In a move that left the lunar science community stunned, NASA has canceled the Resource Prospector mission, which would have sent a rover to the moon to drill holes in search of ice and other volatiles that could be used to support human settlers and miners and turned into fuel to power spacecraft.
In place of the mission, which was set to launch in 2022, the space agency issued a draft request for proposal (RFP) on Friday for the new Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Under CLPS, NASA would pay companies to carry instruments and experiments to the lunar surface aboard privately-built landers and rovers.
This past week, the XPrize acknowledged the obvious: after 10 years and multiple deadline extensions, none of the five remaining teams was going to claim the Google Lunar X Prize by landing a privately-built vehicle on the moon that would travel 500 meters across the surface while sending back high-definition video.
The first team to accomplish that goal would have claimed $20 million; the second, $5 million. But, unlike the moon race of the 1960’s, Google’s much hyped moon shot ended not with the deafening roar of a launch but the deadening silence of a dream deferred.
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.
The clock is ticking for the remaining teams in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition.
Barring another extension, they have until March 31 to land a vehicle on moon and travel 500 meters across it to claim the $20 million first prize or $5 million second prize. It’s not clear whether any of them will make the deadline.
Last month NASA officials gave a series of presentations about the space agency’s deep-space exploration plans to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Committee. I have excerpted slides from those presentations to provide an overview of what the space agency is planning. (more…)
The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference was held in Colorado earlier this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks tweeted the sessions:
Jeff Foust @jeff_foust Rand Simberg @Rand_Simberg Colorado Space News @CO_Space_News Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk
Below are summaries of a number of talks based on their tweets. The talks included Erika Wagner of Blue Origin, Dylan Taylor of Space Angels, John Quinn of Exos Aerospace, Tim Lachenmeier of Near Space Corporation, Lewis Groswald of the University of Colorado Boulder, and Alain Berinstain of Moon Express.
Moon Express is one of three companies NASA has signed agreements with for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) program.
“The purpose of the Lunar CATALYST initiative is for NASA to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering small (30 to 100 kg) and medium (250 to 500 kg) class payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities,” the agreement states.
“This no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) with the Partner enables provision and coordination of NASA in-kind contributions at no cost to the Partner, of NASA civil servant technical expertise, access to NASA test facilities, the loaning of equipment, and software,” the agreement adds.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Moon Express PR) — Moon Express announced today that space science and exploration veteran Dr. Alain Berinstain has joined the company as Vice President of Global Development. Dr. Berinstain will oversee the international growth of Moon Express business interests and lead engagements with global space agencies on science and exploration initiatives.
Well known in the international space science community as an interdisciplinary scientist, strategist and communicator, he brings over seventeen years of experience working for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), including roles as Director, Planetary Exploration and Space Astronomy, and Director, Science & Academic Development. For the last two years, Dr. Berinstain has been Director of Policy for Canada’s Minister of Transport, Hon. Marc Garneau, former president of the Canadian Space Agency and Canada’s first astronaut.
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA will continue its partnerships with three U.S. companies that are advancing technologies to deliver cargo payloads to the lunar surface. The partners—Astrobotic Technology, Inc., of Pittsburgh, Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, and Moon Express of Cape Canaveral, Florida—began work in 2014 under NASA’s Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) initiative. The original three-year agreements were amended to extend the work for another two years.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Moon Press PR) — Moon Express announced today that it has hired Ben Roberts as its Vice President of Government Affairs. Roberts will oversee legal, policy, regulatory, and compliance functions for the company. He brings over nine years of experience working for the Executive Office of the President, including roles at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Roberts was most recently the Assistant Director, Civil and Commercial Space, for OSTP, where he led the design and implementation of civil and commercial space policies and initiatives on behalf of the Executive Office of the President.
COLUMBIA, MARYLAND, Oct. 10, 2017 (Moon Express/NanoRacks PR) – Moon Express and NanoRacks, leaders in commercial access to space, announced an alliance today supporting science and commercials payloads flying on Moon Express missions to the Moon and beyond. The announcement was made at the annual meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) meeting at the Universities Space Research Institute headquarters in Columbia, Maryland.
Statement of Jason Crusan Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space, and Technology U. S. House of Representatives
Lunar CATALYST: Promoting Private Sector Robotic Exploration of the Moon
As part of the Agency’s overall strategy to conduct deep space exploration, NASA is also supporting the development of commercial lunar exploration. In 2014, NASA introduced an initiative called Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST). The purpose of the initiative is to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities.
NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.
From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Virgin Group companies, Moon Express and NanoRacks. There is also a fourth table that has SAAs with a number of companies and organizations that we follow on Parabolic Arc.
SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)
House Subcommittee on Space Hearing Private Sector Lunar Exploration Thursday, September 7, 2017 – 10:00am 2318 Rayburn House Office Building)
NASA is supporting private sector exploration of the Moon through various programs. The private sector is also investing their own funding in the hopes of serving a future market for transportation, cargo delivery, and surface operations (including in situ resource utilization). Moon Express plans to launch a mission to the Moon later this year or early next year. Astrobotic recently announced a mission in 2019. Blue Origin disclosed its “Blue Moon” concept last spring. The United Launch Alliance and SpaceX have also indicated plans to operate in cislunar space in the near-future. The Hearing will review these efforts, and NASA’s role, in order to better understand the challenges and opportunities that they present.
Mr. Jason Crusan, director, Advanced Exploration Systems, NASA
Mr. Bob Richards, founder and CEO, Moon Express, Inc.
Mr. John Thornton, chief executive officer, Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
Mr. Bretton Alexander, director of business development and strategy, Blue Origin
Dr. George Sowers, professor, space resources, Colorado School of Mines