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SoCal Selene Group Drops Google Lunar X Prize Bid

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the lucky-thirteen dept.

Moon 64

anzha writes "On Saturday, after the vaunted First Team Summit was completed in Strasbourg, The Southern California Selene Group announced publicly that they are dropping out of the Google Lunar X Prize. Citing very strong differences in opinions over how the X Prize was being run, the team felt they could no longer participate. On the flip side, the X Prize Foundation announced at the team summit that there are four new teams. With the drop out, there are now thirteen official competitive teams. Assuredly, there are more to come."

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I don't give... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23590109)

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applle (-1, Troll)

apple001 (1298175) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590135)

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Google + Universe = Guniverse (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23590137)

I'm telling you, Google will conquere the whole universe.

Its sad (5, Interesting)

phpmysqldev (1224624) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590193)

Its sad that bureaucracy has caused an entire team to become disillusioned with the competition. The spirit of this competition has always been in the name of science and exploration, but it is becoming more and more bureaucratic to make it 'fair' to everyone. If someone can obtain the materials they need and come up with an innovative way to accomplish the underlying mission, I say more power to them.

Re:Its sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23590255)

Yeah, what exactly is the reasoning behind all the limitations on what they can and can't use? If my company wants to spend 10 billion dollars to send something to the moon and win 30 million dollars, so what? Somehow, I think that will prevent itself from happening...

Re:Its sad (5, Insightful)

mrisaacs (59875) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590415)

Anyone (with the right team and skills) can scavenge parts to build a lander - but the idea is to develop technologies and components that could be used on and reduce the cost of real missions.

Using stuff that's cheap because it's left over doesn't meet the goals.

Spending limits are also a good idea in contests of this kind - if you win, with a solution even more expensive than currently in use technologies - what have you accomplished?

This is not just a gee whiz contest, the idea is to advance the science and technology in hopes of jump starting private industry in the space arena.

Re:Its sad (3, Interesting)

phpmysqldev (1224624) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590451)

yeah nothing wrong with what you just said. but the team was mainly upset with the vagueness of many of the rules and questions they had about what could and couldn't be used. Its fine if you want strict rules for a contest like this, but you need well defined rules from the start in order for that model to be effectively followed

Re:Its sad (1)

mrisaacs (59875) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590593)

Not having seen the rules - I don't know how vague they are - but the mission statement is pretty clear. The specific issue in the article the comes to mind was the disallowing of the scavenged fuel tanks.

Recycling of technology is a good idea for this contest, but not use of "discounted" or surplus equipment that would violate the mission statement.

In any case I would also be p-o'd if I discovered this far into the effort that something novel was disallowed, only due to the vagueness of the rule.

Re:Its sad (5, Informative)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590919)

Being a former member of the team...

first, the tanks can be purchased on the open market if you know the proper vendor.

second, the tanks in question was not the first choice, was not even the second choice. it just happens that we were able to get our hands on some, and may consider using them when the stars aligned.

third, something novel WAS disallowed due to vagueness of the rule.

fourth, to our knowledge we are the only team who's even trying to achieve the goal within the stated prize money. everyone else is doing it for the publicity, especially the CMU team.

4.1 - I wonder where does the CMU team's student's stipend come? research grants? university? or they truly do all their work AFTER they fulfilled their obligatory research.

Re:Its sad (1)

Mike1024 (184871) | more than 6 years ago | (#23593327)

I wonder where does the CMU team's student's stipend come? research grants? university? or they truly do all their work AFTER they fulfilled their obligatory research.
In the DARPA Grand Challenge, several of the teams (including CMU if I remember correctly) ran the project as an undergraduate class [redteamracing.org] (20MB PDF warning) (i.e. for credit). Thus they could field two [darpa.mil] teams [darpa.mil] without needing to pay any stipends.

Obviously there are costs for buying kit, and travel expenses, but section 3.2.2 of the rules [googlelunarxprize.org] only specifies 90% of funding from non-governmental sources - so there's no limit on raising sponsorship from private companies.

