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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Potential Snag for Team Indus Bid to Win Google Lunar X Prize

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

There are some potential snags for Team Indus and Team HAKUTO in their efforts to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

Team Indus and a Japanese team, Hakuto, are contracted to fly on ISRO’s PSLV XL rocket on December 28, 2017, three days before the closure of the deadline for the Google X Prize contest. The two teams will share the nearly $30 million commercial cost for the launch.

“The necessary approvals for launch of the Team Indus moon mission has not yet concluded. An MoU was signed last year by Antrix Corporation and Team Indus. The launch service has to be authorised by the government and the approval process is going on,” Antrix chairman and managing director Rakesh Sasibhushan said. Sources in ISRO said the MoU is under scrutiny and various questions are being asked about the nature of the launch, the Google Lunar X Prize competition and intellectual property issues involved.

“We have not heard of any questions being raised by the government. We have a launch contract that was signed last year,’’ Team Indus leader Rahul Narayan said when contacted. A private company, Axiom Research Labs Ltd, is the start-up that created Team Indus.

The mission is expected to cost Team Indus in the range of $70 million to build its moon rover and spacecraft from scratch and to launch it to the moon. The venture has received the backing of the likes of Ratan Tata, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, Flipkart founders Sachin and Binny Bansal, TVS Group’s Venu Srinivasan, stock market investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and many tech sector start-up investors.

There are still a lot of questions about Team Indus. Is the hardware ready? Do the full amount to pay for the mission? Can they really rely on ISRO to launch on time given the many delays in the agency’s schedule?

And here’s one for the Google Lunar X Prize: how does a MoU counts as a verified launch contract? Were you guys accepting anything to keep the prize alive?

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Report: Google Lunar XPrize Field Narrows

SpaceIL lander (Credit: SpaceIL)

It looks as if Team SpaceIL is out of the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize.

Quartz reports the Israeli team will not be able to launch its lander/rover to the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster until some time next year — too late to meet the end-of-2017 deadline required to win the prize.

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Crystal Growth, Rodent Experiments Headed for ISS

The SAGE III instrument integrated on the EXPRESS Pallet Adapter (ExPA) after its final sharp edge inspection before its launch on Space X 10. This investigation will measure the stratospheric ozone, aerosols, and other trace gases by locking onto the sun or moon and scanning a thin profile of the atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The tenth SpaceX cargo resupply launch to the International Space Station will deliver investigations that study human health, Earth science and weather patterns. Here are some highlights of the research headed to the orbiting laboratory:

Crystal growth investigation could improve drug delivery, manufacturing

Monoclonal antibodies are important for fighting off a wide range of human diseases, including cancers. These antibodies work with the natural immune system to bind to certain molecules to detect, purify and block their growth. The Microgravity Growth of Crystalline Monoclonal Antibodies for Pharmaceutical Applications (CASIS PCG 5) investigation will crystallize a human monoclonal antibody, developed by Merck Research Labs, that is currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of immunological disease.

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Google Lunar X Prize Down to Five Teams

GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked above the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (Credits: NOAA/NASA)
GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked above the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (Credits: NOAA/ NASA)

After 10 years, the Google Lunar X Prize is down to five finalists. The survivors include:

  • Hakuto (Japan)
  • Moon Express (USA)
  • SpaceIL (Israel)
  • Synergy Moon (International)
  • Team Indus (India)

The teams have until the end of this year to launch a vehicle to the moon. The vehicle must travel 500 meters across the lunar surface and return high-definition video.

There is a $20 million prize for the first team to accomplish this goal. The second prize is worth $5 million.

The Tricorderlarity is Near

LOS ANGELES, December 13, 2016 (XPRIZE PR) – XPRIZE, the global leader in incentivized prize competitions, today announced the launch of consumer testing in the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, in which two finalist teams’ devices will undergo consumer testing in the final phase of the competition. The global competition, sponsored by the Qualcomm Foundation, challenges teams to develop a consumer-focused, mobile diagnostic device based on the medical Tricorder of Star Trek® fame first shown to TV viewers 50 years ago. The devices are required to weigh less than five pounds, diagnose and interpret a set of 13 health conditions and continuously monitor five vital health metrics.

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GLXP Update: TeamIndus Announces Launch Contract

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)
Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

TeamIndus, the only Indian team in the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), has announced a contract with the ISRO space agency to fly its lunar rover aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) next year.

