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NASA Announces a Challenge Before It Announces the Challenge

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
November 24, 2014
Filed under ,

Keith’s note: NASA has posted Notice of Centennial Challenges Cube Quest Challenge in today’s Federal Register. $5,000,000 to send a cubesat to the Moon. Very cool. The notice says “To register for or get additional information regarding the Cube Quest Challenge, please visit: If you visit that link you will get an error notice from
I told NASA that the link was broken. Their response was “The link will not be live until the December 1 announcement.  CCP had planned to rollout the Challenge earlier this month, but HQ recommended to delay for two weeks.  The link will work once the site becomes active.”
I replied “You really should tell people that in the notice that the link is not going to be active.  Now everyone will click on it and then lose interest after seeing that it is broken day after day. I am baffled as to why you put the notice out in the first place knowingly  including a link that does not work – without any notice to the public that the link is intentionally inactive until a future date.  Indeed the notice also says “The Cube Quest (CQ) Challenge is scheduled and teams that wish to  compete may now register.”  However the next sentence contradicts this statement by saying “Challenge registration opens December 2, 2014”.  So which is it: “now register” or “opens December 2, 2014″?  What is especially baffling is why such a confusing and deliberately inaccurate Federal Register notice is posted when it concerns a rather substantial  $5,000,000 NASA Challenge. One would think that a little strategic and editorial thought would be given to such a significant announcement.”
Keith’s update: I got this update from NASA MSFC. Odd that they think that the Federal Register has a “limited audience” given that it serves a vital role for a multi-trillion dollar government for a nation of over 300 million people. “In developing such a large Challenge, we wanted to be sure to promote it using the best audience available. HQ decided that the Challenge would get more attention during the events leading up to the Orion Launch. The Federal Register has a limited audience, whereas millions will be watching the first Orion launch. This is the largest NASA Prize Purse and first competition in space. CCP seeks innovations from diverse and non-traditional sources of citizen inventors, private businesses, and academia. NASA HQ wanted to promote this opportunity to the largest audience possible, not just to those within the aerospace industry.”
Oh yes – the link works now ( They also issued a press release late today – several weeks earlier than (I guess) they had planned to do so. Since no one reads the Federal Register, right?

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.

5 responses to “NASA Announces a Challenge Before It Announces the Challenge”

  1. Jeff2Space says:

    Sounds to me like they screwed up but are unwilling to admit it. If they can’t take constructive criticism in a positive way, they just make the organization sound broken.

  2. AstroInMI says:

    Crazy way to roll it out, but a cool program nonetheless. I hope someone can win the prize!

  3. dogstar29 says:

    Interesting, but if the contestants are required to fund the entire project, they will need fairly deep pockets.

  4. hikingmike says:

    Well, they definitely should have had something at that URL even if just a simple page with a pretty background and a message of some kind. Good call, Keith. And good catch to get the attention started on this thing deservedly.

  5. kartwaffles says:

    A NASA co-op came up with a pretty good proof-of-concept mission for exactly this, maybe 5 years go. Starting from ISS or Shuttle (heh) fire a barebones spin-stabilized M-class model rocket motor with a 1U cubesat on top. All the guidance it’ll ever get is from the turntable at T-zero, and if it tumbles en-route to the moon, no big deal. We even came up with a couple scenarios for lunar impact and free return.