I’ve received a couple of email queries about this subject recently, so it’s worth a brief post. While the House included some money for Centennial Challenges in its FY2007 appropriations bill (the exact amount I don’t have at my fingertips at the moment), the Senate has not included any funding for the program in its version the bill (which has been approved by the full appropriations committee but not yet by the full Senate.) As the report accompanying the Senate version notes:
The Committee does not provide any funding in fiscal year 2007 for the Centennial Challenges program. Funding provided in previous fiscal years for this program is sufficient for NASA to run a prize based competition, as well as to verify that NASA will see tangential benefits from running such a program. Providing additional funds to a program based on prizes only creates a pot of unused funds while other aspects of NASA’s mission are being cut or delayed due to a lack of funds.
That doesn’t mean that the program won’t get any money in 2007, only that the Senate and House versions will have to be reconciled at some point (whether that’s in the lame-duck session after next week’s election or at the beginning of the next Congress remains to be seen.) It also wouldn’t doom the program, only prevent it from announcing additional prizes.
That said, Centennial Challenges could use a success story to demonstrate the benefits of the program. It has benefited from the media attention accorded to the Space Elevator Games and Lunar Lander Challenge, but it would have helped a lot more if one of the competitors earlier this month had actually won a prize. There aren’t any additional competitions for the program until next spring—the astronaut glove and regolith excavation competitions—too late for the current budget cycle. In any case, finding a winner is largely outside the control of NASA.