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Google Moon Robotics Space Transportation Science

X Prize $30 Million Robot Race To the Moon Is On 189

coondoggie writes "The master competition masters at X Prize Foundation are at it again. Today the group announced the 29 international teams that will compete for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, the competition to put a robot on the moon by 2015. To win the money, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon's surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn $5 million."
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X Prize $30 Million Robot Race To the Moon Is On

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  • I could do that with parts on the shelf.

    But I don't know if $30 million will cover fuel and insurance.

    • not only are many of the parts no longer on the shelf, but nobody even remembers how to make some of them anymore.
      • by blair1q ( 305137 ) car*...iphone...

        * - with RC slightly modified to buffer more commands and data.

        If you don't have to keep a human alive and you aren't trying to pare excess baggage down to the last kilogram it gets pretty simple.

        • Get to it then!

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I don't think an iPhone is going to work very well on the Moon. It barely works in New York City.

          • It'll be OK - no one will be holding it on the moon so it'll get great reception. And given they're so tough the extremes of space will not be a problem.
          • We could even send an iPhone to Uranus.
        • Do you think you can get your rover control app approved at the app store? Better go Android to be safe.
      • Re:Unfortunately, (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mrsquid0 ( 1335303 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @08:31PM (#35239392) Homepage

        No, it is not that hard to put something on the Moon. We have the parts, and we know how to make them. We can soft-land rovers on Mars, and the Moon is a lot easier to get to and easier to land something on than Mars is. The problem is not the technology, that is essentially a solved problem. The problem is doing it cheaply.

        • Hard is a relative term, there are lots of things that have been done but are still difficult. The first satellite launch was 50 years ago but private companies still have difficulty doing this without using old expensive technology.

          The difficulty of testing sub-systems in a realistic environment means that the designs need to be very conservative (expensive).

          I think it is an interesting challenge and it might just be possible, but I don't think it will be easy. My bet is that no one will make it, but I wou

        • It is in no way easier to land on the moon than on Mars. There is an atmosphere on Mars, albeit not a life-supporting one, which allows for the use of parachutes and non-vacuum equipment.

          The moon does not have the same benefit, and therefore all forces generated throughout all of landing and maneuvering must be created with thrusters of some sort. It also exposes the equipment sent there to some serious temperatures, constant vacuum, and some really really nasty dust. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that t

          • Speaking of gravity, don't forget that the moon has lumpy gravity which makes even orbiting it more difficult.
        • The problem is not the technology, that is essentially a solved problem.

          That's kinda like saying communications were a solved problem when all we had were tin cans and string. Yes, we have the technology to put something on the moon if we really want, but I wouldn't exactly call it a solved problem since it's still a really really difficult thing. I would say it's not solved until we can do it without even trying.

  • Push it further. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @08:05PM (#35239202) Homepage

    Ya ya, I know. But it sure would lead a thunderous applause if man landed on the moon (again) to hand deliver the robot onto the lunar surface. I mean, that would just be epic!

    • Hehe... yeah, that'd be cool. It'd be even cooler if the robot stayed there for 20 years. It'd be uber cool if the guy stayed 20 years.
      • by Teancum ( 67324 )

        It would be simply awesome if you could have a vehicle be able to remain on the Moon and operational for more than a year. A Soviet crawler/lander [] stayed up there for about five months, which is the current "record" in terms of survival on the Moon at the moment for even a robotic vehicle. Yes, the environment on the Moon is that harsh.

        20 years would be a huge accomplishment, which would be able to at least demonstrate that sustained operations on the Moon would be possible. I don't really care what or w

        • We need a Big Brother Moon Edition. Those fuckers are dead weight here on Earth anyway...
        • More awesome yet, I want to see someone drop a new battery in one of the old lunar buggies left by Apollo. It'd be sweet if it actually still works!
    • More like a storm of shoulders shrugging - historical re-enactments aren't really that interesting for most people.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mdielmann ( 514750 )

        Except it's not a re-enactment, it's a re-attainment. I'm hard pressed to think of another milestone like this that we've achieved, and then lost the capability to repeat. That's amazing and disappointing to me.