Re:Its sad (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23594905)

fourth, to our knowledge we are the only team who's even trying to achieve the goal within the stated prize money. everyone else is doing it for the publicity, especially the CMU team.
You can't say that any team spending more than the given prize money is doing it purely for publicity. They wouldn't get any funding then. No, there has to be a business plan and Astrobotic clearly has one.

4.1 - I wonder where does the CMU team's student's stipend come? research grants? university? or they truly do all their work AFTER they fulfilled their obligatory research.
Student projects are not funded at all. If they are, it was because the student applied for a grant in the school research program. They work as students in a graduate level class dedicating their own time to it. Of course, this class isn't restricted to just graduates. There are even freshman involved in the projects.

Re:Its sad (1)

bogdan1 (1299151) | more than 6 years ago | (#23608913)

I was extremely disappointed by SCSG's decision. Trust me there is another (non-US) team that is trying to achieve the goal within the stated prize money. Us.

Re:Its sad (2, Informative)

Mike1024 (184871) | more than 6 years ago | (#23593159)

Not having seen the rules - I don't know how vague they are - but the mission statement is pretty clear. The specific issue in the article the comes to mind was the disallowing of the scavenged fuel tanks.
Draft guidelines here [googlelunarxprize.org] .

I must say, they include some weird requirements:

4.3.5 says the X Prize Foundation gets to give you a video, an e-mail, and a text message you must broadcast from the moon, and they get to specify the soundtrack for your video broadcast.
4.3.3.3 says you must take three substantially different self portraits of your rover, clearly showing the Google Lunar X Prize logo.
4.3.4.9 wants the same again at the end of the drive.
5.3.3 "The Embedded Communications Specialist or other TEAM member or members shall publish a minimum of one blog per week to an XPF-designated website or XPF-designated Blogger account. TEAMs shall also provide online streaming videos, posted to an XPF-designated website or XPF-designated YouTube account with a minimum monthly cumulative duration of 15 minutes. TEAMs shall publish a minimum of 8 discrete, substantively different videos per month, 4 of which shall have a minimum length of 30 seconds."
5.3.4.1 "TEAMs shall send representatives to appear as spokespeople, judges, or attendees for Google Lunar X PRIZE-related public education and outreach events at the request of XPF."
5.5 "Logo Placements TEAMS shall display certain Google Lunar X PRIZE logos as specified by XPF. [...] XPF reserves the right to put logos on all CRAFTs, as well as launch facilities, launch vehicles, secondary vehicles, and other relevant equipment. [...] XPF reserves 50% of available logo space on the CRAFT and all relevant vehicles.
5.11.4 "The TEAM shall make the provision of all data related to the Mooncast and fulfillment of the Google Lunar X PRIZE Mission Requirements exclusive to XPF and XPF-identified Partners."
6.3 "Competition Media Rights are the rights held by and or conveyed to XPF [...] This package shall also include an irrevocable, perpetual, world-wide, royalty-free, exclusive, sublicensable right and license to XPF for all video and imagery, regardless of its inclusion in the Google Lunar X PRIZE Mission Requirements, taken from the launch site, mission control center(s), or spacecraft(s) by XPF, its Partners, or the TEAM "

With requirements like that you can see why someone might think "Hey, this competition suddenly seems less about science/engineering and more about publicity/advertising"

Re:Its sad (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590763)

My question is -- why was the camera design disallowed? The fuel tanks, I get. The camera design, I don't.

Re:Its sad (2, Informative)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591199)

Bingo. While it's not difficult to come up with an alternative design, the fact that our initial design was dismissed so easily and without reason, makes us wonder what other disqualifications are hidden down the road.

Re:Its sad (1)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591017)

The rules need to be more flexible. A tank is a tank. The other rule that blew chunks was using X-Prize approved camera designs. If this is about innovation - why not make ground rules that everyone can work within?

Re:Its sad (1)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591321)

the camera design requirements are silly at best. my impression is that the X-Prize Foundation found some guy who wrote imager requirements for ESA or NASA, and slapped it onto this competition without in-depth understanding of what they truly meant.

Re:Its sad (1)

jgannon (687662) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591093)

Using stuff that's cheap because it's left over doesn't meet the goals.
It certainly could. This problem seems easily solved the same way we do in the engineering competition I participate in... use whatever you can get your hands on, but it needs to be available for purchase from somewhere, and you have to apply the full retail price against your budget limit. Then you still create a product that is reproducible within the design constraints, but you didn't have to spend 100% on your prototype.

