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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.

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Video: Apollo 11 Lands on the Moon


Happy 42nd birthday, Apollo 11! You don’t look a day over 29.

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C-Base Open Moon, a Germany-based competitor, has withdrawn from the $30 million moon race.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.

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GLXP News: Moon Express Lunar Lander Takes First Flight


Silicon Valley, CA (June 30, 2011) – Moon Express, Inc. today announced a successful flight test of a prototype lunar lander system being developed in partnership with NASA.

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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.

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ISRO Partners with JPL on Proposed MoonRise Lunar Sample Return Mission


ISRO announces new moon mission with US’ Jet Propulsion Lab

The Space Commission, India’s apex space policy body, today gave ISRO the go-ahead to partner with JPL, which has sent missions to Mars and Venus, for the project names ‘Moon Rise’ which could be launched by NASA.

ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has invited proposals under its New Frontiers Programme announced in 2009.

As per the cooperation agreement, ISRO will send a satellite to orbit around the moon to transmit data to earth from rover JPL plans to send to the lunar surface.

As part of the project, JPL plans to drop a robotic lander into a basin at the moon’s south pole to return lunar rocks back to Earth for study.

The mission, if selected, would be launched in 2016.

Read the full story.

Editor’s Note: I found this paper about the proposed mission. The mission summary reads:

MoonRise will land in the interior of the SPA Basin at a location determined by analysis of existing orbital data and selected using criteria for science and mission safety. MoonRise will document the geologic context of the landing site with descent imaging and high resolution and multi-spectral surface imaging, and will sieve a volume of soil near the lander to collect thousands of rock fragments. The regolith, well mixed from impact processes, is expected to yield small rock fragments that represent a broad area of the SPA Basin interior. The main lithologic components are impact generated rocks from the basin formation and from the formation of other large impact craters and basins within SPA. Sample materials will be returned to Earth for mineralogical, chemical, and petrologic analyses, and isotopic age determinations in state-of-the-art laboratories. Following a preliminary examination by the MoonRise science team at the Curatorial Facility at Johnson Space Center, MoonRise samples will be made available for allocation to – and study by – the scientific community worldwide.

The Lunar Networks blog also has a detailed overview.

The Space Review: Where to Next in Space?


Altair on the moon

This week in The Space Review

EML-1: the next logical destination
One potential destination for human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit is the Earth-Moon L-1 point. Ken Murphy discusses the various roles a human presence there could play in supporting space exploration and development.

The Grand Tour: Uranus
Twenty-five years ago today Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Uranus, becoming the first, and so far only, spacecraft to visit the seventh planet. Andrew LePage recounts the challenges of getting a spacecraft designed primarily for Jupiter and Saturn to continue the exploration of the outer solar system.

Fly me to the stars
Given the near-term challenges of just getting beyond Earth orbit, does it make sense to think about how to travel to other stars? Lou Friedman explains the benefits of long-term planning for interstellar missions, as DARPA and NASA are currently exploring.

Sub-scale and classified: the top secret CIA model of a Soviet launch pad
During the race to the Moon in the 1960s, the CIA built models of the Soviet N-1 launch pad to help them better understand the launch site infrastructure. Dwayne Day describes the discovery of one of those vintage models in an unexpected location.

Review: The Four Percent Universe
Discoveries in recent years have revolutionized the field of cosmology, indicating that ordinary matter makes up on a small fraction of the universe. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the search for dark matter and dark energy.

GLXP Competitor Next Giant Leap Gets $1 Million to Build Lunar Hoppers


Move Over, Rover: Next Giant Leap Gets $1 Million Grant To Build Hopping Moon Landers
Tech Crunch

Next Giant Leap in Boulder, Colorado— a startup that’s making robots that will land and hop around on the surfaces of other planets in order to gather data, detect resources valuable to humans, and more — attained a $1 million grant from the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, to advance their technology and pursue the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize in 2012, the companies revealed today.

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Next Giant Leap Team Gets New Funding Round



Next Giant Leap LLC (NGL) announced that it has received a second round of funding from eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship (eSpace). NGL was initially selected for the eSpace incubator program last April. Based upon NGL’s continuing progress, including their recent NASA Innovative Lunar Data Demonstrations contract award, the eSpace board approved a second round of funding.
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The Space Review: Moon, Mars or Narnia?


This week in The Space Review….

Human operations beyond LEO by the end of the decade: An affordable near-term stepping stone
Where should humans go next beyond Earth orbit, and how quickly? Harley Thronson, Dan Lester, and Ted Talay make the case for quickly and affordably establishing an outpost at the Earth-Moon Lagrange points.

Public interest and space exploration
The general public remains fascinated with many aspects of space exploration, from the Hubble Space Telescope’s observations of the cosmos to the activities of the Mars rovers. Lou Friedman notes that this interest must be taken into account when dealing with troubled current programs and planning future ones.

C.S. Lewis and his Space Trilogy, then and now
While best known for his Narnia books, C.S. Lewis also wrote a “Space Trilogy”. Taylor Dinerman examines those novels and their underlying message about space exploration before the beginning of the Space Age.

Review: Talking About Life
Astrobiology has gained traction in recent years as an interdisciplinary field seeking to answer one of the most fundamental questions: is there life elsewhere in the universe? Jeff Foust reviews a book where scientists and others talk about their work in this field.