One of the things we've been asked to do is act as a single point of entry for those in the emerging commercial space sector who are interested in doing business with NASA. We can act as a facilitator to connect them to the right people. The way it is now, they may have to talk to eight different people at five different centers, and we want to make that easier.
NTB: Does the IPP manage the intellectual property within NASA – what NASA engineers are inventing and how it gets into the marketplace?
Comstock: We don't define what the engineers are inventing but we are responsible for that process of encouraging them to document their inventions through NTRs and working with general counsel community to decide which inventions to patent. We work with the NASA Inventions and Contributions Board (ICB) and the Chief Engineer's office to recognize those inventions. We also work with the ICB to communicate what the technology needs are for the agency, such as putting together the SBIR solicitation and our work with the mission directorates. We communicate that out to the research community within NASA so that there is open communication about what our needs are and research topics that would be of benefit for NASA.
NTB: Can you explain more about NASA's Centennial Challenges Program?
Comstock: We currently have seven competitions that are fully funded and many of those are multi-year competitions. Of those seven, some will continue out on an annual basis until 2010 or 2011. In addition, we may get funds appropriated to conduct new competitions. We have a request in for 2008 and the out years at about $4 million per year to enter into new Centennial Challenge competitions. Most of the prizes we have now are relevant to the return to the Moon and planned missions to Mars. There was an astronaut glove challenge we had earlier this year, and we had our first winner in the Centennial Challenge where we gave away a $200,000 prize.
For more information, visit NASA's IPP Web site.