The team is hoping to win the $20 million first prize for the first privately-built rover on the moon. The vehicle will need to travel 500 meters across the surface and beam back high-definition video to Earth. The competition also has a $5 million second prize.

TeamIndus officials said the ISRO contract has been verified by the X Prize Foundation, which runs the competition. Four other teams have announced launch contracts: Moon Express, PTScientists, SpaceIL and Synergy Moon. The foundation has verified the contracts for all of these teams except for PTScientists, which announced its agreement earlier this week.

The foundation set a deadline for the end of this year for competition’s 16 teams to have their launch contracts verified. Any teams without launch agreements will be dropped from competition.

TeamIndus said it needs to raise $65 million to pay for the launch and the mission. It is in negotiations with other teams without rides to the moon to carry their rovers to the surface.

The team’s chances of winning GLXP money will depend upon the competition extending its deadline for winning the prize beyond Dec. 31, 2017. The launch is not scheduled until Dec. 28. The spacecraft will then take 21 days to spiral out to the moon and land there.

The other issue is that launch schedules are notoriously unreliable. ISRO is no exception. It’s a pretty big bet to except the agency to launch on time. The schedule also gives TeamIndus no room for delays on hardware that isn’t even built and tested yet.

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Movie Review — Visioneer: The Peter Diamandis Story

Peter Diamandis and Burt Rutan on stage after SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4, 2004.
Peter Diamandis and Burt Rutan on stage after SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4, 2004.

Visioneer: The Peter Diamandis Story
Director: Nick Nanton
Dicks + Nanton Productions
DNA Films
53 minutes
$14.97 to $29.97 (Download & DVD)

If you are a fan of Peter Diamandis, this worshipful 53-minute promotional video is for you. It follows Peter D. through the triumph of the Ansari X Prize, skips ahead to the SpaceShipTwo crash a decade later, and then discusses his work with Singularity University and exponential technology.

If you’re not a fan of all things Peter, or are looking for a modicum of critical analysis, this film is not worth your money or your time.

Visioneer is nominally a documentary, but it’s actually a branding  video for Diamandis.  The first clue came in the press release announcing the film, which spent half of its length promoting the director. Here’s a brief snippet:

Nick Nanton, Esq., is known as the Top Agent to Celebrity Experts®. Nick serves as the CEO of The Dicks + Nanton Celebrity Branding Agency, an international branding and media agency with more than 2200 clients in 33 countries. Nick has produced large-scale events, documentaries, and television shows that have featured the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Anthony Robbins, Steve Forbes, Ivanka Trump, Brian Tracy, President George H.W. Bush, Jack Canfield (Creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series), and many more.

So, if you’re a celebrity or would like to be one, the video is worth watching to determine whether you want Nanton to do a branding film on you. Otherwise, you’d be better off spending your money on Netflix or Hulu, which have a variety of fine documentaries.

Watch Peter Diamandis Movie for Free

Peter Diamandis
Peter Diamandis

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 10, 2016 (DNA PR) — Emmy-Award winning Director Nick Nanton, on behalf of DNA Films along with Jeff Hays films, will be offering a free online pre-screening of the Emmy-Award winning film “Visioneer.” The viewing will be available from February 11-20, 2016 at www.VisioneerMovie.com.

“Visioneer” tells the story of Peter Diamandis’ vision to create the “X Prize,” a $10 million contest meant to encourage the creation of new space vehicles and a whole new space industry. Peter dreamed of outer space his whole life. But since the days of his childhood, when the Apollo program was at its height, America’s excitement for the exploration of space has waned, even if Peter’s obsession never did. He set out to find a way to kick-start the next evolution of spaceflight, inspiring people all over the world to look to the stars again. Through hard work, passion, and a never-say-die attitude, Peter and his colleagues managed to overcome hurdle after hurdle to create the Ansari X Prize and help usher in a new era of private space flight.

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Stu Witt Retires From Mojave Spaceport in Style

Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

They came to Mojave from near and far — from the dusty desert communities of Lancaster, Boron and Ridgecrest to the snow swept tundra of Sweden — to send Stu Witt off in style. One of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C. played hooky from Congress to wish his friend a happy retirement.

Hundreds of people gathered on Jan. 8 to mark the end of Witt’s nearly 14-year term as CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. The event featured a reception and a long parade of friends and colleagues singing his praises.