Re:Its sad (1)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591219)

but there IS no budget limit. One team stated their estimate will be over $100m!

the tanks are available for purchase from somewhere otherwise.

Re:Its sad (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 6 years ago | (#23593363)

Yeah, what exactly is the reasoning behind all the limitations on what they can and can't use? If my company wants to spend 10 billion dollars to send something to the moon and win 30 million dollars, so what? Somehow, I think that will prevent itself from happening...

Well, the Ansari X-Prize (first private ship into suborbital flight) was worth $10 million, but it cost $100 million [wikipedia.org] to develop the technologies and build the ship.

Re:Its sad (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590999)

Its sad that bureaucracy has caused an entire team to become disillusioned with the competition.

What's weird though is that in a post by the same person at the Southern California Selene Group earlier that day, instead of blaming bureaucracy she said that their reason for disillusionment was their opposition to human space missions (and the idea that the Google Lunar X Prize could support that), and their (somewhat belated) realization that the Google Lunar X Prize was intended to promote commercialization of space. I personally think they were being terribly silly, but you can read the post for yourself:

http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/lunar/teams/scsg/blog/some-serious-thinking-at-the-southern-california-selene-group [googlelunarxprize.org]

n my first blog, I wrote why Harold Rosen formed the Southern California Selene Group. In short, he and I registered our team to compete for the Google Lunar X PRIZE to demonstrate that a low-cost space mission to the moon could be accomplished and could lead to lowering the cost of some future robotic missions to planetary moons. Plus, we intended to have fun! Harold and I both are strong supporters of space science and robotic space exploration. (For one, I'm an astronomy and cosmology enthusiast.) We love the kind of work that JPL is doing, for example. But we most definitely are not in favor of human space missions. That is not our goal, nor do we support such a goal.

The Team Summit turned out to be a real wakeup call. In the Guidelines workshop that I attended just last Tuesday, the cumulative effect of hearing all day from Peter Diamandis, Bob Weiss and Gregg Maryniak that the "real purpose" of the Google Lunar X PRIZE was to promote the so-called commercialization of space (which I took to mean highly impractical stuff like mining the moon and beaming power to the earth, as shown in one of GLXP kickoff videos), humanity's future in space, etc. etc., took its toll. I couldn't help but think "what am I doing here?" When I spoke to Harold about it on the phone later, he agreed - no way did he want to be involved in promoting a goal he does not believe in.

Re:Its sad (1, Interesting)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591427)

Did you know that if a solar flare had occurred during the original Lunar Landing, everyone would've died? It only takes 50 rads to kill a person, and even with the latest advance in medicine which helps alleviate the radiation problem, 50 rads is a very small number. Not to mention that space also wrecks havoc on the immune system, which obviously nobody is too keen on publicizing.

Until we have a good solution for the aforementioned problems, human space mission should not be considered.

Re:Its sad (4, Funny)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591545)

Did you know that if a solar flare had occurred during the original Lunar Landing, everyone would've died?

Did you know that a rogue wave [wikipedia.org] can strike without warning, rapidly sinking an ocean-going vessel and killing everybody on it? It's happened many times already. Clearly, for safety's sake we must put an end to putting humans on ocean-going craft, regardless of whether or not they volunteer for it.

Re:Its sad (1)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591679)

rogue wave doesn't accumulate inside the body and does permanent and irreparable damage like radiation.

Re:Its sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23591807)

Death isn't permanent or cause irreparable damage?

Re:Its sad (1)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591895)

death is a unit-step function. either you are dead or you are not.

radiation accumulation is like HIV slowly turning to AIDS.

if you can't understand the difference, i suggest you learn.

Re:Its sad (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#23597155)

So what you're saying is that rogue waves are even worse than radiation.

Re:Its sad (3, Interesting)

crymeph0 (682581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591929)

Did you know that a rogue wave [wikipedia.org] can strike without warning, rapidly sinking an ocean-going vessel and killing everybody on it?

rogue wave doesn't accumulate inside the body and does permanent and irreparable damage like radiation.

