GLXP Update: Parabolic Archers Called It!

Congratulations are in order for Parabolic Arc readers! Or at least the 59 percent of you who voted correctly in our latest poll.

That’s the percentage of voters who chose “None of the Above” on the question of  who would win the Google X Prize. And wouldn’t you know it, last week the X Prize announced that the prize was ending without any winner.

So, kudos to you guys. Each and everyone one of you are a regular Ed Glosser.

As for the rest of you losers….21 percent voted for Moon Express, 9 percent of Team Indus, and 3 percent for Synergy Moon.

I’ve put in a new poll up on what will happen to Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to lead NASA.

Remember: vote early. Vote often. Vote as if your life depended on it. Because it does.

Seriously. I’ll explain later.

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

  • ThomasLMatula

    Not that surprising. The reason the Google X Prize failed is because it violate the basic economic principles of prizes. Prizes are a means of leveraging the “creativity of crowds” so in order for them to be successful the barriers need to be low enough to enable large numbers of individuals to compete for the prize.

    The Longitude Prize was the classic example. Anyone who had the skills to build a clock, or create an astronomical table, had a chance of winning it. It was a prize “population” that likely numbered in the thousands. The Orteig Prize was another example, the potential population being any pilot capable of buying/building a modified aircraft. It was a barrier low enough that an unknown pilot with modest funding from a few business leaders was able to win it.

    Both the Ansari X-Prize and Google X-Prize violated these principles which was why they both failed in their objectives. The high cost barriers required limited the prize population to those able to rise the millions of dollars needed.

    In the case of the Ansari X-Prize the effective population was one, Burt Rutan who had already been hired by Paul Allen to build a space plane before the prize was offered. The other announced teams simply did not have the funds to try their solutions and so were not effectively part of the prize population. The result is the one we see, a failure for the unique entry to create the space tourism industry desired. In short it failed even though their was a winner.

    In the case of the Google X-Prize the barrier was even higher, the funds, measured in the tens of millions of dollars, to purchase a launch for the payload. Although a number of teams announced their intention that effective prize population was zero, since none had access to the resources needed.

    And no, I don’t accept the claim that $300 million was spent on Google X-Prize any more than I accepted the statement that $100 was spent on the Ansari X-Prize. If you add up all the money raised for the Ansari X-Prize is was less than $25 million, with Paul Allen accounting for $20 million of it. I expect the funds actually raised for the Google X-Prize was an even smaller percentage of the $300 million amount claimed, otherwise one of the teams would have had the money to fully pay for a launch, the real barrier to winning the prize. Some day when I have time I will need to go through the various press releases to see how much each team actually announced they have raised.

    Hopefully these two failures will cause the X-Prize Foundation to consider the principles of economics when offering future prizes. Sadly they will probably just continue to ignore them.

  • I think there were some studies that indicated the mission could be done for the low tens of millions. Apparently they were expecting Falcon 1e to provide some real cheap rides to the moon.

    No matter what happens with the prize, the X Prize gets money to run it. Those fees often equal the amount of the prize funds being offered. If a prize is claimed or not, the X Prize will declare victory and move on to the next project. That’s exactly what it did here. They say another sponsor is possible, but I’m not sure who they would get to take over this one. Maybe they will find someone.