The Google Lunar X Prize and Other Aerospace Competitions
Chapter 1: Introduction
Prizes have long been used by public and private sponsors to elicit effort from individuals and organizations and attain diverse goals, including scientific discovery and technology development. Since at least the 18th century, for example, prizes have been used to encourage basic research by compensating research results with monetary rewards or medals (MacLeod, 1971; Crosland and Galvez, 1989; Brunt et al., 2008). This is the case of popular prizes such as the Nobel Prizes, which function as an incentive for scientists to achieve breakthroughs. There are also prizes offered ex-ante for the achievement of a certain technological target. These prizes typically offer a fixed, sometimes sizable monetary reward to the first entrant that achieves a prize challenge or to the entrant that progresses the farthest in a competition. This kind of prize may have been decisive to develop early innovations such as the marine chronometer and induce the initial development of the aviation industry in the 20th century (Davis and Davis, 2004; Maryniak, 2005; Mokyr, 2009). One of the most popular prizes of this kind has been the Orteig Prize for the first aviator to fly nonstop between New York and Paris (won in 1927 by Charles Lindbergh). During the last fifty years countless prizes have been offered in many fields attracting contenders and audiences with diverse interests (Best, 2008). But it has been a handful of successful global innovation prizes recently launched in the USA that revitalized the interest in this topic since the 1990s.