FleaPlus' point was that people can die either way. Are you saying the problem isn't that people can die, but how they might die, e.g. cancer versus drowning? That seems like a choice better left to the individual who wants to be an astronaut, not to society.

Re:Its sad (1)

kilo_foxtrot84 (1016017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23595301)

Sure it can. It's called "drowning."

Re:Its sad (2, Insightful)

Cameroon (16395) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591759)

Exactly my thought - risky doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done. Getting out of bed in the morning sure is risky, probably should just stay inside.

I'm all for recognizing the hazards of an activity and weighing the risk/reward, but if we don't have a problem with oil riggers, Alaskan fishermen, etc. then why would we have a problem with risk for scientific and/or economic advancement in space?

Maybe holding off on tourists in space until we can come up with reasonable precautions/reactions for things like solar flares, but manned exploration by people who know and understand the risks? There are plenty of people who accept those risks for a multitude of reasons.

Re:Its sad (1)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23592099)

Government are inherently risk averse in fear of political backlash. Look at the recent shuttle explosion.

What can the astronauts do better than the autonomous systems we've put on Mars? It's more vanity and publicity at this point.

Re:Its sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23592339)

Remind me, please, how many miles did our mighty Rovers cross? Since 2003, was it? Not much when you think about it, is it?

Re:Its sad (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23592633)

What can the astronauts do better than the autonomous systems we've put on Mars?

Settlement. Colonization. Civilization. Science is a wonderful thing (I'm a scientist myself), but some things are even grander than science.

Re:Its sad (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#23597197)

What can the astronauts do better than the autonomous systems we've put on Mars?

A hell of a lot more. There isn't even a point to arguing whether the crude autonomous systems (which aren't truly autonomous, might I add) are better than humans in capabilities. They don't come remotely close. The problem with humans isn't their capabilities, but the life support overhead and usually a return to Earth requirement.

Re:Its sad (2, Interesting)

tenco (773732) | more than 6 years ago | (#23595101)

According to wikipedia, solar flares release mostly protons in a so called proton storm [wikipedia.org] . Dunno what "rads" (in only know radians) are, but they seem to be an old unit for absorbed radiation dose, like Gray. 50 rads would be 0.5 Gy, then. Using a quality factor of 5 for protons with energy > 5 MeV this should equate to a dose equivalent of 2.5 Sv -> radiation poisoning exposure level [wikipedia.org] . Well, certainly not good. But also certainly not "everyone would've died".

And after all this guesswork I found this: Sickening Solar Flares [nasa.gov]

Whoa, who cares about human lives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23596233)

Interesting how few people here actually realize the painful reality of X PRIZE's attitudes about human life. It is well known to many insiders that XPRIZE and their "royalty" do not care about the sacrifices other people make to help achieve their goals. It is a just cause to RISK another human's life to achieve their dreams.

While what X PRIZE does is very cool, everyone should remember these words:

Tragedy in the new space race - MSNBC July 29, 2007 [msn.com]

"This was an industrial accident. This has nothing to do with spaceflight," he was quoted as saying. "I have complete confidence that they are building a safe and robust spaceship."

Totalitarian Temptation in Space - SPACEDAILY May 21, 2006 [spacedaily.com]

DIAMANDIS: If you look back at what von Braun did in Nazi Germany it was incredible what you can do with literally a dictatorship. Look at the numbers. 6,000 V-2s built. 6,000 missiles were built in Nazi Germany. The recurring cost was $13,000 a launch for those vehicles. You can bring the cost down with mass production. We'll come back to what will drive ... [Multiple audience comments -- "SLAVE LABOR"]
DIAMANDIS: Yea, and slave labor, Sorry.
[NERVOUS LAUGHTER]
DIAMANDIS: But you know - again to you, the rest of us would happily be slave labor for that mission... Can you erase that from the video tape?


Deep insights into the man running the show.

These are just a few of the quotes that are in press that really show their/his true colors. Don't get me wrong, there are very good people within X PRIZE that are still hanging on in hopes it will get better, but sadly these last, very underpaid "nice-guys" and girls are drinking the Kool-Aid.

