SpaceX’s Dragon, Astrobotic’s Rover Receive PopSci’s Best of What’s New Awards

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, Astrobotic’s privately funded lunar rover, and NASA’s Curiosity, Dawn and MESSENGER missions have made Popular Science’s Best of What’s New 2011 list.

PopSci singled out Dragon for the Grand Award in the Aviation & Space category. The magazine calls the vehicle “the future of American spaceflight,” a ship that will eventually fly cargo and crews to the International Space Station, the moon and Mars.

The magazine sees Astrobotic as leading the race to win the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize. Led by Carnegie Mellon Professor William “Red” Whittaker, the team plans to launch a 173-pound rover to take 3-D images of the moon.

Three NASA space vehicles are on the list:

  • MESSENGER — which is orbiting Mercury
  • Dawn — currently exploring the asteroid Vesta
  • Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity — the car-sized rover set for launch later this month.

Also getting a nod was the Pipistrel Taurus G4, a four-seat electric plane that in October won the $1.35 million CAFE Green Flight Challenge, a NASA Centennial Challenge competition funded by Google for the demonstration of fuel-efficient aircraft.

Other innovative technologies in the Aviation & Space category  include:

  • Astro Space Center RadioAstron spacecraft (Russia)
  • Bombardier Global 8,000 long-haul private jet
  • U.S. Air Force/Mav6 Blue Devil Airship
  • Northrop Grumman X-47 UAV.

See the entire list of 100 innovations here.