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Carnegie Mellon To Compete In Google Lunar X-Prize

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the and-beyond dept.

Space 59

An anonymous reader writes "Google's Lunar X-Prize already has a prominent entry. William Whittaker, a researcher from Carnegie Mellon University said that he will be assembling a team to develope a robot that will be be competing for the $20 million grand prize. According to a TG Daily story, Whittaker has some unfair advantages, as he previously developed a lunar rover for NASA that 'can find concentrations of hydrogen, possibly water and other volatile chemicals on the moon that could be mined to produce fuel, water and air that are essential for supporting lunar outposts.' The Lunar X-Prize runs until the end of 2012 and Carnegie Mellon's announcement could be a first indication that researchers are taking this challenge very seriously."

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Can the slashdot team compete? (1, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#20694757)

How difficult would it be to build a lunar module large enough to accomodate ummmm lets say one Darl Mcbride?

Re:Can the slashdot team compete? (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 7 years ago | (#20694855)

Depends. Does he have to be able to get out in one piece, and does he get a suit?

Re:Can the slashdot team compete? (1)

beantherio (922523) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695429)

My guess is that there won't be any need to accommodate oxygen and fuel for a return flight. That should save some weight.

Re:Can the slashdot team compete? (1)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695713)

Depends. Does he have to be able to get out in one piece, and does he get a suit?

More to the point, does he have to go in in one piece?! ;-)

Re:Can the slashdot team compete? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20694933)

Re:Can the slashdot team compete? (1)

drix (4602) | more than 7 years ago | (#20699423)

The research has been done. I suggest you read up on the Schwarzgerat. :-)

Wowzers (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20694767)

I'd say this is Going to Net Amazing Advances in space travel.

What's the controversy? (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20694779)

If I were organizing a team, I'd hire at least ex-NASA engineer with the appropriate experience if I could, too. AFAIK, there was nothing in the rules saying that they couldn't do that. In fact, I'm pretty sure both Jeff Bezos' team Blue Origin and Scaled Composites both had ex-NASA engineers working with them on the first X Prize.

Re:What's the controversy? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20695151)

Ah, yes, Scaled Composites ... I remember them. The ones that already killed two people before even getting someone out of ultra-low earth orbit.

Remind me again why private sector space exploration is such a great idea?

Re:What's the controversy? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20696243)

public sector exploration has killed how many? and even just recently. The simple truth is, that this IS rocket science. Accidents will occur. In fact, you only hear about the spectacular deaths of NASA. You do not hear (or remember) other deaths that occurred in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's. More deaths will CERTAINLY occur. In fact, I would hazard a guess that by 2050, public AND private sector will have lost more than 20 ppl. But we will also be on the moon and almost certainly walking on Mars.

Lets put things in perspective. MORE PPL die weekly JUST IN America walking across the street.

Simply put, so what if 2 ppl died? Others have died trying to help society AND themselves.

Re:What's the controversy? (3, Interesting)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695259)

Indeed - given the difficult of doing this at all, I would hope that teams take as many advantages as they can, as opposed to making it arbitrarily harder just to maintain some illusion of "fairness".

The purpose of the competition is to get a rover on the moon, and to encourage private space exploration. The competition is not "having space travel done by people with no experience".

Fairness (2, Insightful)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695391)

I agree completely. I think we often sacrifice too much in the name of "fairness". We should never make things harder for those entering at the lower-end, but we should not take away advantages of those at the upper-end, either. That said, there are some ways to improve fairness (you can never really achieve fairness, only make things more fair or less fair – or both) without sacrificing anything. Perhaps something akin to information sharing could help, for example.

Blue Origin did not compete in X Prize (1)

BiggerBoat (690886) | more than 7 years ago | (#20697283)

Minor point, but Blue Origin was not a contestant in the Ansari X Prize.

Re:What's the controversy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20698577)

If I were organizing a team, I'd hire at least ex-NASA engineer with the appropriate experience if I could, too. AFAIK, there was nothing in the rules saying that they couldn't do that. In fact, I'm pretty sure both Jeff Bezos' team Blue Origin and Scaled Composites both had ex-NASA engineers working with them on the first X Prize.

Personally, I'm waiting for Rei [slashdot.org] to show up and tell us why this isn't gonna work....

The controversy should be.. (1)

baffled (1034554) | more than 7 years ago | (#20706539)

The controversy should be the drilling of the moon. It's possible we could destroy evidence within the geology of the moon that could never be recovered. Our geological techniques and our ability to derive energy will both only continue to advance into the future. Why should we take a chance in destroying something precious, so close to Earth, when it is likely to be unnecessary in the future?