    • That's exactly what I was thinking, do a maned mission to the moon. Land on the moon and before you climb down the ladder take your probe and literally drop kick it out of the lander onto the surface of the moon.
  • Seriously. Getting into orbit is one thing. Going to the moon is another. Is that even possible on a budget of $20 mil?
    • In terms of energy cost, getting to Earth orbit is the hard part. Transition to Lunar orbit is relatively cheap. The next hard part is getting down to the surface without making a new crater.
      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        xkcd [] would disagree. It seems that getting to the LEO (Shuttle/ISS altitude) seems to get you about 1/6th of the way there, in terms of energy expenditure. Going back is much easier, of course -- about 20x so.

    • by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@netzero. n e t> on Thursday February 17, 2011 @08:52PM (#35239542) Homepage Journal

      The real news of the day isn't the contest itself, which has been discussed elsewhere including on Slashdot previously. The big deal is that a contract for a flight to the Moon [] has been inked and a launch slot set aside to put the vehicle up there.

      I don't know how much this particular group is going to be making in terms of a profit, but they got their rocket and have some serious money behind them in terms of helping to finance this trip. This particular team is also the one to beat, or at least a top contender as well. I'm sure that over the next few months that several other teams are going to be announcing flight schedules too.

      The low-cost launcher to watch for that might turn a "profit" is ARCA [] who has already launched a vehicle and has a rather unique approach for orbital spaceflight. Stuff is happening and money is being spent, so this is a good question to ask.

    • Seriously. Getting into orbit is one thing. Going to the moon is another. Is that even possible on a budget of $20 mil?

      Getting into orbit $10 mil.
      Getting to the moon $20 mil.
      Getting back Priceless.

    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      The prize itself has never been billed as a way to make money. This is nothing new. The prize is there to spur innovation, and is very effective at that: probably 10x-100x the purse amount is spent by the competitors. None of the X-Prizes have paid out anywhere close to the costs the winner has put into it, and obviously nothing to the losers. The same was true with the DARPA Grand Challenge. The same was true with Orteig Prize won by Charles Lindbergh. There are plenty of reasons one would want to pa
  • by tm2b ( 42473 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @08:13PM (#35239268) Journal
    Cue comments about $20 Mil not paying the bill.

    The prize is not intended to entirely pay for the effort, it is intended to lower the cost and provide a base level of return as well as publicize the effort. The X-Prize to "space" did not pay nearly enough to pay Rutan's costs, and people don't work at getting a Nobel for the cash prize.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Nobel prizes are not given for accomplishments. They are a call to action, and a reward for effort and initiative. [citation needed], you say?

      The Norwegian Nobel Committee [] has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

      Obama has as Preside

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BZ ( 40346 )

        Look, everyone understands the Nobel Peace Prize is a joke. Many people/organizations who get it really deserve it. But laureates have also included Al Gore, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Yasser Arafat, the UN, UNHCR, and a few other questionables (your list of questionables may obviously differ from mine). Obama's case is more glaring than most of those because for the most part the laureates had done things (even if what they did was to kill lots of people and then stop)....

        But you're tarring with a b

        • Look, everyone understands the Nobel Peace Prize is a joke

          Really? Are you sure about that? There are a hell of a lot of people out there who worship the NPP and consider it a crowning achievement of civilization. Many of them are journalists and NGO members.

          • by BZ ( 40346 )

            Well, ok. Everyone I'd want to actually have a conversation with understands it's a joke. And some of them are even NGO members... ;)

            • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )
              They gave a Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger. If that's not evidence of a sense of humour, nothing is.

              And the awarding of the Peace Prize to Obama was widely criticized as devaluing it. He was awarded it for saying that he was going to engage in more conciliatory international relations. Awarding politicians for what they promise to do is a bad, bad idea, imo.
      • by tm2b ( 42473 )
        As most people were able to understand, I was speaking of the scientific Nobel prizes and not the political ones. Einstein did not win the Nobel prize as a call to action in his work on the photoelectric effect, but for his achievement.
  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @08:25PM (#35239346)

    The Mythbusters should try to win this!

