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NZ Space Challenge winner announced

The search for New Zealand’s top space talent has come to an end, with the winner of the 2018 NZ Space Challenge announced in Christchurch on Thursday night.

The inaugural Space Challenge was won by GPS Control Systems with their concept of a Global Navigation Satellite System to help heavy tracked vehicles detect and avoid perilous ice shelf crevasses.

Team mastermind John Ahearn was present to collect $40k in prize money, plus six months of desk space at a local incubator and access to mentorship.

The Space Challenge brought together some of the brightest minds from across the country to find innovative technological solutions to navigating the extreme environments of Antarctica and outer space.

Ahearn, who represented Auckland, Northland and Bay of Plenty, said he was very excited to win the award and it was a daunting task to get up and present alongside such talented group of finalists.

Ahearn says he's always been fascinated by Antarctica and recently visited the Antarctic on a field trip as part of a post-graduate certificate in Antarctic studies at The University of Canterbury.

Four other regional finalists presented innovative designs including a Pokémon GO-style augmented reality system by Christchurch's JIX Limited and Orbica Limited, Kiwi Orbitals with a suborbital rocket, UTIG Cryo Group with their airborne ice-penetrating radar, and Dunedin's Deep Space Labs with a multi-spectral data analysis technique using artificial intelligence.

The NZ Space Challenge was the brainchild of space enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, Eric Dahlstrom and Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, who established SpaceBase with fellow co-founder Rich Bodo.

SpaceBase partnered with economic development agency ChristchurchNZ to deliver this national challenge, sponsored by AntarcticaNZ, and the winner was announced as part of ChristchurchNZ’s Techweek’18 event, Extreme Environments, from Antarctica to Space.

SpaceBase co-founder Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom says whittling the five finalists down to just one winner had been hard for the panel of national and international judges listening to the pitches.

Paat-Dahlstrom states, “All the concepts presented would have an impact on solving navigation issues in the Antarctic, and the opportunities presented by the innovative use of advanced technologies were very exciting to the judges.”

ChristchurchNZ chief executive Joanna Norris congratulated all five finalists on the high calibre of their presentations.

“We have seen some mind-blowing solutions to the challenge today,” Ms Norris says.

Norris states, “The NZ Space Challenge demonstrates the strength of our emerging and exciting space industry that builds on our traditional manufacturing expertise and strong tech sector.

“This resonates strongly with the city’s unique and important role as one of only five global gateways to Antarctica."

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