Print 44 comment(s) - last by mars777.. on Sep 16 at 10:35 PM

Google hopes to give the private space sector another incentive to head to the moon

Google recently announced plans to offer up to $30 million to the first private organization that is able to safely land a robotic spacecraft on the Earth's moon.  Working alongside the X Prize Foundation -- a foundation known for offering challenges for monetary reward -- the contest will be open to any "nongovernmental entity" that is able to complete the mission.

Specifically, the craft will have to travel at least 500 meters on the Moon's surface before sending at least one gigabyte of images and videos back to researchers from the moon.  All spacecraft must have high-definition video and still cameras equipped to meet minimum requirements.  The first team to complete these tasks will receive the top prize of $20 million.

"The Google Lunar X Prize calls on entrepreneurs, engineers and visionaries from around the world to return us to the lunar surface and explore this environment for the benefit of all humanity," said Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation.  “Having Google fund the purse and title the competition punctuates our desire for breakthrough approaches and global participation,” he added.

All teams entering the contest face an expensive, daunting task.  To accompany the construction of a spacecraft able to withstand the travel and photography portions of the contest, competitors must also pay to use or build a launch vehicle to get the craft to the moon.  Once there, remotely controlling the spacecraft to take photographs and videos will also prove to be difficult.
A $5M bonus will be offered to the company responsible for successfully landing on the moon and taking pictures.  Google will offer a $5M final bonus to the team's rover that can successfully complete other missions while on the moon - furthest distance traveled, finding water or ice, best endurance to the cold lunar nights, etc.

All interested parties have until 2012 to complete the required tasks to collect the prize.  If all teams are unable to complete the task, Google will extend the deadline to 2014, but the prize purse will also drop $5 million.

Google's official launch website can be accessed at

National space programs are beginning to put more research and development funds back into missions that involve the moon.  The United States, China, Russia and India all have plans to either land on the moon or build a lunar base on the moon within the next 25 years.

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Is that all?
By Guigsy on 9/14/2007 7:16:16 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe I'm totally wrong here, I think that $30m is only be a small fraction of the amount it will cost to achieve this. Is it really much of an incentive? Imagine if you won the Indy 500 and the prize was to reimburse you for the cost of tires.

RE: Is that all?
By Slappi on 9/14/2007 8:19:15 AM , Rating: 3
I agree. Now if they offered at least 1B than we would already have people hanging out on the moon drinking Coronas.

RE: Is that all?
By marvdmartian on 9/14/2007 9:06:16 AM , Rating: 2
I bet Doctor Evil would be willing to do it for....

I wonder.....will the successful team have to post the video they send on YouTube???

RE: Is that all?
By OrSin on 9/14/2007 8:19:58 AM , Rating: 2
Most people will not be doing it for the money. The money is part of a competition. The real prize is being first non-gov to do it. Also at the cost of things now a day $30 million will cost expensive easy. Satilite launches are as cheap as $2 now. The moon is hard but i'm sure some rocket coould reach it for under 5.

RE: Is that all?
By Guigsy on 9/14/2007 8:25:01 AM , Rating: 1
A satellite goes up a 200 miles. It's 200,000 miles to the moon. That's a lot more gravity to fight.

RE: Is that all?
By Zurtex on 9/14/2007 8:30:36 AM , Rating: 3
Not really, the effect of gravity is inversly proportional to the square of the distance, quite quickly the effect of gravity is weakened.

RE: Is that all?
By shaw on 9/14/2007 9:51:28 AM , Rating: 1
Gravity also isn't that strong of a force. Hold a pen up in the air and remember that the entire planet's gravity is pulling the pen down to the ground.

You're like Superman!

RE: Is that all?
By acer905 on 9/14/07, Rating: -1
RE: Is that all?
By masher2 on 9/14/2007 10:49:06 AM , Rating: 3
Eh? Gravity is a of the four basic forces of the universe, in fact.

You're confusing the gravitational acceleration constant with gravitational force.

RE: Is that all?
By acer905 on 9/14/2007 11:33:10 AM , Rating: 2
lol whoops! maybe thats why i only slightly passed physics :-).

RE: Is that all?
By LogicallyGenius on 9/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: Is that all?
By Spivonious on 9/14/2007 12:57:10 PM , Rating: 2
Gravity is a force. It's just that your hand is exerting a normal force on the pen that completely counteracts the force of gravity.

gravity is -9.8m/s^2 and the normal force is 9.8 m/s^2. Hence there is no net force on the pen.

