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Google's $30,000,000 Lunar X PRIZE

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the space-is-the-final-search-field dept.

Space 217

chroma writes "It's been a long time since anyone has explored the surface of the moon. But now Google has teamed up with the X PRIZE Foundation to offer a $30,000,000 bounty to the first privately funded organization to land a robotic rover on the moon. Google, of course, has offered the free Google Moon mapping service for a few years now. Looks like the other search engines have some catching up to do in the space exploration department."

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Self serving (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20593875)

Of course Google wants people to land on the moon, they're desperate to find employees for their lunar campus [] .

Re:Self serving (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20593981)

Yeah...all the candidates keep mentioning all these difficult-to-meet and ridiculous requirements that must be met to employed air, water, food, protection from the Sun's radiation... The interview usually ends right there.

Re:Self serving (2, Insightful)

Gnpatton (796694) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594221)

Of course Google wants people to land on the moon, they're desperate to find employees for their lunar campus.
Too bad that page is a parody. I would sign up for a job on the moon in a heartbeat. Maybe it isn't a parody, it is google we are talking about after all?

Re:Self serving (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594249)

Too bad that page is a parody.
Bullshit. If that page is a parody, how is it that Google has an almost endless supply of green cheese in their cafeteria? Huh? Explain that one, smart guy!

All fo these prizes are self-serving. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594301)

Business NEVER expand greatly by handling just a local area. The globe is now encompassed. Once we start moving to the solar systems, private eneterprise and spread wealth will jump.

No no no no. It's not that at all. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594465)

It's that their crawler can't reach sites that far and their lunar indexes risk becoming stagnant.

Presidential Memo To Slashdot (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20594589)

I, President George W. Bush, do hereby prohibit any non-military U.S. landings on The Moon until we have spread freedom and democracy
to Canada.

Meanwhile, please bear with me while I destroy the U.S. Treasury.

PatRIOTically From The White House,
President George W. Bush []

Ridiculous (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20593879)

Considering the moon doesn't even exist, that it is a ridiculous liberal myth, this is just a stupid PR stunt on Google's part.

Don't do evil indeed.

The "Moon" is a ridiculous liberal myth. (0)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594375)

No no no, you've done it wrong! Here is the way to do it:

It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!)

Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you.

Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "moon" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "moon" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "moon" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night!

Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "moon" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950. That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the moon", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "moon" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.

Re:The "Moon" is a ridiculous liberal myth. (1)

jay-be-em (664602) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594619)

well played bro.

Re:The "Moon" is a ridiculous liberal myth. (2, Informative)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594649)

These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special!
That's easy. One is a rock band, the other is Lando Calrissian's favorite malt liquor.

Re:The "Moon" is a ridiculous liberal myth. (1)

torchdragon (816357) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595069)

Thank the Lord that you cleared this all up for me. I figured I was going to have to waste my weekend disproving all those "facts" to my family but now I can actually enjoy my entire vacation on one of the four edges of our glorious garden called Earth.

Praise Jesus!

PS. You forgot to say Praise Jesus after the end of your letter. I know its polite to assume that everyone thanks our Lord and savior for his eternal gift but it still would be great of you to make sure to end all your documents, notes, emails, correspondence, phone calls, and fast food orders with a hearty Praise Jesus! It just makes the world better.

Shoot the Moon (4, Funny)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#20593899)

How do I prove I landed a robot on the Moon? Can I just email a link to a YouTube video (that I shot at Capricorn One Studios)?

Re:Shoot the Moon (2, Funny)

athdemo (1153305) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594147)

Let it sit up there 'til Google Moon updates? It might take a while, but, hey...Robot's not doin' a whole lot up there.

Re:Shoot the Moon (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594195)

> How do I prove I landed a robot on the Moon? Can I just email a link to a YouTube video (that I shot at Capricorn One Studios)?

Use a solar-powered antenna to broadcast this [] on a HAM band. Once a month.

Then kick back and enjoy the FCC going into paroxysms of incoherent rage trying to shut down a pirate radio broadcaster who happens to have a transmitter on The Fucking Moon. (Sure, the FCC can pull your licnese, but it'll still have to divert half its budget into a followup lunar mission to shut the transmitter off!)

$30,000,000 is a lot (-1, Troll)

paullb (904941) | more than 7 years ago | (#20593953)

Who cares about a rover on the moon, there already on Mars. Can't google put this money to better use elsewhere?

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 7 years ago | (#20593995)

Its CHICKEN FEED for this type of mission. You can't even buy a launch for $30 million, never mind develop and manufacture a lander. It'll be the most expensive $30 million you ever got.


Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (1)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594083)

You can't buy an OldSpace duopoly launch for 30m. Luckily, we have companies like [] which has agreed to provide a small discount over their usual low low prices on launch.

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (5, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594243)

You can't even buy a launch for $30 million, never mind develop and manufacture a lander.

I beg to differ. You can buy a human-safe launch, stay on the ISS, and return to Earth for $30m. You can get a lift to LEO with an LM-2C for $20m [] .

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594831)

And you can get to LEO for $7M to $8.5M on a Falcon 1 [] .

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (2, Insightful)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594387)

The idea isn't to do this for the sake of the prize, even the X prize cost more to get the first time than it actually rewarded. The idea is to use the contest to fuel research and a huge publicity factory for the companies involved in the competition. I for one, think it's a good idea. Much better than raising my taxes to fund it centrally.

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594575)

Prizes work great on the low-budget front, but not so great on the high budget front. On the low-budget front, you have a far wider pool of idealistic individuals who can individually or collectively afford it, plus a lot of businesses which see it as a way to buy publicity. When you get to the sort of budgets that lunar missions require, both of these sources of money essentially disappear. Instead, you're subject to the government and Wall Street. The government, by the nature of the prize, is automatically ruled out. Wall Street doesn't like to throw money on projects that promises a small chance of getting only a portion of your invested costs paid back.

In short, this isn't going anywhere, and Google knows it. Sure, it doesn't hurt to offer the prize. It's essentially free publicity for Google.

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (1)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594617)

true enough, but the publicity alone might cost more than $30,000,000 if you tried to get the same hype. Maybe not though, it's possible the Associated Press would be all the publicity you'd need.

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (1)

Dan D. (10998) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595485)

Interestingly for the price of one or two cruise missiles you could run a few of these $30mil competitions and *lower* your taxes.

Yes, maybe they can use it to end poverty. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20593997)


Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20593999)

Yeah, like a porn search engine. Screw making people think about private space exploration so we can leave the planet before a disater happens. We want pr0n!!!!!!1111111

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (3, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594023)

The key words here are "privately funded organization". Its not about landing a robot on the moon, its about encouraging non-governmental space exploration

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (5, Insightful)

Weslee (1118943) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594107)

It costs billions to put those guys on Mars.
Heck, it costs NASA billions to put them on the moon.

The point is to have private industry be able to do it for millions, or less.

Its not "Its been done before", its to make it possible to do it again, and again, and again.
Do it without putting the whole country into a deficit.

Make that possible, and then maybe the impossible that costs trillions can use the same technology.

A hand-made car, only a few can afford.
Mass-produced cars, we all can afford.

Get the space technology to that level, and finally we'll be able to really explore outside our planet.

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594139)

To this point, private industry has barely managed to get to the edges of space, much less into orbit. Getting all the way to the moon, landing, and sending data back would be a huge step forward for private industry, and it will cost far more than $30 million to get there.

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594199)

Doing it for something on the order of $30 million is an achievement, same as the Ansari X-Prize wasn't about doing something new, but doing it for cheap without government involvement.

Given the investments of participants from the last one, where Scaled Composites spent $20 Million for a $10 Million prize, I'd expect that if someone does this, it will be for less than $100 million. I would guess that to be able to get a capable robot to the moon would require a launch vehicle on the order of the Falcon 9, which is a priced from $35-$55 million per launch. I haven't done the numbers for the mass fraction (fuel to payload ratio) from LEO or GTO to the moon, so I can't say what the mass of the required robot would be, or even given that, what the launch weight (and therefore costs) would be.

But, still, given launch costs, unless they somehow manage to figure out something that SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler haven't, this prize is either just about right, or too little. Certainly not too much. I'm pretty optimistic about it right now, and hope we hear some things about it soon.

its alot, but big business stands to make more. (2, Insightful)

ttapper04 (955370) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594297)

The point is that you would be achieving this goal through the private sector, a major leap indeed for civilization. The exploration of space may turn from a government driven endeavor to an economic one. If there is money to be made then the means are a consequence of or capitalist system. Google is acting as a catalyst in this situation, providing an artificial economic incentive to speed things up.

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594311)

I, for one, welcome our new robotic roverlords!

Re:$30,000,000 is a lot (1)

null-sRc (593143) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594691)


For the rare /.er (1)

gzerphey (1006177) | more than 7 years ago | (#20593973)

For the rare slashdotter that does not also read Wired religiously here is a related article on an easy way to send your favorite picture to the moon.

Lunar Legacy []

Just one question. (1)

ttapper04 (955370) | more than 7 years ago | (#20593975)

How do they justify this to their share holders? Publicity?

Still this is great from the standpoint of progress. -50 evil points for google.