Surprised? (1)

niconorsk (787297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20694819)

Is it really any surprise that researchers are taking such a challenge seriously? Most challenges of this nature generate a lot of interest. Not for the money(the cost of succeding often tend to exceed the size of the prize), but for the publicity and pride involved in succeeding. We are vain animals after all.

Why is this an unfair advantage? (4, Informative)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 7 years ago | (#20694895)

"Whittaker has some unfair advantages, as he previously developed a lunar rover for NASA that 'can find concentrations of hydrogen, possibly water and other volatile chemicals on the moon that could be mined to produce fuel, water and air that are essential for supporting lunar outposts.' "

Why is this unfair? Here is the summarized requirements from the Google Lunar X-Prize [googlelunarxprize.org] home page:

COMPETITION GUIDELINES: To win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a team must successfully land a privately funded craft on the lunar surface and survive long enough to complete the mission goals of roaming about the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending a defined data package, called a "Mooncast", back to Earth.

PRIZES: The total purse of the Google Lunar X PRIZE is $30 million (USD).
GRAND PRIZE: A $20 million Grand Prize will be awarded to the team that can soft land a craft on the Moon that roams for at least 500 meters and transmits a Mooncast back to Earth. The Grand Prize is $20M until December 31st 2012; thereafter it will drop to $15M until December 31st 2014 at which point the competition will be terminated unless extended by Google and the X PRIZE Foundation
SECOND PRIZE: A $5 million Second Prize will be offered as well, providing an extra incentive for teams to continue to compete, and increasing the possibility that multiple teams will succeed. Second place will be available until December 31st 2014 at which point the competition will be terminated unless extended by Google and the X PRIZE Foundation
BONUSES: An additional $5 million in bonus prizes can be won by successfully completing additional mission tasks such as roving longer distances (> 5,000 meters), imaging man made artifacts (e.g. Apollo hardware), discovering water ice, and/or surviving through a frigid lunar night (approximately 14.5 Earth days). The competing lunar spacecraft will be equipped with high-definition video and still cameras, and will send images and data to Earth, which the public will be able to view on the Google Lunar X PRIZE website.

MOONCAST: The Mooncast consists of digital data that must be collected and transmitted to the Earth composed of the following:
High resolution 360 panoramic photographs taken on the surface of the Moon;
Self portraits of the rover taken on the surface of the Moon;
Near-real time videos showing the craft's journey along the lunar surface;
High Definition (HD) video;
Transmission of a cached set of data, loaded on the craft before launch (e.g. first email from the Moon).
Teams will be required to send a Mooncast detailing their arrival on the lunar surface, and a second Mooncast that provides imagery and video of their journey roaming the lunar surface. All told, the Mooncasts will represent approximately a Gigabyte of stunning content returned to the Earth.
The complete Google Lunar X PRIZE Competition Guidelines are available in English, the official language of the prize, on the Google Lunar X PRIZE homepage.

It sounds to me like Carnegie Mellon University has the right idea. There are quite a few talented rocket scientists [wikipedia.org] out there. Why not utilize them as a resource?

Re:Why is this an unfair advantage? (1, Funny)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#20694949)

There are quite a few talented rocket scientists out there. Why not utilize them as a resource?

Just make sure you give them the metric units conversion test first.

Re:Why is this an unfair advantage? (1)

EvilSpudBoy (1159091) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695125)

Just make sure you give them the metric units conversion test first.

Luckily they will have access to the powerful conversion capabilities of google calculator. Allowing them to do such queries as these:

238900 miles in kilometers [google.com]

Re:Why is this an unfair advantage? (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 7 years ago | (#20708655)

There are quite a few talented rocket scientists out there. Why not utilize them as a resource?
Geez. It's not brain surgery!

- RG>

0.02 MPH? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20694905)

The rover travels at a maximum speed of four inches per second, which translates into 0.02 mph.


I get 4"/s = 1200'/h / 5280'/mi = 0.227 MPH.

Re:0.02 MPH? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695017)

I don't see any metric there... And you don't work for Verizon... What are you going to blame your mismatched numbers on?

0.02 != 0.227 ;) The second number is the correct one, of course.

Hardly an advantage (5, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695021)

There are several things to realize about this prize. First, the rover is very roughly a third of the work. I'd break into getting to LEO, getting to the lunar surface, and all the stuff on the surface (rover, video, communication, etc.).

