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In Google's Moon Race, Teams Face a Reckoning 74

Posted by timothy
from the cheese-mines-should-be-enough-incentive dept.
waderoush writes "The Google Lunar X Prize, announced in 2007, challenges private teams to send remote-controlled landers and robot rovers to the Moon by December 31, 2015. At the moment, 26 teams are still in the running — but organizers say 2012 could be the shakeout year, as many teams realize they can't go it alone or that they can't raise the tens of millions of dollars needed to reserve a launch vehicle. Xconomy talked with officials at Google, NASA, the X Prize Foundation, and two of the competing teams, asking whether the prize is really winnable in the face of the formidable fundraising obstacles the teams face. The piece also looks at the technology being developed by two of the teams (Moon Express and Team FREDNET), why lunar exploration matters to Google, and how Tiffany Montague, Google's manager of space initiatives, is working to improve the teams' chances."
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In Google's Moon Race, Teams Face a Reckoning

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  • Just use a katapult!

    • by durrr (1316311)

      I'd recommend that google leases a bunch of spaceX heavy rocket, fills it with all the contestants vessels and drop them off in LEO to let them race eachother to the moon in a no-holds-barred robotic deathrace.

      Televised in glorious full HD of course.

  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @02:51PM (#39737893)
    Just build a space elevator, dummies!
    • by SomePgmr (2021234)

      Yeah, can we have that thrown together by next week? You know, we're gunna have to do this on a budget, too... so... you know, make it cheap.

      I'm practicing for a job in management. :)

    • So you're gonna write the $6 billion check for that?

      • That's an incredible modest figure, actually.
        • Yes, I was being generous to him. $6 billion is the low-range of the fixed costs for the construction. More realistic is easily double that or more.

    • by sortadan (786274)
      If it's just a robot why not just shoot it out of a big cannon [wikipedia.org]?
      • If you want a cannon, use an actual cannon, and not an electromagnetic accelerator. Pipe is way cheaper than than a series of coils and a frickin huge power supply to feed them. These big electromagnetic launchers leave out the part about how they brown out an entire state when launching. One Space Shuttle engine had the equivalent of 4 Hoover Dams power output (8 GW), or 8 nuclear power plants. The StarTram Generation 1 system will need 53 GW for 30 seconds.

        This gun was built in the 1960's and reached

  • We are going to have to move the planet off of the current financial system in order to bring about real work to accomplish goals like this. Money is a ROAD BLOCK to fully achieving success as a PEOPLE and a PLANET Cost is not a factor. It is the willingness and willpower of the People who live here to come together and make it all happen.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by KYPackrat (52094)

      Money is nominally a store of the value of people's labor(*). That's why we donate money now: we're giving the "liquid" form of our labor to a charity group, so that they can directly buy the products and labor to fill a need.

      The existance of Google's competition directly refute your idea. It's private money being staked by Google and the team sponsors that made this price possible. Even governments have to use taxed money: moving the labor from those taxed so that the people in NASA/ESA/etc. can get fed. W

      • by Bigby (659157)

        The GP is actually proposing that without money, all the reserves could be spent doing things like this. There would be a single entity that redistributes the excess time/resources to "advance" society in certain directions. It is basically communism without money.

        In this case, society would produce food/shelter/energy and we would do away with vehicles, vacations, TV, games, entertainment, luxuries, etc... in order to fund a space elevator that may or may not work; and if it works, may or may not amount

      • (IMHO, you can argue that money is an energy proxy, and that human energy (i.e. labor) will soon be less valuable than other kinds of energy, but that's an entirely different topic.)

        Human energy is already less valuable than other kinds. Why do you think we use construction machinery instead of thousands of slaves for mining and road work. Human energy just doesn't have the bang for the buck that a thousand horsepower diesel motor does.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      If you remove the carrot and stick of a currency based society then society is more likely to de-evolve into a land of lotus eaters rather a society of extra-planetary explorers.

      One of the big motivators to have more money is so that you can do less.

  • Lame. (Score:2, Insightful)

    How, exactly, does this advance science, the public interest, or be anything but a publicity stunt that only the wealthy can participate in? If you're going to 'crowd source' (I despise that phrase), then shouldn't your project be carried out in phases, and as each phase is accomplished a reward is granted to the winning team?

    It would be a lot more successful and have more entrants (read: ideas), if the cost of entry wasn't in the tens of millions. Who wants to blow 10 million dollars (or more) to get a 1

    • You would rather that only governments could participate in big science stunts?

      • You would rather that only governments could participate in big science stunts?

        No, you blithering half-wit, I want more people to participate in science, not less. It's the closest thing we have to a democratic institution in this country.

        • Woo, I'm not sure whether I want to talk to you, you seem to have issues. But please explain to me who is going to do a moon shot, who is not independently wealthy, a government, or a major corporation.

          • Woo, I'm not sure whether I want to talk to you, you seem to have issues.

            Personality is who I am. Attitude is my reaction to you. Don't confuse the two.

            But please explain to me who is going to do a moon shot, who is not independently wealthy, a government, or a major corporation.

            By dividing the project up into smaller, discrete parts which have a sufficiently low entry cost that private individuals and groups can participate in a meaningful capacity.

            • Personality is who I am. Attitude is my reaction to you. Don't confuse the two.

              I think you're confused about that. And about the concept of social interaction in general.

              But please explain to me who is going to do a moon shot, who is not independently wealthy, a government, or a major corporation.

              By dividing the project up into smaller, discrete parts which have a sufficiently low entry cost that private individuals and groups can participate in a meaningful capacity.

              It won't work. A moon shot is just too big a project to benefit substantively by breaking out a few small parts. By all means, invite participation from one and all but recognize that the core of the project is big and expensive, must be engineere

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2012 @03:05PM (#39738033)

    why lunar exploration matters to Google

    Oh. My. God. They're going to put ads on the moon.

  • Assuming for a moment some of the teams might have experience working on commercial earth satellites, wouldn't it still make more sense to have a few milestone events before going straight the lunar rovers? It's a challenge simply getting a craft into lunar orbit, so maybe start there. Landing on the moon is another big milestone, even without the rover component.

    I'd love to see a team win this, but they need to have permission to launch reserved by December. None of these teams has a rocket built/purcha

  • Now that's something I'd like to have on my calling card...
  • I wonder if a private party could launch a simple, spin-stabilized probe, with well-understood thermal behavoir, that could be used to test the Pioneer Anomally once and for all....all it would need is a clock/ doppler-pinger and a spin and maybe slingshot out of the solar system... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_anomaly [wikipedia.org]
  • by anzha (138288) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @03:40PM (#39738455) Homepage Journal
    The single biggest problem that any team is facing is getting cash and sufficient cash to pay for a launch. This has been a problem for Astrobotic (and why they have postponed to 2015). This has been an issue for Moon Express. This is an issue for Rocket City Space Pioneers. And, yes, it is an issue for Team Phoenicia (my own team). For FredNet, too. Getting material donations has not been difficult. Just the $. That's why Team Phoenicia has been selling engines and rockets. If you want to help and not just snark, go to your favourite team's website and hit the donate button. They all have them. If /. or any other entity would use the /. effect to that end, it'd be a wondrous and helpful thing.
    • You know, you could have provided a link. :)
    • by sortadan (786274)
      What are your thoughts on Evacuated Tube Transport as a launch system for the future, or do you have hopes for some other technology? I realize this may be out of scope for your single launch for the moon, but the ETT technology is a fascinating next step that seems elegant to me as an aerospace outsider with an engineering background and would cut down on the actual launch costs. I wonder why the side of a big mountain near the equator is not already a planning site.

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