Re:Just one question. (5, Informative)

gzerphey (1006177) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594217)

They just got themselves an airstrip that will cost them 1.3 million dollars a year [] just so they would not have to deal with airport traffic and your worried about a measly $30,000,000 for a contest that stands a good chance of not being won by the deadline?

They seem to hemorrhage money sometimes.

Re:Just one question. (1, Funny)

gzerphey (1006177) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594783)

Gotta say I kind of resent being labeled a troll for stating fact.

Re:Just one question. (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595439)

He's got a point; it is hardly a troll. Mods, wanna correct this?

Re:Just one question. (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594273)

$30 million isn't that much in the grand scheme of things, so, if someone wins it, their name is attached to a big news story with lots of good karma, something that no amount of advertising dollars can buy. And if no one wins, they don't have to pay much of anything. Don't underestimate the value of those -50 evil points.

Re:Just one question. (1)

Pasquina (980638) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594539)

How does -50 compare to the evil points from supporting censorship in China?

Re:Just one question. (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594877)

Well, it is not bloody likely that they will ever pay out, so they can probably insure the payout at Lloyds for a dollar or two.

Re:Just one question. (3, Informative)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594927)

Because once they have the design for the rover, it's easy to mod to include a dye for moon dust, and then Google will send the modded one up to draw Google's logo on the moon. *please mod informative*

Inquiry (1)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 7 years ago | (#20593987)

Now, do they launch with a bunch of people specifying parameters and running control equipment and whatnot?

Or do they just press the 'I'm feeling lucky' button?

Man (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594025)

Why not put a man on the moon? It will boost maned space technology in the public sector. Everyone has done robots, now everyone is rushing to put a man back on the moon and mars, so let google's money beat everyone.

Re:Man (2, Insightful)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594141)

You would have to bring a man back home, which makes it much more complicated and expensive. Just getting a robot there is a big achievement for a private company. I think Bigelow is the only one that's even putting stuff in orbit.

Re:Man (4, Funny)

dradler (627109) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594849)

You would have to bring a man back home, ...
Says who? I nominate George Bush, with a second flight (to prove it wasn't just a fluke success) carrying Dick Cheney.

Prediction... (3, Funny)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594027)

At least one ship and/or robot explorer will be named "Alice"

fuck that, lunar x-games! (4, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594031)

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Could you imagine the kind of air-er, vacuum you'd get off a lunar halfpipe?

Lunokhod program; other thoughts (5, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594069)

If I recall correctly, the only unmanned rovers that have explored the Moon are the pair of rovers of the Lunokhod programme [] of Russia (then Soviet Union), during the early 1970s. From wikipedia:

Lunokhod 2 was equipped with three television cameras, one mounted high on the rover for navigation, which could return high resolution images at different rates--3.2, 5.7, 10.9 or 21.1 seconds per frame (not frames per second). These images were used by a five-man team of controllers on Earth who sent driving commands to the rover in real time. There were 4 panoramic cameras mounted on the rover.

Power was supplied by a solar panel on the inside of a round hinged lid which covered the instrument bay, which would charge the batteries when opened. A polonium-210 radioactive heat source was used to keep the rover warm during the long lunar nights. ...

During its 322 Earth days of operations, Lunokhod 1 traveled 10.5 km and returned more than 20,000 TV images and 206 high-resolution panoramas. In addition, it performed twenty-five soil analyses with its RIFMA x-ray fluorescence spectrometer and used its penetrometer at 500 different locations.

Lunokhod 2 operated for about 4 months, covered 37 km (23 miles) of terrain, including hilly upland areas and rilles, and sent back 86 panoramic images and over 80,000 TV pictures. Many mechanical tests of the surface, laser ranging measurements, and other experiments were completed during this time.
With regards to a human lunar base, I think the prize could also have great benefits. I think it's pretty much a given that robots and rovers will play an integral support role of a manned lunar base, and getting robots to operate in a lunar environment is still something we have little experience with. The prize will likely lead to discovering plenty of new ideas and techniques which do and don't work on the lunar surface.

Also, rovers are a great way to captivate people's attention. Just look at how much the Mars rovers has increased people's attention at what's going on with Mars. For my generation, lunar exploration (human or robot) is something that exists only in history books. Seeing the Moon through the eyes of a rover (a rover put up by entrepreneurs, not a government) can change that, and increase support for human exploration of the Moon.

Also, I think this is a great way for the "space == science only" crowd to get interested in private space activity. Thus far, many of them have either been ambivalent about private space, or outright antagonistic about it ("just a way for rich people to waste money"). This prize helps cement the idea that yes, private spaceflight can have benefits for science.

