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By Devin Coldewey

Do you have a great idea for how to make astronauts' lives on Mars more livable or efficient? NASA wants to hear about it — and may even pay you, if it's good enough.

The agency has issued a challenge to the public to come up with "elements that support the logistics and capabilities required for a sustainable permanent human presence beyond Earth’s vicinity." In other words, stuff to make the Journey to Mars more comfortable and independent. Whether that's a better air filter, a more resilient wheel design for rovers, or a way to keep bored Martians entertained during multi-year stays in a barn-sized habitat is up to you and your considerable ingenuity.


No fantasy stuff, now: ideas must be "technically achievable" and "economically sustainable," and should rely as little as possible on earthly support. On the other hand, you don't need to send in technical drawings or prototypes — just a detailed written description of the system. Winners, of which there are expected to be three or fewer, will receive $5,000 or more.

You can register for free at the InnoCentive challenge website to see more details or submit your idea. The deadline is in July, so you've got some time to think about it.