If you're trying to do this on a budget comparable to the prize, each of those is very challenging. If you buy your orbital launch, the cheapest option is probably a SpaceX Falcon 1, which starts at $7M -- a third of your budget already. That means you get *one* attempt. This prize won't be won on the first flight of the hardware, not with a budget even approaching the $20M purse.

Getting from (Earth) orbit to the surface is tricky, but probably the easiest piece. Carmack is very close to demonstrating a large fraction of that with Pixel at the Lunar Lander Challenge in October. Left to do would be nontrivial navigation and a nontrivial performance boost. Here, buying the hardware you need certainly isn't off the shelf, but most of the pieces might be available. I suspect you'd find yourself blowing another large fraction of your budget even before the requisite development on this part.

The lunar rover and communications presents another set of challenges, which it sounds like CMU may well have experience with.

But, I'd say hiring NASA engineers is the wrong way to win this on a budget. NASA couldn't even begin to touch this prize for $100M. If you hire engineers who are used to working with budgets on a NASA size, you'll get a solution that costs NASA price tags, or close to them. If you want to spend a couple hundred million winning the prize, just to prove you can, it'll work -- but I would say that's kind of silly. I don't think this prize will be won for less than $20M, but I think it will be won for not a huge amount more.

Personally, I think Carmack and the rest of the people at Armadillo Aerospace are much more interesting to watch. If he continues at his current pace, he'll have hardware in LEO long before this prize expires, and on a much smaller budget than anyone has done before. And he's already been talking about what would be needed to win this prize. If you want to watch the interesting show, don't look to the people that say they'll do it the old way -- look to the people that want to do it orders of magnitude cheaper than it's been done before, by turning every piece of conventional wisdom on its head, and are busy proving they can rather than trumpeting their barely formed plans to the press.

Re:Hardly an advantage (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695173)

Do you think that Scaled Composites won the X-Prize on a budget of only $10 million, the prize's actual amount? The point of these prizes is not to make money, but to win, to be the one to do it. Scaled Composites didn't make money on the X-Prize, but their victory has led to being the one to build Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceflight vehicles.

Re:Hardly an advantage (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695309)

The X Prize is an apt comparison. Estimates I've heard put Scaled's budget for the $10M prize at approximately $30M. I'm reasonably confident the prize can't be won for $20M -- but I think it can be won for not a lot more than that, as I said in my original post. The point of winning the X-prize was only in small part to prove it can be done. A large part was as the impetus for and partial funding of the early R&D for SpaceShipTwo. There are certainly markets available to you if you can win this prize, much like winning the X-Prize. But hundreds of millions in investment is harder to come by than tens of millions, and the market is in some ways less clear than it was for the X-Prize.

I think that winning this prize on a $200M budget is both uninteresting, and unlikely to happen (because you'll have trouble getting the $200M; a NASA style project might manage to win it on that budget in the allotted time, but then again it might not). A small innovative team might well win it on a much smaller budget; that would be both far easier to finance, and to me a far more interesting result. I don't know which approach I think has better odds, but I know which groups I'll be paying more attention to, and it's not CMU.

Re:Hardly an advantage (4, Insightful)

dbolger (161340) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695349)

If you hire engineers who are used to working with budgets on a NASA size, you'll get a solution that costs NASA price tags, or close to them.

I would say you could stop the costs ballooning by hiring NASA engineers, and not NASA bureaucrats. I have been of the opinion for some time that the problem with NASA is that it is expected to do too little science with too much money (don't hate me!). Give these people ten million and tell them to get to the moon, and you will come out with a lean, well designed system that can get there and do what you want. Give them one hundred million and you'll get a bloated project with too many unnecessary people on board and too much red tape to do anything properly. That is the whole point of things like the X-Prize. The knowledge and experience are out there. The technology (or close to it) is out there. The scientific community is slowly coming to the realisation that leaving things like this to government agencies will not give results. NASA has provided the groundwork without which none of this would be possible, but it is time to take what we have learned there, and run with it.

Re:Hardly an advantage (1)

oliderid (710055) | more than 7 years ago | (#20699753)

If you hire engineers who are used to working with budgets on a NASA size, you'll get a solution that costs NASA price tags, or close to them.

To cut costs, I would certainly look at NASA subcontractors instead.

Re:Hardly an advantage (1)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 7 years ago | (#20696071)

I disagree about hiring NASA engineers. There's no such thing as an engineer that builds just expensive stuff. Engineers build stuff that meets the requirements.