Re:Lunokhod program; other thoughts (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594369)

I think seeing a company have a plan for making money by putting a rover on the moon will help spark people's interest too. I think it will give a sense that the "space age" will really happen instead of just the same old thing that has gone on for the last 50 years. Making money will also make people to start to think space exploration might be a good investment.

In fact, (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594433)

I always laugh when I see ppl try to make it out that this will be man vs robotic exploration. That has to be the silliest thing I have ever heard. Even in USA's early days, it was lack of man power than lead to a large amount of innovation (labor was very expensive). The moon and mars will almost certainly have robots doing the building and maintence of any planet base. In fact, if NASA was smart, they would offer a prize for coming up with a robot for the ISS (above and beyond the arm). A robot could repair bigelow's on their way. Food will need to be grown. It will come about via robots. Even the bulk of the exploration of luna and mars will take place via robots. Man will simply learn to exist there.

While your there, look for Helium-3 (1)

deweycheetham (1124655) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594071)

Great Idea. And why they are there, have them look for Helium-3(He-3) [] which has produced Neutrons at detectable levels and is key in Fusion reactions.

Re:While your there, look for Helium-3 (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594763)

Helium-3 is not key in fusion reactions. It is usable in only two of the many possible second-generation reactions. We'll be lucky to have a commercial first-generation fusion power plant by 2050. And no, that's not an exaggeration; check out ITER's development timeline for when they think they'll have the first fusion power plant providing power to the public, assuming that everything goes just right and that it can somehow be economical.

Re:While your there, look for Helium-3 (1)

deweycheetham (1124655) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594963)

There is a lot of research being done along the lines of Helium-3. [] is the technical side of the argument and it's been said to be more valuable than {insert your favorite precious metal here}. He-3 is said to be easier to work with than some other options and even a short cut, but that a point for the Advance Physicist and Engineers to work out. I am just the message on this subject.

My only hope is that the folks here even have a clue as to what we are talking about.

Re:While you're there, look for Helium-3 (1)

LionMage (318500) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594987)

Actually, what the (confused) person meant was, there are people out there scheming to mine Helium-3 from the moon and return it to earth for use in specially designed reactors. The appeal is that fusion of He3 releases virtually no by-products, so a company running a fusion reactor running solely on He3 wouldn't have to periodically replace parts due to the reactor itself becoming radioactive from low-level particle bombardment.

There was actually a rather informative documentary on the Science Channel recently about this. Of course, it's hideously expensive to mine the moon for anything and return it to earth in an economically practical manner; one of the choice quotes from the documentary describes how, even if someone stacked bricks of gold on the moon, it would cost too much money to send a ship there, pick them up, and return them to earth. Yet He3 is such a rare commodity on earth, but so plentiful in lunar regolith, that it would actually be cost effective (by some estimates) to mine the stuff there and return it to earth. It wouldn't take much of the stuff to run a fusion reactor designed to solely react He3, and supposedly this enterprise would pay for itself in terms of energy output versus the amount of energy expended to extract this stuff from the moon.

The Wikipedia article that the parent refers to (grandparent to this comment, parent to yours) actually makes mention of this. The main reason why no R&D has gone into designing He3 fusion reactors is that He3 is extremely rare on this planet, so we're focusing all our effort on hydrogen and deuterium fusion; in the case of H and D fusion reactions, you're right, He3 is one possible product that would enter into second-generation reactions. But there has been real discussion of bypassing using H and D altogether and reacting only He3, and it's being discussed by real commercial entities in the U.S. and Russia, not just theorists.

Re:While you're there, look for Helium-3 (1)

deweycheetham (1124655) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595515)

I thought it was pretty good for a 12 word sentence fragment. Oh well shoot the messenger, and change the message content. The original post was the layman's version.

A few more references are:
Researchers and space enthusiasts see helium-3 as the perfect fuel source. @ []
Lunar Helium-3 as an Energy Source, in a nutshell. @ []

(If you need anymore, do your own research I am confused.)

Re:While your there, look for Helium-3 (1)

LionMage (318500) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594841)

Ummm... if you actually read the Wikipedia article you cited, you'd see that He3 fusion reactions have almost zero reaction byproducts. Perhaps you were confused by the subsequent section in the Wikipedia entry explaining that He3 is key for use in neutron detectors (i.e., devices that detect neutrons). He3 is not radioactive, and therefore does not emit neutrons (or any other particle).