RE: Is that all?
By masher2 on 9/14/2007 1:10:57 PM , Rating: 2
gravity is -9.8m/s^2 and the normal force is 9.8 m/s^2

Those are accelerations, not forces. See my post above.

RE: Is that all?
By masher2 on 9/14/2007 10:37:32 AM , Rating: 5
> "A satellite goes up a 200 miles. It's 200,000 miles to the moon. That's a lot more gravity to fight. "

This isn't quite how it works. Travel distance in space is measured in dV -- the change in velocity required to reach a destination. By that measure, achieving low-earth orbit (which can be done as little as 90 miles above the surface) is 75% of what's required for a trip to the Moon.

The phrase "once you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere in the solar system" is, while somewhat dramatic, essentially correct. A trip to Mars doesn't require much more dV than a moon landing.

RE: Is that all?
By FITCamaro on 9/14/2007 9:52:16 AM , Rating: 2
I think the harder part would just be to make sure you hit the moon. A regular satellite rocket would probably be able to take it far enough into space and give it enough speed to escape earths pull. Its not like this thing has to be that big or heavy. A satellite weighs a few tons. Your entire "rover" package could probably weigh less than 500-1000 pounds. It just has to be able to withstand the cold of space. And have enough battery power to do the task. Solar cells would help keep it going. And you could program it to shut down when not in direct sunlight.

RE: Is that all?
By Zurtex on 9/14/2007 8:32:23 AM , Rating: 4
Would the cost of getting an unmanned probe to mars really be that much? I mean, isn't the whole idea to come up with some clever cheap way of getting in to space? That's where the real cost is in something like this, right?

RE: Is that all?
By theapparition on 9/14/2007 9:08:16 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, IRL cars have a pretty low entry cost. One of the main reasons the speedway broke from CART.

Your point is well taken, though. But if I had to chose between getting 30mil and nothing for a accomplishment I was going to try anyway, I'd take the 30mil.

RE: Is that all?
By DEVGRU on 9/14/2007 10:44:12 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but until recently the IRL was F-ing LAME.

Ovals, whoop-de-Fing-do. I'd rather watch grass grow, just like ASSCAR. Left...left...left...left...

To IRL's credit, the last couple of years I've seen a welcome increase of street and road courses. Of course, Champcar Panoz DP01's still look WAY cooler.

RE: Is that all?
By masher2 on 9/14/2007 10:45:28 AM , Rating: 4
> "I think that $30m is only be a small fraction of the amount it will cost"

Well, the US government operated the Clementine mission for under $100M. Admittedly, that probe only orbited the moon, rather than landing upon it, but I'm sure private industry can do a much better job of cost reduction.

RE: Is that all?
By phorensic on 9/14/2007 12:36:27 PM , Rating: 3
I race with a Class 5 off-road team. When we win a race, we only win back maybe 5% of our total pre-race cost. I mean, we spend thousands prepping the car, tires are $500 per and we usually flat a couple per race, and the entry fees are usually a couple thousand. But it isn't about the first place check, it's all about the journey to the finish line, it's amazing.

RE: Is that all?
By StevoLincolnite on 9/14/2007 12:44:11 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah but the extra money you end up spending is basically for a little bit of fame, and could also earn you a spot in some high paying job, because you have shown yourself to have the knowledge and understanding to undertake such a feat.

RE: Is that all?
By GlassHouse69 on 9/16/2007 11:07:25 AM , Rating: 2
If a non us government group does it, it will be magnitudes cheaper.

our government sux

By xsilver on 9/14/2007 4:26:37 AM , Rating: 1
adjusting for inflation; how much did it cost the US government to fake the moon landing?
maybe someone in their backyard can invest 5 million in faking another moon landing and then pocketing the extra 15 million.

/end joke

RE: consipiracy
By SleepyGreg on 9/14/2007 5:44:40 AM , Rating: 6
Yeah but this time they've got to fake it in High Definition

RE: consipiracy
By Misty Dingos on 9/14/07, Rating: -1
RE: consipiracy
By Oscarine on 9/14/2007 7:45:05 AM , Rating: 5
Yes.. I always love how people can believe we faked going to the moon over..and over..and over..again

RE: consipiracy
By Schadenfroh on 9/14/2007 8:53:06 AM , Rating: 2
I am sure the soviets poured many man hours into carefully analyzing the moon landing video(s) and tracking data of the Apollo spacecraft. If it was faked, it must have been a dang good one to fool the Soviets who would have loved an opportunity to discredit the US space program.