To Dr. Rosen, Ms Castleman, evangellydonut and the rest of the SELENE team I say Bravo! Thank you for taking the high road. Good for you for having a BRAIN to understand where the real innovations in space activities need to occur; for having a HEART and caring about how X PRIZE treats people and the public, and a SPINE to stand on your principles and walk out of this project.

Re:Whoa, who cares about human lives? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#23596983)

Deep insights into the man running the show.

Nonsense. All we know here is that he can stick his foot in hit mouth. Also I don't see X Prize's attitude about human life as unusual or reprehensible. Space travel is going to be a dangerous activity and involve acceptance of higher levels of risk than most humans would tolerate. It also involves potentially great rewards which justify the risk.

These are just a few of the quotes that are in press that really show their/his true colors. Don't get me wrong, there are very good people within X PRIZE that are still hanging on in hopes it will get better, but sadly these last, very underpaid "nice-guys" and girls are drinking the Kool-Aid.

What's the "kool-aid" here? What in the X Prize needs to "get better"? This sort of ad hominem attack followed with vague inuendo just sounds stupid to me. Come up with a real complaint next time.

To Dr. Rosen, Ms Castleman, evangellydonut and the rest of the SELENE team I say Bravo! Thank you for taking the high road. Good for you for having a BRAIN to understand where the real innovations in space activities need to occur; for having a HEART and caring about how X PRIZE treats people and the public, and a SPINE to stand on your principles and walk out of this project.

An alternate way to look at this is that the Selene team couldn't cut it. Perhaps they didn't have the talent, a good plan, or money. We may never find out the real reasons. But rather than blame themselves, they began rationalizing elaborately for why they didn't want to win in the first place. Sour grapes in other words.

Re:Its sad (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#23597255)

We have good solutions to the above problem. Mass. Things like water and other materials absorb energetic particles. So you put enough material in the way and the radiation is reduced to an acceptable level.

Re:Its sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23591607)

Somebody mod parent up. Castleman obviously can't make up her mind why she's quitting, she's just quitting. It's her ball, and she's taking it home.

Shut up and win (2)

kaptain80 (1147495) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591495)

I don't buy into that mentality all the time, but... bureaucracy or not, you're participating in their prize, get used to their rules or play a different game. Shut up and win.

The number of teams is irrelevant to who wins; it's only an interesting stat for the organizers to advertise. How many teams were signed up for the first X PRIZE? Something on the order of 20, right? How many teams had a legitimate chance to win? 1.

By and large, it's a unicorn race, then someone shows up with a horse and wins. I expect roughly the same from GLXP: both (1) a low ratio of legitimate to total entrants; and (2) a really cool finish.

Selene has to drop out now? No big deal. Their unicorn wasn't ahead of the others anyway.

Effort doesn't mean it's a good idea (4, Funny)

RoastingHeart (1000404) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590295)

"HUH? Do they know how hard we have worked on this? " (Their Camera Design) and the denying of the "ARCA guys (who had lugged across Europe a full-scale mockup of their craft to ISU for display!)"

I could drag hot dogs through shag carpet all day to the point of exhaustion. Doesn't mean that's productive science.

non-compete? (3, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590321)

I don't know if NASA people have to sign any sort of non-compete (I did to intern at the DOE a few years ago, so they might), but otherwise I would assume that a team of engineers that has done something like this before -- for instance, one of the Mars rover teams, would start their own team and be done with this.

Have none of them thought of it, or are they not allowed to? Perhaps a reader from JPL might tell us? I know there are a few from comments in the Phoenix thread the other day.

Re:non-compete? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23590429)

I have a different hypothesis.

People who have created planetary hardware which works and has landed know the level of technology development and investment required.

Recent experience shows that pretty damn cheap usually means "splat + no carrier".

Example: Beagle was done on the "super cheap", and
it failed. Since it was so cheap, nobody knows why since there wasn't enough hardware for diagnostics. Similarly with Mars Polar Lander.

Joining a low-probability low-funded team and leaving a higher-probability modest-funded team which might actually work doesn't seem appealing.

