UK Government Asks: What's The Greatest Challenge Of Our Time?

In 1714, the British government established a prize to solve the greatest challenge of that time: Pinpoint a ship's location at sea by knowing its longitude. Now, 300 years later, it's bringing back the Longitude Prize. This time, the public will choose the greatest challenge in a vote that begins Thursday.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, a prize that's making a return: the Longitude Prize.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It was set up in 1714 by the British government to solve the greatest challenge of that time: Pinpoint a ship's location at sea by knowing its longitude.

CORNISH: Three hundred years later, there's a video announcing its return.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We're at the dawn of a new world.

SIEGEL: Its committee is led by Lord Martin Rees, a professor at Cambridge University.

LORD MARTIN REES: And I also have the title of Astronomer Royal.

CORNISH: Astronomer royal - yeah, that's a thing.

SIEGEL: He and his committee are asking the U.K. what's the greatest challenge of our time?

REES: We thought the best way to proceed was to identify six different areas and then let the public vote.

CORNISH: Six challenges. OK. Provide clean water to the world.

SIEGEL: Design a low carbon means of flight.

CORNISH: Restore movement for those with paralysis.

SIEGEL: Help people with dementia live independently.

CORNISH: Prevent resistance to antibiotics.

SIEGEL: Or innovate food production.

CORNISH: Voting begins Thursday. Once the challenge is chosen, competition is open for the 10 million pound prize - that's almost $17 million of public and private money.

SIEGEL: The winner of the first Longitude Prize was a clock maker named John Harrison.

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