Prize Not Quite Adequate (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594081)

From the Faq:

15. How much do you think it will cost for a rover to get to the Moon and sustain itself throughout the competition?

Traditionally, prizes have encouraged people to invest a wide range of resources. Lindbergh was one of few to spend less than the prize amount during the Orteig prize--others, like Admiral Byrd, spent nearly $100,000, or four times the $25,000 prize value. It has been reported that Mojave Aerospace Ventures spent significantly more than the $10 million purse to win the Ansari X PRIZE. Teams are willing to spend more than the prize value, as they get to keep their intellectual property and capitalize on it. In the case of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, we expect some teams to be willing to spend more than the value of the prize. Other teams may be able to complete the mission at or below the value of the Grand Prize purse.
I don't think comparing the prize reward from a 1919 prize award of flying from Paris to NYC [] is accurate. I mean, people had already been flying. How many people put things into orbit, much less on the moon?

Just to put this into perspective, the pair of Mars rovers cost NASA $820 million [] . Granted you're only expected to send one and it's only to the moon, NASA does already have the infrastructure & experienced personel to do this. Even an 1/8 of that cost is 3 times the prize money.

Add the requirements of a 500 meter 'rove' and hi def 'Mooncast' and I think you're looking at too much risk for any person--possibly any company.

Frankly, I don't think $30 million is enough. I know it may sound ridiculous but I personally think $300 million would start to entice competition. What intellectual property would you have in the end? You would have patents on specifically design tools for getting a piece of machinery to the moon only capable of Mooncasts & 500 meters of roving. I'm not so sure any company would try to enter this competition as it is a major investment and a major risk with very little gain.

Re:Prize Not Quite Adequate (1)

Cobalt Jacket (611660) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594219)

You're incorrect to reference orbital spaceflight in this context. Unmanned orbital spaceflight is already well within the capabilities of private industry. The current focus is on manned orbital spaceflight. The mechanics of manned orbital spaceflight are considerably more difficult than launching an unmanned probe of any sort. The main difference between unmanned orbital spaceflight and going to the moon is achieving escape velocity from Earth and ensuring that you are subsequently captured by the moon's gravity.

Re:Prize Not Quite Adequate (0, Troll)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594475)

Winner doesn't even get $30M. Runner-up gets $5M and there is reserve funds - the winner only gets $20M.

Remember - for the last XPRIZE, Paul Allen invested something like $20M into SpaceShipOne, with a XPRIZE of $10M. We don't know how much money Burt Rutan anted up.

The point of the money isn't to make money but to lessen the barrier to entry, and essentially create a (one-time) market. No one would do this without the prize, at least not in the timeframe, but with the purse there is a better reason to do so. Also, in doing so, technology is developed and relationships are formed which can be leveraged for future profit (see: SpaceShipTwo).

Re:Prize Not Quite Adequate (1)

dkdeath1 (594079) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594531)

You don't try and earn a Nobel Prize for the money.

Re:Prize Not Quite Adequate (2, Informative)

spitek (942062) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594853)

The gain is in the unknown things that could have other applications. Here is a small subset of technologies that have come from NASA develpment and research. These are worth Billions.

Laser Angioplasty
Memory foam
Cardiac Imaging System
Infrared Thermometer
De-icing senors for air craft
Thermal Video
Space Technology for Firefighting - Lightweight air cylinders patterned on technology originally developed for rocket motor casings

Advanced Pacemaker
Implantable Heart Aid
Vision Trainer
Vehicle Controller - Lunar Rover technology enables quadriplegics to me mobile
Temperature Pill

I mean the list goes ON AND ON the truth is NO ONE knows that the return on investment would be. I sure wish I could be the one investing Im sure I'd get my money back.

Re:Prize Not Quite Adequate (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594901)

$30M is at least enough to attract interest. John Carmack has already started talking about what would be required to do it. And given that he's the odds-on favorite to win the Lunar Lander Challenge (both levels) this year at the X-Prize Cup, I'd say that's rather interesting. It sounds like he thinks the toughest problem to solve is navigation.

Re:Prize Not Quite Adequate (3, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594943)

The "airplane" analogies are always pretty dumb as soon as you scratch the surface. Even on the face of them, it's an argument that "Technology A once was poor, and now it's great, so technology B, which is poor, must inherently end up great." They're logical fallacies.

In this case, to put it in perspective, 100,000$ in 1919 is 1.3 million [] in today's dollars. A realistic price for this mission by small teams is 50-100 million, with a high risk of failure. For that kind of money, you're not going to get a bunch of little teams like you got for the regular X-prize, which was a (proportionally) extremely simple task. You're not even going to get the idealists. The budget rules out the vast majority of them, and the few idealists who love space issues enough to put forth that kind of cash -- like, say, Musk -- are already going to be putting their money toward space in their preferred method (with their own companies) instead of competing for some prize. That kind of money for investment in this prize would have to come from Wall Street, which wants a return on it's investment.