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The Promise of Spaceport America in the Words of its Supporters

Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

“This business will mark a milestone in world history, and it will launch a new space industry — a private space industry, driven by innovators and entrepreneurs and new technologies and bold thinkers.”
— Richard Branson

“What we are calling the second space age will open up a wide range of commercial opportunities, including point-to-point cargo delivery, with personal and business travel.”
— Gov. Bill Richardson

Ten years ago today, Virgin Galactic and New Mexico announced a deal for development what became known as Spaceport America. New Mexico would built a $225-million spaceport with taxpayer’s dollars in the desert near Truth or Consequences. Sir Richard Branson’s new space company would sign a 20-year lease to fly tourists aboard SpaceShipTwo from the facility beginning in 2008.  New Mexico also expected the spaceport to be used by UP Aerospace, Starchaser Industries, and Peter Diamandis’ Rocket Racing League and X Prize Cup.

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Diamandis Raising $200 Million for Venture Capital Fund

peter_diamandis
Peter Diamandis

X PRIZE Founder Peter Diamandis is attempting to raise $200 million for a new venture capital fund that will target exponential technology companies, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Diamandis is co-founder of the Singularity University, which focuses on exponential technology development.

The filing for Bold Capital Partners, L.P., lists three other executives involved in the limited partnership. They include:

  • Teymour Boutros-Ghali, co-founder and managing partner of Monitor Ventures. A nephew of former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, he was founder and CEO of AllBusiness (acquired by NBC), Zowie Intertainment (sold to LEGO), and Thrive Online (acquired by AOL).
  • Neal Bhadkamkar, co-founder and managing partner of Monitor Ventures. Bhadkamkar previously served as VP of Manufacturing and Engineering at Zowie Intertainment and headed up the commercialization process at Interval Research, which is Paul Allen’s research and commercialization company.
  • Emilio Diez Barroso, a Mexican-American businessman who is chairman and CEO of NALA Investments, which has holdings in communications, energy, transportation, consumer products, real estate, technology and media.

SpaceIL Signs First Verified Google Lunar X Prize Launch Contract

SpaceIL lander (Credit: SpaceIL)
SpaceIL lander (Credit: SpaceIL)

JERUSALEM, Israel, October 7, 2015 (SpaceIL PR) — At a press conference held in Jerusalem today, alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE, SpaceIL announced a significant milestone in its race to the moon: securing a “ticket to the moon” on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher, with a mission scheduled for the second half of 2017. With this, SpaceIL becomes the first team to produce a verified launch contract in the US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, and aims to accomplish not only the first Israeli mission to the moon, but also the world’s first private lunar mission.

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Mojave Journal: The Ansari X Prize’s Awkward Family Reunion

Ansari X Prize 10th anniversary panel discussion on Oct. 4, 2014.
Ansari X Prize 10th anniversary panel discussion on Oct. 4, 2014.

One Year Ago, the Ansari X Prize Turned 10
It Was an Uncomfortable Birthday

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The planes kept coming and coming. One after another, they swooped out of a blue desert sky and touched down on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. By mid-morning there were at least a dozen private jets stretched along the flight line running east from the Voyager restaurant toward the control tower. And even more were on their way.

And to what did Mojave owe this ostentatious display of wealth by the 1 percenters? They had come to the sun-splashed spaceport last Oct. 4 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ansari X Prize. A decade earlier, Burt Rutan and his Paul Allen-funded team had won $10 million for sending the first privately-built manned vehicle into space twice within a two-week period.

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The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be: SpaceShipOne & the Triumph of Hype

Mike Melvill stands atop SpaceShipOne after a suborbital flight on Sept. 29, 2004. (Credit: RenegadeAven)
Mike Melvill stands atop SpaceShipOne after a suborbital flight on Sept. 29, 2004. (Credit: RenegadeAven)

Eleven years ago today, Brian Binnie flew SpaceShipOne to  an altitude  of 112.014 km (69.6 miles),  breaking a record of 107.8 km (67 miles) set by Joe Walker in the X-15 rocket plane 41 years earlier. As Binnie landed the small, experimental space plane at the Mojave Air and Space Port before a cheering crowd, he clinched the $10 million Ansari X Prize for Burt Rutan and his financial backer, Paul Allen.

The air during the post flight events was full of promises, boasts and hopes that today appear positively cringe worthy.

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