  • by Stregano ( 1285764 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @08:41PM (#35239452)
    I would personally put some kind of weapon on my robot in the case the other robots got there first. Send a signal back to earth of my robot kicking your robot's ass. That would be badass
  • Lunar Lander (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrbcs ( 737902 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @08:46PM (#35239500)
    Please, please, please, would the winner send back a hi def photo of some of the Nasa junk left there. This would end all tinfoil hat theories on whether Nasa actually went there.
    • by Just_Say_Duhhh ( 1318603 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @09:21PM (#35239740)

      So, to claim the $20 million, all I have to do is drive my robot out to an abandoned warehouse in Arizona, let it drive around and take a picture of one of the LEMs (they left them in the warehouse, didn't they?) and then publish the picture?


    • The only way you would end any significant percentage of the nutters 'theories' that we never landed on the Moon would be to go up there and deface the lunar surface to look like a giant Pepsi logo.

      Even that wouldn't convince everybody, and especially not the Coke faithful, because the Moon is just a liberal myth to begin with.
      • by Kokuyo ( 549451 )

        Frankly, even if you did that, it wouldn't prove that someone was up there. I think that doubt will only go away once everybody has a realistic chance of going there themselves.

        And frankly, I find your painting all skeptics with the broad nutter-brush to be very, VERY unscientific. There is doubt. And as long as there is doubt the true scientific approach would be to objectively look at the doubt, create a test to verify AND falsify the theory behind the doubt and go check.

        I am willing to bet that 99% of th

        • And frankly, I find your painting all skeptics with the broad nutter-brush to be very, VERY unscientific.

          Admittedly, I'm guilty of painting with a wide brush. [] But then again, I also presume people understand what we're really talking about here. There is a difference between ignorant people who just don't know the facts and have doubt. In contrast there are pathological nutters (extremely well documented and frequently associated with paranoia as well as other disorders) who insist it never happened despite being aware of the endless evidence which proves it did, all while completely invalidating their own "p

        • Even if you forget all the back and forth discussion about flopping flags, prop-marked rocks and such, there is one very good reason to believe the moon landings actually happened:

          If there ever was one party that would have anything to gain by discrediting the US moon landings, it would be the soviets (just think of the propaganda), if there ever was a party that would have the means to discredit the moon landings, it would be the soviets (hell, drive up there with a robotic lander and show the crashed spac

          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            Add to that where the Soviet Union did end up sending a robotic rover on the Moon, and that was supposedly after the Apollo landings. They even sent up a spacecraft which did a fetch and retrieve mission to collect some Moon rocks.

            The findings of the Soviet effort to study lunar rocks? The samples collected by the American astronauts really were rocks from the same planetary body with roughly identical chemical composition and age. Yeah, if there was a way for the Soviet Union to scream that the whole th

        • I forgot to add this to my other comment. Sorry for split posts.

          As a side note, if you really want a good semi-moon landing related conspiracy, its semi-recently been released that the US space program was mothballed to allow the Russians first space access so as to allow for international precedence of the legality of space overflights. It was feared that if the US was the first to do it, the Russians would create a huge stink over it. Keep in mind, at the time, the US President was requesting unilateral o

    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
      Cue the tinfoil on future explorations...
    • by nzap ( 1985014 )
      What's to stop people from claiming the robot landing was faked?
    • $20 million to send a robot with a camera to a recording studio in Pasadena?

      I'm game.

    • This would end all tinfoil hat theories on whether Nasa actually went there.

      No it wouldn't. Most of the pro-hoax arguments can be refuted without any special knowledge. Hell, some just require you to turn on a couple of lights. Nothing will defeat the conspiracy theorists except ridicule and time.

    • They'd just claim that the team who made it to the Moon was in cahoots with the government.

    • I've personally been in the vault at Johnson Space Center that holds the rocks that were brought back by the Apollo missions. There were also some in there that the Russians brought back (unmanned missions, obviously) which were given to NASA. If seeing things like those, which are also on display to the public at the space centers and are available for scientists to request for research isn't enough, there's also the fact that you can pick up the light reflections from the stuff left on the moon with a dec

    • Which would be awesome, but it wouldn't convince any of the moonbats - all it would prove to them is that NASA paid the winning team to join the cover up... Heck, most of them would refuse to believe it if you brought them to the moon and let them see the remains in person.
    • This would end all tinfoil hat theories on whether Nasa actually went there.

      Absolutely it would not.

