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SoCal Selene Group Drops Google Lunar X Prize Bid 64

anzha writes "On Saturday, after the vaunted First Team Summit was completed in Strasbourg, The Southern California Selene Group announced publicly that they are dropping out of the Google Lunar X Prize. Citing very strong differences in opinions over how the X Prize was being run, the team felt they could no longer participate. On the flip side, the X Prize Foundation announced at the team summit that there are four new teams. With the drop out, there are now thirteen official competitive teams. Assuredly, there are more to come."
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SoCal Selene Group Drops Google Lunar X Prize Bid

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  • Its sad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phpmysqldev ( 1224624 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @02:52PM (#23590193)
    Its sad that bureaucracy has caused an entire team to become disillusioned with the competition. The spirit of this competition has always been in the name of science and exploration, but it is becoming more and more bureaucratic to make it 'fair' to everyone. If someone can obtain the materials they need and come up with an innovative way to accomplish the underlying mission, I say more power to them.
    • Re:Its sad (Score:5, Informative)

      by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:51PM (#23590999) Journal
      Its sad that bureaucracy has caused an entire team to become disillusioned with the competition.

      What's weird though is that in a post by the same person at the Southern California Selene Group earlier that day, instead of blaming bureaucracy she said that their reason for disillusionment was their opposition to human space missions (and the idea that the Google Lunar X Prize could support that), and their (somewhat belated) realization that the Google Lunar X Prize was intended to promote commercialization of space. I personally think they were being terribly silly, but you can read the post for yourself: []

      n my first blog, I wrote why Harold Rosen formed the Southern California Selene Group. In short, he and I registered our team to compete for the Google Lunar X PRIZE to demonstrate that a low-cost space mission to the moon could be accomplished and could lead to lowering the cost of some future robotic missions to planetary moons. Plus, we intended to have fun! Harold and I both are strong supporters of space science and robotic space exploration. (For one, I'm an astronomy and cosmology enthusiast.) We love the kind of work that JPL is doing, for example. But we most definitely are not in favor of human space missions. That is not our goal, nor do we support such a goal.

      The Team Summit turned out to be a real wakeup call. In the Guidelines workshop that I attended just last Tuesday, the cumulative effect of hearing all day from Peter Diamandis, Bob Weiss and Gregg Maryniak that the "real purpose" of the Google Lunar X PRIZE was to promote the so-called commercialization of space (which I took to mean highly impractical stuff like mining the moon and beaming power to the earth, as shown in one of GLXP kickoff videos), humanity's future in space, etc. etc., took its toll. I couldn't help but think "what am I doing here?" When I spoke to Harold about it on the phone later, he agreed - no way did he want to be involved in promoting a goal he does not believe in.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Did you know that if a solar flare had occurred during the original Lunar Landing, everyone would've died? It only takes 50 rads to kill a person, and even with the latest advance in medicine which helps alleviate the radiation problem, 50 rads is a very small number. Not to mention that space also wrecks havoc on the immune system, which obviously nobody is too keen on publicizing.

        Until we have a good solution for the aforementioned problems, human space mission should not be considered.
        • Re:Its sad (Score:5, Funny)

          by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:24PM (#23591545) Journal
          Did you know that if a solar flare had occurred during the original Lunar Landing, everyone would've died?

          Did you know that a rogue wave [] can strike without warning, rapidly sinking an ocean-going vessel and killing everybody on it? It's happened many times already. Clearly, for safety's sake we must put an end to putting humans on ocean-going craft, regardless of whether or not they volunteer for it.
          • rogue wave doesn't accumulate inside the body and does permanent and irreparable damage like radiation.
            • Re:Its sad (Score:4, Interesting)

              by crymeph0 ( 682581 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:49PM (#23591929)

              Did you know that a rogue wave [] can strike without warning, rapidly sinking an ocean-going vessel and killing everybody on it?

              rogue wave doesn't accumulate inside the body and does permanent and irreparable damage like radiation.

              FleaPlus' point was that people can die either way. Are you saying the problem isn't that people can die, but how they might die, e.g. cancer versus drowning? That seems like a choice better left to the individual who wants to be an astronaut, not to society.

            • Sure it can. It's called "drowning."
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Cameroon ( 16395 )
            Exactly my thought - risky doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done. Getting out of bed in the morning sure is risky, probably should just stay inside.

            I'm all for recognizing the hazards of an activity and weighing the risk/reward, but if we don't have a problem with oil riggers, Alaskan fishermen, etc. then why would we have a problem with risk for scientific and/or economic advancement in space?

            Maybe holding off on tourists in space until we can come up with reasonable precautions/reactions for things like
            • Government are inherently risk averse in fear of political backlash. Look at the recent shuttle explosion.

              What can the astronauts do better than the autonomous systems we've put on Mars? It's more vanity and publicity at this point.
              • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
                What can the astronauts do better than the autonomous systems we've put on Mars?

                Settlement. Colonization. Civilization. Science is a wonderful thing (I'm a scientist myself), but some things are even grander than science.
              • by khallow ( 566160 )

                What can the astronauts do better than the autonomous systems we've put on Mars?

                A hell of a lot more. There isn't even a point to arguing whether the crude autonomous systems (which aren't truly autonomous, might I add) are better than humans in capabilities. They don't come remotely close. The problem with humans isn't their capabilities, but the life support overhead and usually a return to Earth requirement.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by tenco ( 773732 )
          According to wikipedia, solar flares release mostly protons in a so called proton storm []. Dunno what "rads" (in only know radians) are, but they seem to be an old unit for absorbed radiation dose, like Gray. 50 rads would be 0.5 Gy, then. Using a quality factor of 5 for protons with energy > 5 MeV this should equate to a dose equivalent of 2.5 Sv -> radiation poisoning exposure level []. Well, certainly not good. But also certainly not "everyone would've died".

