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Space Awards

NASA has unveiled the winners of the 2023 NASA Entrepreneurs Challenge, focusing on lunar exploration and climate science. The awards, announced at the Defense TechConnect Innovation Summit, include a US$85,000 grand prize for technologies advancing NASA’s science goals.

The challenge sought solutions for lunar payloads attracting non-governmental funding and climate science innovations. Winners feature projects like Lunar Anti-Dust Microgrid Payload and Deep Detection of Methane in Satellite Data.

Beyond the monetary prize, winners gain exposure to external funders and insights on working with NASA, emphasizing inclusivity for entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities.

App Impact

The five Cultural Impact winners for 2023, as selected by Apple’s App Store editors, are celebrated for creating impact through apps and games.

1. Pok Pok: A digital toy room is designed with inclusivity in mind, offering a universal space for preschoolers of all backgrounds and abilities to play and explore.

2. Proloquo: Developed by AssistiveWare, this is an accessibility app pioneer that creates augmentative and alternative communication tools, revolutionizing communication for diverse users.

3. Too Good to Go: An app that helps minimize food waste by connecting users with restaurants and stores offering surplus unsold food at affordable prices.

4. Unpacking: Developed by Humble Bundle, this app combines meditative puzzles for a soul-soothing experience centered around familiar themes of change and connection.

5. Finding Hannah: From Fein Games, this is a colorful coming-of-age, hidden-object game featuring inclusive and heartfelt stories exploring healing and self-discovery.

Safe Flight

Airline Virgin Atlantic has achieved a significant milestone by completing the world’s first commercial flight using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in late November. The groundbreaking journey of Flight100 took place on a Boeing 747 aircraft using Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, with the flight connecting London Heathrow and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

The use of this sustainable fuel on a commercial scale marks a crucial step forward in the aviation sector’s efforts to mitigate the environmental impact of air travel. Made from waste products, Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO, described SAF as, “the only viable solution for decarbonizing long-haul aviation”. 

“Flight100 proves that sustainable aviation fuel can be used as a safe, drop-in replacement for fossil-derived jet fuel,” he added at the time of the announcement.

The world will always assume something can’t be done, until you do it,” commented Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Atlantic, on the achievement. “The spirit of innovation is getting out there and trying to prove that we can do things better for everyone’s benefit.”

Accessible Games

In news from Australia, University of Sydney Engineering honors student Phoebe Peng is working with ARIA Research, a joint University of Sydney and University of Technology Sydney startup, to develop technology enabling people with low vision and blindness to play Ping-Pong using sound.

Leveraging advanced human echolocation, the process uses event cameras to track changes over time, processing images into sound using an algorithm. The sound is then communicated via an array of loudspeakers, allowing players to acoustically track the ball and movements.

Peng’s work, part of her honors thesis, demonstrates the potential of event cameras in making sports more accessible to those with low vision or blindness. Further experimentation is needed to refine the system for actual play, however.

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