X Prize Foundation, private, nonprofit prize institute est. 1995 by commercial space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis. Based in Santa Monica, Calif., and funded by foundations and private individuals and through fund-raising activities, the foundation issues extreme technological challenges accompanied by multimillion dollar cash awards in an attempt to achieve "radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity." The foundation's initial award, the Ansari X Prize, announced in 1996, offered $10 million to anyone who, within the span of two weeks, could twice launch and return a piloted vehicle with two persons aboard 62.5 mi (100 km) into suborbital space. It was won in 2004 by Burt Rutan and his SpaceShipOne.
Other X Prizes have been announced by the foundation but not yet won. The Archon X Prize for Genomics, announced in 2004, promises $10 million to those researchers who develop a technology that within 10 days successfully sequences 100 human genomes at a cost of less than a $10,000 for each genome. The Automotive X Prize, announced in 2007, which offers a multimillion-dollar award to the developer of an affordable, production-ready automobile that will get 100 miles per gallon (c.42 km/litre). The foundation also sponsors the annual X Prize Cup, a cooperative project with the state of New Mexico that is intended to promote innovation in rocket design and spur the development of the commercial space industry.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.