The take-home lesson appears to be that just because it's "private sector" doesn't meant there isn't as much vexatious and engineering-ignorant bureaucracy and rules coming from the people who have the money.

Re:non-compete? (3, Insightful)

bornyesterday (888994) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590571)

I doubt NASA has a non-compete agreement, but the goal of the X-Prize is a privately funded venture. Just because a guy who worked at NASA has the knowledge to design a similar system doesn't mean that he can get the necessary money to make the prize worthwhile economically speaking.

Re:non-compete? (1)

NNKK (218503) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590829)

The real key isn't to "get the necessary money", it's to "make the project sufficiently cheap", which is something government agencies are notoriously bad at. NASA engineers are technically competent, but they probably don't have the skills necessary to shrink what would normally be a project with a budget in excess of $100million down to a fraction of that.

You might well use ex-NASA people as consultants for something like this, but you don't have them do the design.

Re:non-compete? (2, Interesting)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591527)

almost every part that's more complex than a transistor, when applied with "space qualified" label, can easily cost $10k, and the cheapest transponder cost $500k, and the cheapest launch vehicle we know and available today cost something like $20m, once you factor in salary, it's pretty each to get beyond that $100m mark. For the purpose of this competition, we can cut some corners, not take any salary, but we do have to launch something that has a prayer's chance of working, somehow -_-

Re:non-compete? (1)

NNKK (218503) | more than 6 years ago | (#23592959)

Yes, because as we all know, suppliers of hardware to government agencies like NASA are always focused on driving down prices.

Your argument assumes that it's impossible to create space-worthy parts substantially cheaper than existing vendors of such parts sell them to governments and large corporations (which aren't really any better than governments in efficiency or cleverness). There is no evidence that this is true, and some evidence that it is definitely not (SpaceShipOne cost $25 million to develop; how much do you think NASA would have spent to develop a manned sub-orbital plane from scratch?).

Yours is exactly the attitude I was talking about. Those steeped in the ways of government bloat will not be nearly as successful at space flight for fractions of NASA's budgets because instead of trying, you just assume it's impossible. The orthodoxy is infallible!

Re:non-compete? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 6 years ago | (#23593707)

SpaceShipOne cost $25 million to develop; how much do you think NASA would have spent to develop a manned sub-orbital plane from scratch?

Did spend to develop a manned sub-orbital plane from scratch [nasa.gov] . The X-15 program, from full R&D to a 199-mission flight program, cost $300 million 1969 dollars. Taking away the operating costs of the actual flights (199 x $600k each), that leaves the development part of the program at approximately $180 million. 1969 dollars. Adjusted for inflation in 2007 dollars, that's about $1.1 billion.

Of course, the X-15 program wasn't primarily about manned sub-orbital space flight. It was primarily high-altitude hypersonic aircraft research. Think "manned hypersonic strategic bombers". Not everyone in the US's strategic planning cabal was fond of unmanned intercontinental missiles being the fastest way to deliver nukes to the Russkies, since that denied rated aircrews perfectly good mission slots (and, more practically, also has the tactical shortfall of not being retargetable or recallable.)

But yeah, I've never heard of a government space program going small the way commercial ones tend to. The profit motive is powerful, and it can cut both ways depending on whether you profit more by going big (North American Aviation, X-15 program) or by going small and pocketing the difference (current commercial development programs, a la X-Prize).

Re:non-compete? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23591205)

Not to mention, when you're talking about something as complicated as the mars robots it's important to realize "which guy" is important.

The one that designed the wheels? solar panels? radio system? drill? camera? battery? software? communication protocols? parachute? airbags?

When you're building something from the ground up, taking one person (or several) from a huge multi-company/multi-year project probably won't yield much advantage.

Re:non-compete? (2, Interesting)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590997)

only people not allowed to work on it are the direct family of the X-Prize foundation.

As mentioned in one of the replies, to perform this kind of mission requires a significant amount of investment. the restriction comes from the source of that investment, no more than 10% can come from government sources.

If you look over the bios of SCSG, their members are (almost) all experienced in space-specific design, and understand the cost and difficulties involved. Even a highly funded team probably don't realize that just because something is claimed to be "space qualified" doesn't mean you can actually use it in space.