Just make the price a higher priority than safety or other factors.

Re:Hardly an advantage (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20696787)

More like the break will be a direct shot to a lunar orbit, followed by lunar landing and then doing the work. One thing that I have been thinking about is that the requirements do NOT state that it must be a wheeled vehicle. As such, that could also mean that a lander that can more around would count. So, take the falcon9 heavy and combine with the armadillo pixel. Then allow it to jump all over. This would be a LOT cheaper and easier to do, since these will ready within a few years, be fully tested BY 2011.

Re:Hardly an advantage (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 7 years ago | (#20697811)

Falcon 9 (not Heavy) pricing starts at $35M. I'm hopeful that the prize can be won for less than that. Something like Pixel fits on a Falcon 1, I believe, but not with much performance to spare -- you only get to LEO, no extra, that way.

I don't think it's been clarified whether ballistic hops after landing qualifies; it's certainly been mentioned, but I'm guessing it doesn't count. If it does, it's clearly easier to bring along a bit of extra propellant.

Re:Hardly an advantage (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20698517)

First, it is very doubtful that this will be a money maker, other than advertisement AND partial funding for making it to the moon. In fact, few of the Xprizes pay off by themselves.

Second, the falcon 9 can carry 4900 kg to GEO. I do not know the costs to reach escape speed, but even if it costs another 50% of the weight, then the weight is 2450 kg. The current pixel with a 30 kg payload is 680 kg. I would guess that it would be tight, but doable to send that to luna.

But yeah, I am in hopes that hops will count. This approach could do much more surveying of the moon. Perhaps another angel like Allen will come along and help. If not, then current ppl who are doing this will be able to fund it, even if it takes a heavy. I would be surprised to NOT see bigelow kick in on this. While they are planning on being in our orbit, they want to be on the moon as quick as possible. In particular, they want to own the poles quickly. Having a hopper and a transporter that works is worth a LOT to them. The pixel may be exactly what they are looking for. In particular, they can hop a facility over the moon while at the same building bases on the poles.

Re:Hardly an advantage (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 7 years ago | (#20699839)

I'm not saying I think it will be a money maker. I'm saying two basic things: First, I think the budget needs to be comparable to the prize. $20M to $50M, not hundreds. Unless you happen to find an investor with *lots* of money to throw at it, but I think that gets a lot harder for a $300M budget than it was for SpaceShipOne's $30M. Second, if you're *not* spending hundreds of millions, you'd be a fool to count on it working on the first try (even if you are, it's debatable). If you're planning on a $50M budget, including two attempts, then you can't budget $35M for your launch vehicle.

Pixel has approximately the performance to go from a lunar transfer orbit to the surface (allowing for increased vacuum Isp, etc), but not much extra. The performance difference between GTO (geosynchronous transfer orbit, which is where you get the 4900kg number, not GEO) and LTO is nontrivial, but it isn't huge, either. I *think* a Falcon 9 (normal) could put Pixel on a LTO trajectory, but I'm not entirely sure I'm reading the data sheet correctly.

The prize winner may well fly on a Falcon 1 (or 1e); that wouldn't surprise me, but I honestly hope it's Carmack doing it off his own orbital platform. I rather doubt, however, that the prize will be won with a Falcon 9 launch. Of course, if someone like CMU actually comes up with a multi-hundred-million dollar budget, I'll probably be wrong :)

Re:Hardly an advantage (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20701315)

Early indications on White Knight and SS1 were that they spent something like 30-40 million. And that was on just a 10 million prize. I am not going to be surprised to see this be 50-100 million. As to investors, well, keep in mind that Carmack is the minor palyer on this. Musk has literally billions to spend. In addition, he is expected to be profitable by 2010. If he is succesful with the NASA cots which will pay him 250M, that is pure gravy (which is expected to lead to multiple launches to the ISS for the next couple of years, and perhaps longer ). Lets not forget the 50 million prize from bigelow for his statation (which is first quarter 2010). AND he has launches via the military AND private. Basically, he will already be in the black by the time, this moon shot arrives. So spending 100 million to capture 30 million may seem like a waste, but if they have the ability to prove that they are on the moon, it is DIRT cheap. In fact, I would not be surprised to see musk throw a falcon 9 heavy at it to prove that they can send heavy loads to the moon. Combine that with bigelow and by 2014, private enterprise will have a lunar habitat by 2015.

At this time, I am hoping that Scaled is back in the race. They are really one of the fews that could capture a major chunk of earth launches, esp. to ISS and bigelows.

