In December 2010 I posted a blog on “The Power of Aerospace Prizes for Innovation.” I suggested, along with an historical discussion of how these prizes have worked in aviation, that “There is considerable evidence of prizes have stimulated designers and pilots to compete for the prize money. They prompted pilots and designers to ‘push the envelope’ of technology for faster, farther, higher, better, and more efficient vehicles.”
I still believe that is true, certainly for the past and I believe it will be true for spaceflight in the future. But there is an excellent post just offered by Paul Spudis on his “Once and Future Moon” blog about just how far the distance between this belief about the power of prizes to stimulate technology and the reality of the space launch situation at present. His key concern is stated in the closing sentences of this blog post: “Prizes seem attractive because of their historical role in stimulating a nascent aviation industry. But significant differences between aviation and spaceflight and our primitive level of development of the latter suggest that what worked before may not work now.” Check out his piece, “Everybody has won and all must have prizes.” Any thoughts?