Re:non-compete? (1)

speroni (1258316) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591795)

I'm pretty sure the guys at NASA can't just walk out the front door with government secrets.

The rules say that The Team owns the technical data and that there are non-disclosure agreements with Google, but I doubt NASA allows for participation. Also this would be kind of a blurring of the rules with 90% of the funding to be from private sources.

Unsupported Statement of the Day (2)

clem (5683) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590337)

Assuredly, there are more to come.
Why is this assured?

"really, really hard" to get to moon (4, Funny)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590563)

I know my team dropped because after reviewing the objective of getting to the moon, we concluded that it would be "really, really hard" to get there.

Re:"really, really hard" to get to moon (2, Insightful)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591069)

I'm pretty confident in Harold and co's ability to send the payload to the moon, the question is how much would it cost. Being a team in the US, there are also significant issues with ITAR if we were to choose a foreign launcher (ie Russians or Chinese or even the Europeans). As for a US launch, Falcon 1 is too small for any team to use, Falcon 1e could be phantom hardware, or not be ready on-time, and things doesn't get better from there.

Re:"really, really hard" to get to moon (1)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591089)

Quitter.

Only one comment to make (5, Insightful)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 6 years ago | (#23590625)

Waaaahhhh!!!!

The article as written makes the author look like a cry baby. Whether that is an accurate representation or not I can't tell until someone with better communication skills can provide something of substance.

You sign up for something someone else is running, you better make sure you understand everything ahead of time. If the rules are vague, get someone to clarify them first before dragging mock ups across country.

Or accept the fact they are vague and someone may make decisions you don't like but will have to live with.

Or ... take your toys and go home. Nothing prevents anyone from continuing the task on their own. I'd say if someone was really interested in doing this, they would continue. Imagine taking the wind of of the XPF sails by being able to say "That's nice. Did you see the pictures from our landing 6 months ago???"

Childish? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23590637)

We don't like your rules, so we're taking our ball and going home.

Nice.

Re:Childish? (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591095)

That kind of was my impression.

If the camera wasn't going to work under the rules, then either the team didn't pay attention to them (Sorry guys, I don't care HOW hard you worked on it- if it wasn't to spec on the rules, it's not there and it shouldn't be allowed...) or they didn't try hard enough to negotiate on things.

Just because the stuff they put all their efforts into wasn't working out because of beuracracy, they're just going to give up.

Like you said, AC, nice...

Re:Childish? (4, Informative)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23591611)

There's nothing in our camera design that doesn't meet the rules. It's just that simple.

Re:Childish? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23595037)

Ok, so surely you checked with several officials .. and their superiors .. and their sponsors .. and let the story go to the press .. before saying "did you just said the 'no' word? ok, i quit everything we've worked for for months and i will complain publicly too"?

I want a list of people you talked to - thanks.

Re:Childish? (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 5 years ago | (#23626481)

If that's the case, why did you drop it after "months" of work? Because it was no longer fun? If the rules didn't preclude the camera design, it should have been accepted or at least you could have gotten (and given us) a reason WHY the person was being unreasonable about it. As it stands, all it sounds like to the public with what we're reading is that you encountered a small bit of resistance of a bureaucratic nature within the judging org, decided it was un-fun at that point, took your marbles and went home.

From that perspective, it does, unfortunately, look childish. I'm not accusing you of that mind- it's just that it looks that without any other details forthcoming from you or the X Prize people.

Re:Childish? (1)

PylonHead (61401) | more than 6 years ago | (#23592041)

How exactly is that childish?

They're donating months/years of their time, finding funding for millions of dollars of equipment, and they discover the people making the rules are on a completely different wavelength from their own goals.

Seems like dropping out is the only sane thing to do. Why play if you're not having any fun?

Re:Childish? (4, Informative)

evangellydonut (203778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23592155)

thank you. I've spent 2 grand out of my own pocket so far, and will probably spend more if we continued on. what if by the end, after we find a sponsor who puts up all that money, and ready to launch, and have the X-Prize foundation tell us "even though your design meets all our requirements, it's not what we had in mind, thus you are disqualified", what then?

Street wisdom: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23594979)

If you don't like the rules, don't play the game.
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