a long way to go. There are other countries out there that are further advanced in their efficiency airplane design and development. It would be great to build momentum and to start pushing to become the leaders for efficient aviation.

 Want to learn more about upcoming NASA Centennial Challenges?  For more information, contact Janet Anderson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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