Not going to happen.

Re:Prize Not Quite Adequate (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595227)

A realistic price for this mission by small teams is 50-100 million, with a high risk of failure.
I could be faulty, but my assumption is that the bulk of the cost will be the launcher, which would likely be purchased as an off-the-shelf service from SpaceX, Russia, or some-such. I kind of figure that a team would spend its money developing the launcher and lander (expensive, but not -that- expensive), and then after doing that would commit to paying for the launcher. Of course, I think it's also assumed that as with the Ansari X Prize, the prize will only cover part of the cost.

I figure you might know more than most: What's the likely minimal weight for a launcher+lander? What sort of LEO payload capability would a launcher need in order to deliver that amount to the lunar surface? Do any of SpaceX's Falcon 9 launchers (which cost $27-$78 million) have what it takes for that? (SpaceX is coincidentally one of the official supporters of the Google Prize, stating that they'll give the equivalent of a 10% discount to contestants)

Re:Prize Not Quite Adequate (1)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595283)

Just to put this into perspective, the pair of Mars rovers cost NASA $820 million. Granted you're only expected to send one and it's only to the moon, NASA does already have the infrastructure & experienced personel to do this. Even an 1/8 of that cost is 3 times the prize money.

Add the requirements of a 500 meter 'rove' and hi def 'Mooncast' and I think you're looking at too much risk for any person--possibly any company.

A 500 meter rove and a hi-def mooncast? You mean like I could do by rigging a golf cart with a couple-hundred-dollar hi-def camera and remote-control steering? They've had more far more difficult builds than that on Monster Garage. The Mars rovers have some VERY high end equipment which would not be necessary here. An innovative person could do it for 30 mil. The question is if any such innovative people have the 30 mil to start with and if they'd risk it.

Re:Prize Not Quite Adequate (1)

sparky555 (986576) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595705)

You need to get your "golf cart" going 25,000mph, and then drop it softly on the surface of the moon. Launches aren't free. I don't think anyone imagines the complexity of the rover to be the big issue - the biggest thing it'd do is put a lower bound on the mass of what you send to the moon, and also require it to be more than a rocket motor. There's no atmosphere on the moon, so unlike Mars where you scrub a lot of velocity during atmospheric entry, you need to scrub your speed for a moon landing with rockets, which means you need to haul fuel with you, too. This thing won't be light.

May not be so hard.... (4, Insightful)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594085)

Actually, this may be a matter of cost, not technology - a cost that may be easily regained by the winnings. Someone may just need the incentive to do it. Putting a man on the moon is hard...putting a, not so much. We launch something out of orbit every few years now, so the tech is there. Heck, the expense may be designing the robot, not the delivery system.

Re:May not be so hard.... (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595239)

Are you implying that you have a way to send a payload to the moon that costs less than $10 million per launch?

Granted, a little rover and a delivery system can weigh significantly less than a 3 person capsule and a manned lunar lander, but it still takes a lot of energy to get out of the atmosphere and to a lunar orbit.

If you know how to build a rocket capable of sending something to the moon for less than ten million bucks, then you really should start your own company.

This rover could be Really Small (2, Insightful)

Thagg (9904) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594165)

Given the specifications, it should be possible to do something that more "jumps" than "roves", but certainly gets around on the moon, and transmits data back to earth, for maybe a few dozen grams. The rocket that takes it from LEO to the moon might have to weigh 10 to 20 times that, but still we're talking about something on the order of a pound or two.

And something that light should be able to piggyback on almost any launch.


It's obvious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20594167)

The want the Moon for ad-space. Think of how many companies would pay for that huge dynamic e-billboard!

Sure, everyone can't see the moon every month or so, but someone somewhere in the world can always look up at the moon at anytime.

It'd be hard to get a nice-looking 2D image from a hemisphere, but hey that's what PhDs are for.

robots.txt? (5, Funny)

adnonsense (826530) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594177)

Will this robotic rover obey the moon's robots.txt? (It's available by querying the Tycho crater).

FYI the robots.txt for Jupiter's Galilean moons looks like this:

User-Agent: *
Allow: /io/
Allow: /ganymede/
Allow: /callisto/
Disallow: /europa/

Re:robots.txt? (2, Funny)

Ashe Tyrael (697937) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595277)

"All these search results are yours, except Europa. Attempt no linking there."

