Will Lunar Competitors Forego the Google Lunar X Prize Over IP Rights?

Sometime during the next 3 years, a rocket will sit on a launch pad in Florida or elsewhere in the world containing a lunar lander and rover built to win the Google Lunar X Prize. Only, the team launching it might no longer be in the competition.

Why would a team turn down a minimum of $20 million in prize money for a mission that costs many times that amount?

That’s an excellent question. And a fascinating tale. Read on.


Astrobotic Wins NASA Award to Study Lunar and Martian Lava Tubes, Caves

PITTSBURGH, PA – Astrobotic PR – NASA today selected Astrobotic Technology Inc. to research breakthroughs in methods to explore lava tubes, caves and recently discovered “skylights” leading down into these features on the Moon and Mars.

Lava tubes and other types of caves can shelter astronauts and robots from harsh off-world environments, which on the Moon means micrometeorite bombardment, intense radiation and extreme temperature swings of 500 degrees from day to night. Cave-dwelling by early astronauts and robots likely will be less expensive than bringing shelter materials all the way from Earth.

Astrobotic Technology, in cooperation with Carnegie Mellon University, is preparing a robotic expedition to the Moon to be launched in the December 2013 – July 2014 time frame.

Astrobotic was one of 30 companies, universities and NASA organizations that were selected for negotiation today by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program in the Office of Chief Technologist. The approximately $100,000 award is to cover a year-long study starting next month.

Astrobotic will be eligible for a $500,000 Phase 2 award next year to continue the work.

Robotic Space Exploration: The Next Policy Battleground?

Bruce Springsteen (Credit: Helge Øverås)

On May 9, 1974, a little known band opened for Bonnie Raitt at the Harvard Square Theater in Cambridge. As luck should have it, influential music critic Jon Landau was in the audience as the group ripped through a set. “I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes,” he later wrote. “I saw something else: I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

I think I witnessed a similar moment last night. Not in a smoky theater in Massachusetts, but in a conference room on the other side of the continent. And it involved not rock and roll but space.


GLXP News: Moon Express Names Alan Stern as Chief Scientist

Dr. Alan Stern
Dr. Alan Stern

Mountain View, CA (July 20, 2011) – Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, revealed today that internationally recognized planetary scientist Dr. Alan Stern will be the Chief Scientist and Mission Architect for the company. The announcement was made as lunar scientists from around the world gather at the NASA Ames Research Park for their annual Lunar Science Forum, convened by the NASA Lunar Science Institute.

Dr. Stern is the former NASA Associate Administrator for Science and is an outspoken advocate for commercial space who believes in the power of private enterprise to complement government efforts. While at NASA he presided over $4.5B of planetary science, astrophysics, heliophysics, and Earth science missions while, also serving as the Principle Investigator of the agency’s New Horizon’s mission to Pluto.


Team Drops Out of Google Lunar X Prize

During the recent Google Lunar X Prize Team Summit in Mountain View, one of the 29 teams was missing.

C-Base Open Moon, a Germany-based competitor, has withdrawn from the $30 million moon race. In a blog post, the team said:

After long and difficult discussions we had to come to the conclusion that we aren´t able to keep up with the requirements of the last Master Team Agreement.

At the end of 2010 it became more and more clear for us, that we wouldn’t be able to stay in the GLXP the way we were organized at that time. This was even more obvious, when we realized how the MTA was structured and what kind of organization would be necessary to keep up with it.


Google Lunar X Prize Appoints New Senior Director

PLAYA VISTA, CA–(Marketwire – Jul 11, 2011) – The X PRIZE Foundation announced today that Alexandra Hall has joined the Foundation as the Senior Director of the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, a private race to the moon designed to enable commercial exploration of space while engaging the global public.

Hall brings a wealth of experience in both the private and public sectors in USA and Europe to the X PRIZE Foundation. As the co-founder and former CEO of Airship Ventures, a company that uses airships for passenger flights, science research and media purposes, Hall is credited with breaking new ground in aviation by bringing Zeppelin airships back to the U.S. after 70 years.


Moon Express Founder Named to Singularity University Board

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Singularity University’s founders, Ray Kurzweil and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis are pleased to announce Naveen Jain, Founder/CEO of Intelius and Founder/Chairman of Moon Express, to their Board of Trustees. He was selected for his firm belief that there are no global problems that cannot be solved through creative thinking and disruptive technology.

“Naveen’s entrepreneurial abilities combined with his innovative thinking made him the perfect choice for this unique University,” Peter Diamandis stated. “I am particularly proud to have Naveen Jain join our Board of Trustees. He is an extraordinary entrepreneur who is passionate about using exponential technologies to solve the world’s grand challenges.”


Seven New Teams Join Google Lunar X Prize


Today, the X PRIZE Foundation announced the official roster of 29 registered teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, an unprecedented competition to send a robot to the Moon that travels at least 500 meters and transmits video, images, and data back to the Earth.

This group of teams signifies this new era of exploration’s diverse and participatory nature as it includes a huge variety of groups ranging from non-profits to university consortia to billion dollar businesses representing 17 nations on four continents. The global competition, the largest in history, was announced in September 2007, with a winner projected by 2015.


Astrobotic Signs Contract for Falcon 9 Launch to Moon


Astrobotic Technology Inc. today announced it has signed a contract with SpaceX to launch Astrobotic’s robotic payload to the Moon on a Falcon 9.   The expedition will search for water and deliver payloads, with the robot narrating its adventure while sending 3D video.  The mission could launch as soon as December 2013.