Why set up a prize? As discussed by Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams, the prize takes its inspiration from the likes of the Ansari XPRIZE that motivated innovation and technological developments in the field of commercial space endeavors. The first winner of the XPRIZE was Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne that took on the tough challenges of reusable spaceflight - a spaceship design that now underlies Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo that should see its first paid customers launched on suborbital flights in 2014.
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Of course, sending a spacecraft to another star is very different than launching space tourists to an altitude of 100 kilometers. But both prizes draw their inspiration from early aerospace pioneers and more recent space endeavors.
"I believe it is very important that the interstellar community begins to actively foster research progress, and this includes through financial incentives," said Kelvin F.Long, Executive Director of I4IS. "This award is the first in a set of prizes we will be launching over the next year and we hope that by setting standards and examples of excellence, this will motivate others to be the best that they can be, and through that see technical progress made."