RE: consipiracy
By FITCamaro on 9/14/2007 9:59:23 AM , Rating: 5
The Soviets were in on it man. We were really together building a giant laser beam in space together as allies since we knew China would try to start some shit in the future man. The whole Cold War was just a ploy man! Open your eyes man!

I'm gonna go smoke some more weed and sit in a peace circle.

RE: consipiracy
By theapparition on 9/14/07, Rating: 0
RE: consipiracy
By mars777 on 9/16/2007 10:35:55 PM , Rating: 2
As far as i know the Soviets were already in the Orion nebula...

And visited the great big hole in the center of our galaxy and made e few videos too...

This is how a trip around a black hole looks like:

Don't be bothered by the website in the link. This is just a simulation since the soviets don't want to share the original videos! :D

RE: consipiracy
By FITCamaro on 9/14/2007 9:55:31 AM , Rating: 3
I'd love to see you tell any astronaut to their face that the moon landing was faked. I've met one, have you?

Move out of your parents basement and join us in the real world.

RE: consipiracy
By Misty Dingos on 9/14/07, Rating: -1
RE: consipiracy
By FITCamaro on 9/14/07, Rating: 0
RE: consipiracy
By BeastieBoy on 9/14/07, Rating: 0
RE: consipiracy
By OxBow on 9/14/2007 12:56:32 PM , Rating: 3
Thank you very much.
Since I grew up just a couple houses down from Neil Armstrong (rode the bus with his son, he used to raise Holsteins) I get really irritated when people talk about faking the Apollo missions. Granted, most of the folks here say that with tongue in cheek, but there's more than a few people around that believe that conspiracy bs.

I'd be glad to see some folks going back to the moon. I miss the old days when we looked at the Apollo astronauts as heroes.

RE: consipiracy
By acer905 on 9/14/2007 7:05:34 AM , Rating: 2
I'd say if ya wanna fake a moon landing, simply call up ILM. I'm sure that they could do it without even trying...

RE: consipiracy
By xsilver on 9/14/2007 8:20:52 AM , Rating: 2
ILM could definitely do it, but for less than $10 million?
probably not.

You would also need to leave some spare cash to at least fake a launch with witnesses and everything.

Did people rate my above post down because they actually believe the moon landing was faked? lol

RE: consipiracy
By acer905 on 9/14/2007 8:53:05 AM , Rating: 2
Oh, i'm sure it wouldn't cost them that much, they could probably use a bunch of stock footage lol. Just cut and paste scenes from different movies.

RE: consipiracy
By Misty Dingos on 9/14/2007 8:58:01 AM , Rating: 5
Yes. They apparently can not understand humor. I must remember that only the most obvious humor will be allowed here. It is either that or only the most humorless people rate posts here.

Think about it ten million would not even perk interest ILM. You are going to need Block Buster money to do this. Sure you don't have to pay for some star, their dog, entourage, lawyers, helpers, food clothing and shelter for all of them but you will have to pay to keep a lot of mouths shut. I would budget at least $100 million.

RE: consipiracy
By Master Kenobi on 9/14/2007 11:04:55 AM , Rating: 4
We have no sense of humor here.

RE: consipiracy
By Guuts on 9/14/2007 11:52:54 PM , Rating: 2
...that we're aware of.

By mthomas on 9/14/2007 11:07:01 AM , Rating: 3
but there is trillions of dollars in potential. Who ever
figures out to be successful in space mining will make all
the billionairs on planet earth look like paupers.

Maybe this technology will work to that end.

By pauldovi on 9/14/2007 11:19:31 AM , Rating: 2
As an aerospace enthusiast (and major) this is excellent news. Private enterprise will certainly surpass NASA at space exploration. I hope to one day work for Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites. What an amazing engineer.

I claim the prize now
By acer905 on 9/14/2007 12:36:09 PM , Rating: 1
For this is my plan. I will get rich, build a large scale time machine, get a bunch of people, go back in time to the year 0, and build a large scale moon base on the far side of the moon. And over the centuries, just keep building, and advancing, and exploring the rest of space. So that by the time that its the 1960's, and people from earth are trying to make it to the moon, there could be people there laughing at them for taking so long

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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