Six of the entrants from Wellington to Taranaki and Manawatu will be pitching their ideas, which include virtual and augmented reality, robotics and artificial intelligence, at a regional final at the Dowse Art Museum on Tuesday 15 May as part of Hutt STEMM Festival. The winner from the greater Wellington region will receive six months of incubation and mentoring.
This first challenge, with a $40,000 prize, ties space exploration to seeking innovative technological solutions to navigation problems in Antarctica as an analogue for future space exploration. The Challenge is seeking applications that can, among other things, leverage space technology to solve these challenges.
The Space Challenge offers a cash prize and commercialisation support for the most innovative solutions to enable safer, more efficient navigation across Antarctic ice using satellite data and sensors operating in the extreme environments. "The goal of the challenge is to incentivise a space community all around New Zealand," says Space Challenge co-founder Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom.
The co-founder of Space Base and the Space Challenge initiative, along with husband, astronomer and space engineer, Eric Dahlstrom, she says that New Zealand is a good place to prototype a new space industry and ecosystem, with Rocket Lab already showing potential, as access to space is increasingly democratised.
There are now over 100 different space-related businesses and entities in New Zealand. The New Zealand Space Agency was founded in April 2016 to provide advice on space policy, regulation and business development. It has signed a bilateral agreement with the US for space launchers using US technology. "New Zealand's isolation is a benefit, it is a good place to launch spacecraft and there's a science and entrepreneurial community," Ms Paat-Dahlstrom says.
The New Zealand Space Challenge regional pitch competition is part of the Hutt STEMM Festival and the public is welcome to attend this free event.