NASA wants to give you $5,000 for your idea to help astronauts survive on Mars

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May 8, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT (Updated)

We still have a ways to go until humans actually set up shop on Mars, and NASA is putting out a public call for ideas while they’re still in the planning stages. The best part? The best ideas score some cold, hard cash.

NASA has launched its “Journey to Mars Challenge,” which will feature three prizes of $5,000 for the best three ideas that can help astronauts survive on Mars with minimal support from Earth. The goal is to develop the “elements of space pioneering” necessary to establish a continuous human presence. Ideas can focus on anything including shelter, food, water, breathable air, communication, exercise, social interactions and medicine.

Obviously, participants are encourage to be very specific and think outside the box. Participants are being asked to describe one or more Mars surface systems or capabilities and operations — with an eye toward ideas that are technically achievable, economically sustainable and will minimize reliance on support from Earth. So you probably wouldn’t do much good to pitch a transporter or replicator.

Though NASA’s best minds are already hard at work figuring out how a long-term mission can be sustainable, opening it up for input is a fascinating idea. Since resupply missions will be few and far between, any create ideas that could help the landing party stay alive could go a long way toward ... you know ... keeping them alive.

Put your thinking caps on, would-be space pioneers, and hit us up with your best ideas.

(Via NASA, Space)