Our World News Extra: (1)

IdeaMan (216340) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595383)

Today at 17:30 WST the dimunitive object noted orbiting us has completed its descent. First World Militia leader Perov Nekormick noted signs of intelligent life aboard, including the appearance of small eyestalks that look to be used by the object to navigate its environment. "Although it lacks true locomotion that our slimepads provide, the device does appear to be capable of some limited locomotion" Perov stated. "We may have some fun, err Run some scientific experiments on it before we topple it upside down into a crater."
Appearance of the object was backtracked to the brightly lit object first observed through the Hibble intragalactic telescope. Hibble stated that its track was reminiscent of the flares described by his great-great grandfather Hindle near the time of Pretty Bright Flashes on our ugly neighbor. These flares were also the ones that brought the Huge-Ugly-Meat-And-Nylon-Suits down in the Hosgevarten district in 10034.5. For those that don't remember the incidents, the HUMANS were responsible for severe environmental disturbances in the 10030 era. Our world preservationist organization KOWS (Keep Our World Safe) released a press release stating in part "We must not disturb any marks from the new landing, just like we did for the earlier HUMANS encroachment. Otherwise they might know we're here and disturb us too in their clumsy methods of scientific discovery. Remember that they did kidnapp many members of our quiet and peaceful Rock neighbors during their last visit." The local Rock spokesman has been asked for comment and it is believed we will have the answer some time around 10099.
Meanwhile KOWS is urging that citizens stay indoors, and not to earth the visitor before it has been neutralized by the FWM.

This is great for space exploration (1)

Gnostic Ronin (980129) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594213)

I think this will turn out to be a great thing for kickstarting civillian exploration of space. Nasa is too big and bloated to do it, even when congress doesn't strip funding to spend on the Ospray project. Civillians will be the ones to conquer space because they will reap the rewards -- mineral wealth, land rights, and civillian colonist user fees. Anything like that would be "public domain" if NASA goes first -- which doesn't make them eager. They get the same reward whether they succeed or not.

Property Rights? (1)

NEOtaku17 (679902) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594235)

So what if a private company actually does make it to the moon? Is it possible for them to claim property there? How does private property work on the moon? It seems to me that according to the homestead principle one could claim parts of the moon if they change the land in some significant way. Who knows. Maybe we could see some resort casinos open up in 2050.

Re:Property Rights? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594331)

None. Which is the big problem.


Re:Property Rights? (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594463)

Is it possible for them to claim property there?
Of course. Who could stop them?

It seems to me that according to the homestead principle one could claim parts of the moon
The homestead principle has nothing to do with it. It's the force principle. If you're the strongest entity around (and that's pretty much guaranteed if you're the only entity there), then you have total authority.

No one owns the moon... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594807)

See Outer Space Treaty []

But I see Columbia, for instance hasn't signed... so if some drug lord funds the trip, and they launch from Columbia, maybe they can claim it.

I want to know if you can grab old Apollo landing memorabilia... if you could return it to Earth, it would fetch quite a price on eBay.

If you can't return it, is it black mail to collect money for NOT defacing it?

Re:No one owns the moon... (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595043)

As I recall, the Space Treaty doesn't apply to individuals or private companies, only governments.

We need to up the stakes (5, Funny)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594285)

30 million for such a feat? Bah! There will be no serious contestants. We need to pass around the hat and get that up to a reputable figure that will bring out the serious engineers and rocket scientists.

I'll do my part. The pot is now up to $30,000,005.00.

That's cash money!

Most likely... (1)

prxp (1023979) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594675)

Most likely Google just wants to expand Google Moon the way it did with Google Maps [] when they added the Street View [] feature. Since Google couldn't find any company up to the task they came up with this lame excuse just to hide the fact that they've opened up a public bid for the outsourcing of Google Moon's "Crater View" feature.

Privately funded? (4, Funny)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594685)

> privately funded organization

You mean like Congress?

Since they share NASA Ames runway... (1)

Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594721)

I assume this to take away any controversy in Google buying hangar space and runway rights at NASA Ames in Mountain View, CA as describe in a earlier /. article. I'm not against private companies helping the government in research and that should be done in a blind trust as to not to create a conflict of interest. I don't think the government should "sell" resources to fund government operations and this sounds to me of the rich "buying" our government, this sound too much like what was in the movie "Robocop" in which police and military operations are run by private companies so corrupt companies could do "evil".

If IBM, Apple, Sun, or even MS was smart (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594725)

they would add to it (say double or triple). In doing so, they get their name alongside of Google's. More importantly, they would be known with major firsts. Hell, Each of these companies spend more than 60 million on ad campaigns that absolutely sux.

3rd place (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595663)

It is cheaper to offer a suplementary prize for 3rd place of 5 million, knowing it is a virtual certainty that it won't be collected.

All the vehicles? (3, Interesting)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594797)

Are they awarding the prize for the post-launch delivery, or does the organization have to design the ground-based launch vehicle too? Governments aren't too keen on private enterprises developing their own ICBM's, yunno.