May have to rethink some ideas (4, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695065)

To optimize power efficiency, the robot must be as light as possible - but to operate the coring drill, the vehicle also has to be massive enough to apply sufficient downward pressure on the drill and counter the torque of the rotating drill, Carnegie Mellon noted. It is estimated that Scarab must weigh at least 250 kilograms, or about 550 pounds.

The Apollo astronauts found out a hard truth about the surface of the Moon when the wen too drill deep core samples -- the Moon is pretty hard. Drilling required a lot of effort, even when they had appropriate equipment. Drills generated a lot of torque as they tried to penetrate the lunar hardpan. The lunar surface is apparently very compacted, unlike earthly soil which undergoes the action of weathering. I'm not sure 250 kilos will necessarily be enough unless they find an efficient method to hold the rover down to the surface as it drills.

Re:May have to rethink some ideas (1)

3.14159265 (644043) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695747)

Maybe they could get the extra weight by piling some rocks on it.

Re:May have to rethink some ideas (1)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695809)

I'm not sure 250 kilos will necessarily be enough unless they find an efficient method to hold the rover down to the surface as it drills.

How about four smaller drills at the corners - don't need to penetrate too far - just enough to anchor the corners down. Or pitons and cams to anchor itself before drilling. Or some nice sticky pads base don the new gecko-like technologies around.

Re:May have to rethink some ideas (2, Interesting)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 7 years ago | (#20696387)

I haven't read up on lunar drilling, but wouldn't it make sense to use a rotary hammer (hammer drill)? Short impacts can overcome the resistance of the surface being drilled, without overcoming the average (over time) force exerted by gravity.

Everybody is thinking too literally (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20697075)

Look, a rover is not necessarily wheeled. What happens if the pixel is used to jump around? If done right, the "lander" is the probe. More importantly, it can then do a dozen or more jumps. The biggest advantage is that spacex AND armadillo (or new shepard) would be ready by 2011 with TESTED platforms. Use spacex to get to the moon (perhaps with a lunar satellite or 2), and pixel or new shepard to get to the surface. That would have more than enough weight to serve as a stable drilling.

Getting rid of the torque should be easy (2, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | more than 7 years ago | (#20697693)

Just use two counter-rotating drills simultaneously. Might be tricky when you first start and one bit bites into the rock before the other, but once they're both in the torque just gets converted into tensile and compressive stresses in the cojoining structure (like in a Chinook helicopter [wikipedia.org] )

Getting sufficient down force sounds like it'd be the hard part. A few clamps or climbing cams might do the trick if you can find a good location to insert them.

The Competition (1)

PineHall (206441) | more than 7 years ago | (#20695695)

Check out who they are competing against [userfriendly.org] .

If you want to help compete, get in touch with him (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#20696073)

I was a CMU grad when I barely(So barely I wouldn't count it) helped with the last X prize he did in the autonomous race in the desert. If you think you want to work on a project of this scale, you have something to offer, and you have enough money to live in Pittsburgh for a few years, then I recommend you contact him. He was really nice when we met.

X prize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20697179)

news flash: putting "X" in a name is no longer hip, hasn't been since people were saying "Generation X" or "X Games".

It's like all those products that had "Millennium" or "2000" in the name.

New name: The Shocker Prize for Landing on Uranus

Split the money and the goals (1)

icejai (214906) | more than 7 years ago | (#20697699)

Why are these contests and prizes all-or-nothing? Why not split the single goal and 30 million prize money into smaller goals and smaller chunks of prize money so more people can participate? Is there any reason why this xprize can't be split in two? One $15mil prize for designing a rocket to carry a 50lb payload to the moon, and another $15mil prize for designing a 50lb robot to land, roam around, and beam pictures back to earth? Could these not be split even further to make the contest challenges and prizes more attainable for guys who don't work at nasa or are involved in large research projects at universities?

I think these contests are great, but as the prizes get bigger and the goals become grander, will anybody be expected to participate in a potential all-or-nothing "Land a person on Mars" X-Prize for $10 billion dollars?.

If these contests and prizes are designed to spur research and development, split the contest goals up so more people can participate.

Re:Split the money and the goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20699805)

The goals are split. It's $15 million for landing a rover on the moon and performing a few basic tasks before the end of 2014. If you can do it before the end of 2012, the prize is $20 million. Then there's an additional $5 million (I believe split up) for performing various other tasks on the moon like driving extra distance or performing science tasks. Lastly, there's $5 million for a second place rover before the end of 2014.

