Research and Development Partners
This section is for companies and groups which do not have funding for a large mission, but do have ongoing research and development which can plug into a bigger plan.
There is actually a very large number of these, which have developed things like equipment to extract oxygen and other elements from simulated lunar and asteroidal materials, robot technology applied to lunar and asteroidal missions, propulsion systems using such materials, etc., such as:
Many of these are prize chasers, which is well worth discussing in detail. The US government has started to offer prizes, which before was the purview of an occasional private entity or group.
Political pressures in Washington, D.C., resulted in Congress making various recommendations in 1999 to encourage government agencies to experiment with offering prizes for results in scientific and technological progress, instead of just paying contractors to do work. After several years, NASA started to do the same.
This is a fundamental change in how government related technology development is done. Traditionally, government contractors bid on projects and just billed the government for time and expenses on work, without enough control of the results, which bred a lot of waste and abuse, and resulted in things costing a lot more, taking a much longer time, and sometimes failing in the end. Once the government was heavily invested, many contractors would often incur cost overruns. Cronyism fluorished, whereby who you knew was as important as what you knew. There was a lot of loyalty trumping merit.
By offering a prize instead, the government doesn't pay the research and development team just for doing work. The government pays only for results, and pays only the winners. Nothing else. It is a fixed cost with no possible budget overruns, only possible cost savings if nobody wins. There are no payments for failures. Anybody can win by merit -- the first to show results. You don't need to be an insider or crony with contacts to win money. No secret kickbacks or favoritism. It's purely on the merit of results.
Proactive R&D people do the work, not cronies who will work only for a salary in an easy job.
The people who compete on these Centennial Challenges include some of the most dedicated people you can find.
In contrast, there are a lot of lifelong government contractors with impressive looking CVs who don't actually do well in the private sector. (Of course, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly.) Prize winners, as well as those who may not win but do a good job on a shoestring budget, should be an attractive alternative to government space contractors for lean and mean private sector companies out to recruit.
Of course, I know many government contractors who do excellent work. This is surely not to say that ALL government contracts are run poorly. Many government contracts are run well, especially small government contracts.
Also, traditional government contracts assure work gets done, whereas prizes depend upon the purely private sector assessing that the potential reward is worth the risk and cost of the project.
In any case, prizes attract entrepreneurs who have already been working on these problems on their own, and private sector entities willing to take reasonable risks.
Therefore, this website is covering these entrepreneurs with an edge. You will find a lot less government cronyism and inflated CVs in these groups.
We know countless additional individuals, small companies, and university labs who have a good track record of work in the space resources field, far too numerous to mention here. We keep track of them in two ways:
These are far too numerous to list here, but well worth mentioning.
What is covered in this section are companies and organizations who have a high profile and are going to extraordinary efforts to promote their applications, rather than the technocrats and specialists who tend to mind their own laboratories.
You can be sure that when some big investor starts to develop a space resources project, lots and lots of people will submit their CVs, and many of those CVs will look impressive. However, CVs can be very misleading, and their chosen references are normally positive. If they don't have a track record of having already been proactive before the big money started flowing in, then you risk hiring mediocrity or worse.
As a high level NASA person once told me, he was very tired of contractors requesting meetings to schmooze for contracts when they found out money was becoming available, but otherwise not interested, and despite their expressed interest in cool space work, NASA had plenty of experience with work which was mediocre or less. His interest was in finding out which people and companies were proactive, willing to go the extra mile, beyond the 8-to-5 routine with all the perks, and really dedicated with their lives to making space resources a success. He was a rare breed himself in the bureaucracy, actually (and stifled at times).
Small innovators can usually be assimilated into a larger project quickly, as either a contractor or member, and be quite productive.
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