          And after all this guesswork I found this: S []

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          We have good solutions to the above problem. Mass. Things like water and other materials absorb energetic particles. So you put enough material in the way and the radiation is reduced to an acceptable level.
    • I don't buy into that mentality all the time, but... bureaucracy or not, you're participating in their prize, get used to their rules or play a different game. Shut up and win.

      The number of teams is irrelevant to who wins; it's only an interesting stat for the organizers to advertise. How many teams were signed up for the first X PRIZE? Something on the order of 20, right? How many teams had a legitimate chance to win? 1.

      By and large, it's a unicorn race, then someone shows up with a horse and wins. I

  • by RoastingHeart ( 1000404 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @02:58PM (#23590295)
    "HUH? Do they know how hard we have worked on this? " (Their Camera Design) and the denying of the "ARCA guys (who had lugged across Europe a full-scale mockup of their craft to ISU for display!)"

    I could drag hot dogs through shag carpet all day to the point of exhaustion. Doesn't mean that's productive science.

  • non-compete? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:00PM (#23590321)
    I don't know if NASA people have to sign any sort of non-compete (I did to intern at the DOE a few years ago, so they might), but otherwise I would assume that a team of engineers that has done something like this before -- for instance, one of the Mars rover teams, would start their own team and be done with this.

    Have none of them thought of it, or are they not allowed to? Perhaps a reader from JPL might tell us? I know there are a few from comments in the Phoenix thread the other day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I doubt NASA has a non-compete agreement, but the goal of the X-Prize is a privately funded venture. Just because a guy who worked at NASA has the knowledge to design a similar system doesn't mean that he can get the necessary money to make the prize worthwhile economically speaking.
      • by NNKK ( 218503 )
        The real key isn't to "get the necessary money", it's to "make the project sufficiently cheap", which is something government agencies are notoriously bad at. NASA engineers are technically competent, but they probably don't have the skills necessary to shrink what would normally be a project with a budget in excess of $100million down to a fraction of that.

        You might well use ex-NASA people as consultants for something like this, but you don't have them do the design.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          almost every part that's more complex than a transistor, when applied with "space qualified" label, can easily cost $10k, and the cheapest transponder cost $500k, and the cheapest launch vehicle we know and available today cost something like $20m, once you factor in salary, it's pretty each to get beyond that $100m mark. For the purpose of this competition, we can cut some corners, not take any salary, but we do have to launch something that has a prayer's chance of working, somehow -_-
          • by NNKK ( 218503 )
            Yes, because as we all know, suppliers of hardware to government agencies like NASA are always focused on driving down prices.

            Your argument assumes that it's impossible to create space-worthy parts substantially cheaper than existing vendors of such parts sell them to governments and large corporations (which aren't really any better than governments in efficiency or cleverness). There is no evidence that this is true, and some evidence that it is definitely not (SpaceShipOne cost $25 million to develop; ho
            • SpaceShipOne cost $25 million to develop; how much do you think NASA would have spent to develop a manned sub-orbital plane from scratch?

              Did spend to develop a manned sub-orbital plane from scratch []. The X-15 program, from full R&D to a 199-mission flight program, cost $300 million 1969 dollars. Taking away the operating costs of the actual flights (199 x $600k each), that leaves the development part of the program at approximately $180 million. 1969 dollars. Adjusted for inflation in 2007 dollars, th

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      only people not allowed to work on it are the direct family of the X-Prize foundation.

      As mentioned in one of the replies, to perform this kind of mission requires a significant amount of investment. the restriction comes from the source of that investment, no more than 10% can come from government sources.

      If you look over the bios of SCSG, their members are (almost) all experienced in space-specific design, and understand the cost and difficulties involved. Even a highly funded team probably don't realize t
    • I'm pretty sure the guys at NASA can't just walk out the front door with government secrets.

      The rules say that The Team owns the technical data and that there are non-disclosure agreements with Google, but I doubt NASA allows for participation. Also this would be kind of a blurring of the rules with 90% of the funding to be from private sources.

  • by clem ( 5683 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:01PM (#23590337) Homepage

    Assuredly, there are more to come.
    Why is this assured?
  • I know my team dropped because after reviewing the objective of getting to the moon, we concluded that it would be "really, really hard" to get there.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I'm pretty confident in Harold and co's ability to send the payload to the moon, the question is how much would it cost. Being a team in the US, there are also significant issues with ITAR if we were to choose a foreign launcher (ie Russians or Chinese or even the Europeans). As for a US launch, Falcon 1 is too small for any team to use, Falcon 1e could be phantom hardware, or not be ready on-time, and things doesn't get better from there.
    • Quitter.
  • by johnlcallaway ( 165670 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:24PM (#23590625)

    The article as written makes the author look like a cry baby. Whether that is an accurate representation or not I can't tell until someone with better communication skills can provide something of substance.

    You sign up for something someone else is running, you better make sure you understand everything ahead of time. If the rules are vague, get someone to clarify them first before dragging mock ups across country.

    Or accept the fact they are vague and someone may make decisions you don't like but will have to live with.

    Or ... take your toys and go home. Nothing prevents anyone from continuing the task on their own. I'd say if someone was really interested in doing this, they would continue. Imagine taking the wind of of the XPF sails by being able to say "That's nice. Did you see the pictures from our landing 6 months ago???"

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."