There are people who dream about becoming a famous athlete. Then there are others who want to be an astronaut. Well, even if you’ll never make the cut to launch into space, you can at least be part of future space exploration tech. If you’re an maker, inventor or artist, NASA wants your help.

The NASA Centennial Challenges is the space agency’s new directorate aimed at boosting development of solutions by students or professionals for problems “of interest to NASA and the nation.” NASA wants to support innovators and give them the opportunity to create their business ventures. Prizes are given out to independent inventors along with small businesses and student groups.

NASA recently awarded $50,000 to teams of the MAV Prize competition. Prizes have reached as high as $2 million over the years. The challenges for this year range from robots to advanced 3D printing. Challenges this year includes:

Sample Return Robot Challenge – Sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate will offer $1.5 million to teams that can successfully show an autonomous capability to find and retrieve specific sample types from different locations over a wide and varied terrain and return them to a designated zone in a limited amount of time.

3D Printed Habitat Challenge – NASA and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, also know as America Makes, will offer $2.25 million for teams to design and build a 3D printed habitat for deep space exploration, which also includes the agency’s journey to Mars.

Mars Ascent Vehicle Prize – The Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) Prize is awarded to those who want to advance the technology to return samples from Mars. The challenge focuses on getting samples from Mars’ surface to Mars’ orbit for collection and return to Earth.

CubeQuest – NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Centennial Challenge Program, the Cube Quest competition will give teams $5 million for meeting the challenge objectives of designing, building, and delivering flight-qualified, small satellites capable of advanced operations near and beyond the moon.

This is only one of many past challenges NASA has held over the years. Previously, they teamed up with Freelancer.com to create a new robotic arm for the Astrobee, a free flying robot operated by astronauts in space. Last year, NASA reached out to students once again for solutions to slow down NASA’s payload with HIAD technology. It’s encouraging that NASA continues to reach out to students and innovators, and makes the agency feel approachable instead of something impossible to be a part of.

Have you been a part of any of these challenges? It would be so interesting to get a SolidSmack team together to take part in some of these, ya think?

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The one-man ace engineering wrecking crew - If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find me, maybe you can hire... the Cabe-team.