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NASA's second annual Tether Challenge beset by controversy, yields no winner

Darren Murph
October 23, 2006
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Apparently building space elevators in one's spare time is becoming a common hobby for jobless entrepreneurial engineers, as a bevy of eager teams set out to best NASA's "house tether" in order to get their rendition approved for intergalactic use. The contest requires that teams create cabling that weighs under two grams, sports a fiber loop with a circumference of at least two meters, and can withstand more weight (upwards of 1,662 pounds) than NASA's three-gram edition. While last year's shindig ended sans a winning party, NASA quadrupled the prize to $200,000 in order to attract more serious competition, but failed to crown a champion yet again. Three teams were immediately disqualified due to loop circumferences being less than the compulsory two meters, which sparked a "heated debate with contest organizers" about the supposed clarity of the rules. While a plethora of geeky expletives were presumably hurled, NASA only allowed the rule-abiding Astroaraneae team to officially compete -- but the Aerojet employees fell a bit short as their line snapped after withstanding 1,336 pounds of force. While we aren't sure if next year's challenge will offer an even larger purse (or yield an actual winner), we're fairly certain that the rulebook will be exorbitantly straightforward if nothing else.

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