A colosal waste (-1, Flamebait)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594835)

What a large waste of money. Why do we need to explore a geologically dead orbitting rock and sand ball? Don't we have homeless, sick, and displaced people in our own country that should be cared for first before a money is spent frivolously on some stupid moon exploration? Don't we have grave environmental concerns that need to be addressed? There is still a lot of science to be done here on planet earth to protect and save her.

Re:A colosal waste (5, Informative)

taustin (171655) | more than 7 years ago | (#20594993)

The Apollo program has paid for itself at least a hundred times over, in direct economic benefits, by creating entire new industries, and spawning more new technology than you can imagine, much of which is used in every day life. [] [] [] [] [] []

And on and on and on.

Re:A colosal waste (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595047)

As a percentage of our national budget, NASA's $16-17B per year is pretty trivial. Then factor in that they do a lot of research for the military, and another chunk is much more general research, often materials science, biology, and aircraft-related (remember, it's the National Aeronautics and Space Administration). The big eye catching projects like the shuttle are just a fraction of what NASA does with what is just a tiny fraction of the US's 3 trillion dollar annual budget.

Re:A colosal waste (0)

Bongo Bill (853669) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595055)

Because every person not working on building a moon rocket is going to devote their full attention to cleaning up the environment and helping the poor, and mankind can only do one thing at a time. Right.

"The poor" should help themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20595647)

helping the poor

Just giving money to the poor only allows the poor to continue the habits that made them poor.

-Give money to a bum on the street, and he'll use the money to buy cigarettes and alcohol.
-Give money to a single mom with kids, and she'll get impregnated by another boyfriend.
-Give money to a drug addict, and he'll buy more drugs.
-Give free hypodermic needles to a drug addict, and he'll buy more heroin.

But if you really wanted to stop some of these problems with real and effective solutions, the same people who want to "help" the poor will start complaining.

For example, there's millions of indigent women who give birth to more than four kids. They just keep getting pregnant...and getting welfare checks or "humanitarian aid". There's a medical procedure called "tubal ligation" that prevents a woman from producing further kids. If you mandated by law that women-on-welfare or that women-in-poor-countries-receiving-humanitarian-aid get a tubal ligation after a certain number of children, then you would do a great deal to prevent the indigent population from perpetuating itself. This would really solve the poverty problem. But noooooooooooo, the "human rights"-type people don't want that -- they say it's like the Nazi's or blah blah blah or they leave this comment at moderation points of zero so nobody can read it. Well, then they should shut up complaining that "rich countries" don't help the poor; science already has a solution, and it's just a lack of political will power to market the idea to the people.

Re:A colosal waste (0)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595101)

Glad you're trying to save her, but the rest of us have tossed in the hat and are just trying to get the hell off it.

Re:A colosal waste (0)

QMO (836285) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595179)

What a large waste of money. Why do we need to explore a geologically dead orbitting rock and sand ball? Don't we have homeless, sick, and displaced people in our own country that should be cared for first before a money is spent frivolously on some stupid moon exploration? Don't we have grave environmental concerns that need to be addressed? There is still a lot of science to be done here on planet earth to protect and save her.
And you're just sitting around posting on slashdot. Shame on you.

This is going to end in tears (1)

palindromic (451110) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595087)

The moon will become pockmarked with all the failed entries slamming into its fragile face. I see a dark future for our world.

no cheese! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20595325)

Google, of course, has offered the free Google Moon mapping service for a few years now.

Wasn't the highest zoom level previously a nice picture of yellow cheese? Now it's just the standard "no imagery available at this zoom level" message, or if you're near Apollo 11, an informative walking map ... but where's the cheese we all know the moon is made of? That was the greatest part of this map!

Why does Google do this? (1)

StarfishOne (756076) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595441)

I mean.. that's no moon! ^_^

Mixed feelings on this (1)

caywen (942955) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595537)

On one hand, it's awesome that a huge company like Google can spend what amounts to a pittance to further space exploration. Even if the program fails to produce winners, a lot of great thinking and technology might come out of it. I'd love to see companies like Google, Microsoft, and IBM do an order of magnitude more. On the other hand, if I were a shareholder, I'd be a bit peeved.

ObSnarks... (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595605)

I assume they'll check with telescopes so that contestants don't just pull a _Capricorn One_?

And will they blow it up [] ?

Meh, time go go for a ride on an unusually nice day..

Cool, but (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 7 years ago | (#20595643)

Why is Google doing this? Is it really just about the founders' dreams, or is there actually an angle here, where Google somehow ends up making money?
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