It's hard to split it up any more than that, because the launch costs are so high. You end up with basically no money left over for designing and building the rover.

Re:Split the money and the goals (1)

MacroRex (548024) | more than 7 years ago | (#20709939)

If you had RTFA (I know, I know...) you'd know that this prize is actually split in a few smaller chunks. $20 million for the main goal, $5 million for some extra goals (surviving a lunar night etc.) and $5 million for second place.

Way to go guys... (1)

socialhack (890471) | more than 7 years ago | (#20697885)

Now Google has provided an incentive to send some trash to a different rock. Screw thinking "Green", it's too late for that... Think "Gray"! Save the moon!

Hardly an unfair advantage (2, Interesting)

raddan (519638) | more than 7 years ago | (#20698151)

Robotics is hard. Landing on the moon is even harder.

Whittaker also has some previous experience with the DARPA Grand Challenge [wikipedia.org] , the desert robotics race, which CMU (his team) lost both times. He obviously knows his stuff when it comes to mechanical engineering, and were it not for the Stanford team, CMU would have undoubtedly won. But the Stanford team showed that brainpower triumphed over the "brute force" methods that CMU used. Stanford tackled the "hard computer science" problem instead, and used a standard video camera instead of the laser rangefinders (and pre-computed waypoints) that CMU used. I would have liked to see the Challenge continue because I think that Stanford's surprise victory would have changed the race dramatically the following year.

There's a pretty entertaining NOVA [pbs.org] documentary about it as well. My brother (an engineer) and I (a CS student) could help but laugh at and feel envy for the guy who built the self-guided motorcycle ("Ghost Rider").

So, yeah, CMU has Whittaker, and lots of money, but that almost doesn't matter.

Re:Hardly an unfair advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20703435)

Good news for you - the challenge is continuing this year, with an urban race. GIYF.

Ohhh! My dream job is now feasible! (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 7 years ago | (#20698431)

I want to be a TSA guy at the Pittsburgh Spaceport!

I figure they can build it on the old slag heaps south of Squirrel Hill.

Getting there is half the fun (3, Informative)

peacefinder (469349) | more than 7 years ago | (#20698499)

From what I've been reading*, they amatuer rocket community is giving this challenge a lot of thought. There are development plans that look realistically capable of putting a lander on the moon for a budget close to the size of the prize. (Although the timeframe is tight.) Some of these plans call for multiple attempts with anticipation of initial failures.

It seems that one of the hardest parts of the prize is the communications problem. The prize conditions specify approximately a gigabyte of data to be transmitted from the moon, with some data gathered on-site and some carried along by the vehicle. It turns out that the data rate necessary to transmit that much data within one lunar day seems to be higher than can realistically be achieved without an aimed high-gain antenna. That in turn puts a lower bound on the size of hardware that has to be landed on the moon.

[*: On the most fasciniating list I've ever lurked.]

And the list is...? (1)

HarryCaul (25943) | more than 7 years ago | (#20698965)

You must share!

Re:And the list is...? (1)

peacefinder (469349) | more than 7 years ago | (#20699217)

I don't think it would be polite to slashdot it. Send me an e-mail.

development a robot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20699985)

You'uns write much?

RedZone failed (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 7 years ago | (#20700039)

Remember that RedZone failed to complete the first DARPA grand challenge (although they got the farthest of all competitors) and they came in second place at the second event. They are not unbeatable.

The X-Prize does not belong to Google. (1)

ndavidg (680217) | more than 7 years ago | (#20700161)

Saying "Google's X-Prize" is not correct. Much like a building or stadium that is named after a sponsor, the name and sponsor can change, but the owners remain the same. In this case, Google is the sponsor, and the X-Prize belongs to the X-Prize foundation.

Lots harder than they think. (1)

Paul Breed (1160047) | more than 7 years ago | (#20702583)

The robot is less than 10% of the work. If you put the communications on the lander you could do the whole robot part with an off the shelf RC car with new wheels and geared way down. I'd score it as follows: If you are Buying a ride to orbit: Robot 5% Communication 20% LEO to softland 70% Launcher integration 5% If you are also building a launcher: Getting to LEO 70% Softland 25% Everything else 5% I know something of what I speak I just spent a year preparing for the XPC and did not make it. (Unreasonable Rocket)

To boldly go... (1)

vimh42 (981236) | more than 7 years ago | (#20705387)

I initially read the researcher as William Shatner. Had me confused for a second.
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