Moving $pirits

By Anne Casselman|Sunday, June 05, 2005

Last year’s $10 million Ansari X Prize to the first nongovernmental team to launch a rocket into space has inspired two spin-offs:

The M Prize   The M could stand for many things—like a million dollars, the prize money in its pot, or even medicine, the field of science it hopes to revolutionize. But it stands for Methuselah, the biblical character whose name is synonymous with longevity. The prize, set up by University of Cambridge biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey, will go to the scientific team that successfully extends the life or reverses the aging of mice. What works for rodents, de Grey hopes, will someday work for humans. How will the winner be chosen? All a team has to do is extend a lab mouse’s life beyond the current record of 4.98 years—the equivalent of a 150-year-old human.

Centennial Challenges   NASA has added two contests to stimulate exploration of the solar system, both aimed at developing a space elevator (see Discover, July 2004). The Tether Challenge dares teams to develop superstrong string, while the Beam Power Challenge encourages ideas for transmitting power wirelessly. Each has a purse of $50,000. NASA hopes to spend $80 million on technology prizes over the next five years.

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