      Study after study after study all document the same result. These people have a pathological need to believe in grand conspiracies. Its literally part of their self identity. You can bury people in a mountain and facts, all of which invalidate their conspiracy, and in turn destroy any and all credibility of their conspiracy theory, and they will always insist everything has been faked. In turn, your evidence only further empowers their delusion of conspiracy; to wit you are presumed

      • by Teancum ( 67324 )

        I think you could fly some of these Moon landing hoax idiots to the Moon, have them see the flag that Buzz Aldrin put up on the Moon, look at the very footsteps of Neil Armstrong and "touch" those footprints, and they'd still call the whole thing a hoax with the site set up as a part of the ruse to perpetuate the conspiracy.

        I agree with you that there is no possible way to convince these people that the Apollo landings were genuine as bashing them in the head with a Moon rock is certainly not convincing eno

      • by thijsh ( 910751 )
        You can't discount all conspiracy theories like that. It is a documented historical fact that some wild stories were true (but most aren't, I agree)... The only thing conclusive for scientific people can be facts and knowledge like you point out. In the case of the moon landings the facts and knowledge are overwhelming, you have to be a nut to still claim it's all fake (but unrelated to this I would love to see pictures of a lander and flag just for fun). In the case of 9/11 on the other hand the facts and
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Unfortunately it wouldn't. Some people believe that the first moon landing in 1969 was faked but that some of the later ones were not. NASA needed to fulfil the "before this decade is out" bit and ran out of time. That is supposedly why you can see the Apollo 16 landing site with a telescope but can't see Apollo 11.

      Even if you did manage to find Apollo 11 I'm sure they would just claim that NASA put an empty lander up there at some later date, although explaining the flag might be harder.

      The Apollo landing

  • so what if something happens and a team only sends a 480p signal, then no Joy???
  • by adenied ( 120700 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @09:15PM (#35239698)

    It's official. I'll put up $100, but only if your robit looks like Bender and is powered by cheap bourbon. Sabotaging your competitors earns a 10% bonus.

  • WTF? The google Lunar X-prize was first announced back in September of 2007. I can name a few companies right off the top of my head that have been working on getting there since then. Interorbital Systems is the first one that comes to mind (though I think they got axed from the roster due to wanting to use hypergolics or something like that). Astrobotics has been working on this for awhile as have Odyssey Moon, White Label Space...The list has been up on Wikipedia for well over a year now. How the hell di
    • by Teancum ( 67324 )

      In fairness, there are other recent developments by the teams themselves that deserve some recognition, although settling down on a "final" list of teams is something reasonable. If you want to try and claim the prize at this point but are just starting out, it would be better to work with one of the existing teams rather than trying to start out completely from scratch so I think the finalization is a good thing.

      Hardware is being built, test videos are showing up on YouTube and elsewhere, and it looks lik

  • The fine story links to a blog. If all you want are the details about the competing teams, you can go direct to:

    As mentioned in the story, 29 teams are competing out of an initial field of 33. The names of the team range from the obvious, Moon Express; to the bold, Next Giant Leap and Independence-X; to the patriotic, Teams Italia, Indus (India) and Puli (Hungary); down to the irreverent, Part-Time Scientists and the cryptically named Mystery Team: Mystical Mo

  • by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Thursday February 17, 2011 @11:34PM (#35240610)

    It's a shame that the X-Prize donors only fund single prizes. It would vastly increase the rate of technological development if they were regular contests.

    Compare DARPA's robot car challenge (now Urban Challenge) to X-Prize's original $10m sub-orbital prize. The first year, no team even qualified for the DARPA prize. Hell no team completed more than a fraction of the course. The following year, most teams completed a more difficult course, and half of them qualified (finished in under 10hrs). A few years later, the things are running traffic in urban obstacle courses.

    Meanwhile, you have the suborbital X-Prize. After 9 years with no attempts, Burt Rutan's team met the minimum requirements for the X-Prize. And no one has ever done it since, including Rutan. Imagine how much suborbital rockets would have improved by now if it had been an annual highest-flight-wins event.

    And imagine if the Lunar Prize was... well, let's say, a quadrennial event. A prize awarded every four years for the longest rover trek on the moon. A Paris Dakar Rally on the moon.

    DARPA had the right idea, the X-Prize donors don't.

  • How can we be sure the X-Prize isnt just a cover for Gru and his minions? []

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?