Is the Google Lunar X Prize Kaput?

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

It appears highly likely that the decade-old Google Lunar X Prize will end on March 31 without a winner following reports out of India that Team Indus has pulled out of the race. The Ken reports that

The launch contract that TeamIndus signed with Antrix Corporation—the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)—in December 2016, in pursuit of its $30-million Google Lunar XPRIZE goal, has been cancelled. Multiple sources within Isro confirmed the news….

Conservatively speaking, the price tag for the PSLV chartered launch alone is said to be upwards of $20 million; the cost of building and testing the moon rover is several million more. It’s learnt TeamIndus couldn’t pony up funds to pay Antrix beyond the initial signing amount. “Isro has cancelled the contract for a lack of compliances and payment issues,” says a person who is close to these developments. He says, “Rahul [Narayan, co-founder TeamIndus] has spoken to all on the floor recently and informed all of Isro’s decision of pulling out of the mission”. TeamIndus did not respond to questions sent by email. Without denying the news, a spokesperson for the company said, “As a company, we’d not comment on this”.

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Video: NASA Remembers Moonwalker, Shuttle Commander John Young

Video Caption: Astronaut John Young, who walked on the Moon during Apollo 16 and commanded the first space shuttle mission, has passed away at the age of 87.

He is the only person to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs and was the first to fly into space six times — or seven times, when counting his liftoff from the Moon during Apollo 16.

NASA Mourns Astronaut John Young

Astronaut John Young salutes the flag on the moon during the Apollo 16 mission. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Astronaut John Young, who walked on the Moon during Apollo 16 and commanded the first space shuttle mission, died Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, at the age of 87 from complications of pneumonia. Young began his impressive career at NASA in 1962, when he was selected from among hundreds of young pilots to join NASA’s second astronaut class, known as the “New Nine.”

“Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.

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Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.

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Missions to Moon, Mars, Mercury & More Set for 2018

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

Updated with SpaceX’s Red Tesla launch.

An international fleet of spacecraft will be launched in 2018 to explore the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the Sun. Two sample-return spacecraft will enter orbit around asteroids while a third spacecraft will be launched to search for asteroids that contain water that can be mined.

NASA will also launch its next exoplanet hunting spacecraft in March. And the space agency will ring in 2019 with the first ever flyby of a Kuiper Belt object.

And, oh yes, Elon Musk is launching his car in the direction of Mars.
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Time Running Out to Win Google Lunar X Prize

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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A Look at NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Plans


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.
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Updates From Blue Origin, Space Angels, Exos Aerospace & More

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

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.

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ispace Raises $90.2 Million Series A, Plans Two Lunar Missions by 2020

Credit: ispace

TOKYO, December 13th, 2017 (ispace PR) — ispace, a Japan-based private lunar exploration company, announced today that it has raised $90.2 million* in Series A funding—not only the largest-ever Series A raised in Japan, but also the largest to date in the global commercial space sector (as of Dec. 13th, 2017).

The financing will be used to develop a lunar lander and conduct two lunar missions by the end of 2020. The funding was joined by Innovation Network Corporation of Japan; Development Bank of Japan; Tokyo Broadcasting System; Konika Minolta; Shimizu; Suzuki Motor; SPARX; Dentsu; Real Tech Fund; KDDI; Japan Airlines; and Toppan Printing.

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Praise for Space Policy Directive 1

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Praise is pouring in for Space Policy Directive 1, the Trump Administration’s document that focuses the nation’s civilian space program on returning astronauts to the moon.

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) welcomes Space Policy Directive-1 (SPD-1) signed today by President Trump, formalizing the commitment made by the Administration during the first meeting of the National Space Council to reinvigorate America’s deep space exploration program. The signing ceremony in the White House West Wing was attended by Coalition President and CEO Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar together with the President, Vice President, members of Congress, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot and NASA astronauts – including Dr. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who together with the late Captain Eugene Cernan were the last Americans to visit the Moon during Apollo 17 exactly 45 years ago.

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ispace to Announce Major Series A Investment Round

TOKYO — ispace, a Japanese start-up responsible for Team HAKUTO’s entry in the Google Lunar X Prize, is planning to announce “the largest fund raised in Series A in the global space industry” next week to support its efforts to mine the moon.

“It involves a round of significant financing and details around the next missions of ispace, planned after the currently run HAKUTO project,” according to an invitation sent to journalists.

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NASA Seeks Industry Partnerships on In-situ Resource

NASA is seeking “proposals for trade studies and design, fabrication, and testing of critical components and subsystems for acquisition and processing of extraterrestrial resources into water, oxygen, and fuel.”

The broad agency announcement (BAA) came in an appendix to the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) program, which has been working with commercial companies on facilitating space exploration and development beyond Earth orbit.

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Team Indus Tries to Crowd Fund $35 Million to Win Moon Race

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

Team Indus is still $35 million short of being able to launch a rover to the moon to win first prize in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize with less than four months to go.

Team Indus, a private aerospace start-up, and the only Indian team attempting to launch a spacecraft on the moon, is exploring crowd funding, sponsorship and ticketing route as possible fund raising options.

The start-up which has, so far, raised $35 million (approximately ₹250 crore), has to raise the other half of $35 million within a revised deadline of March 2018. The project is estimated to cost close to $ 65-70 million (approximately ₹ 500 crore).

According to Sheelika Ravishankar, Marketing and Outreach, Team Indus, the company would launch a platform (for crowd funding) in the next couple of weeks inviting people to contribute towards its ‘Moon Mission’.

Team Indus needs to launch its lander and rover by early March to win the prize by the end of that month. Team HAKUTO is also scheduled to fly its rover on the same mission, which is scheduled to launch on an Indian PSLV booster.

 

Code Red! SpaceIL Needs $20 Million Stat to Save Satellite Program

Lunar spacecraft (Credit: SpaceIL)

TEL AVIV (SpaceIL PR) — The construction of the first Israeli spacecraft is at a critical turning point. Only two weeks before its completion, $20 million are needed by the end of the year to prevent the project’s termination. This would result in the cancellation of the launch planned for 2018 and end all the non-profit’s educational activities, a moment before the spacecraft is launched.

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