Crewed Circumlunar Flight

I've been remembering back to my early X PRIZE days a fair amount lately, but if you'll forgive me one more reminiscence (after all, we weren't blogging back in those days!)...

When I first joined X PRIZE (as an employee, rather than just a volunteer), we didn't have any on-going prizes. The Ansari X PRIZE had been won several months before, and the Lunar Lander Challenge and the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics were each still about a year from announcing. So, until work on the Lunar Lander Challenge and the X PRIZE Cup grew to be a (more-than) full time job, I got to do a lot of blue sky dreaming about potential future X PRIZEs.

In part, this was done by talking to various luminaries of space and other fields to get their opinions on what the next big space X PRIZE should be. We'd call up, for example, the CEO of a rocket company, and encourage them to be self-serving: what prize, we'd ask them, would best help your company accelerate its development and expand your capabilities?

We got a wide variety of answers to that question, as one might expect. One of my favorites, though, came former Speaker of the House and big space prize advocate Newt Gingrich. Newt was a big fan of doing an "Apollo 8" prize for a crewed circumnavigation of the Moon. I'm sure he was happy when, only a year or so later, Space Adventures began offering just such a service for $100 million, even though Space Adventures didn't have all the hardware in hand to offer such a service.

Now, recently, we've had X PRIZE board member Elon Musk talk about how his company SpaceX (a Preferred Launch Provider for the Google Lunar X PRIZE offering discounts to any competing team) might offer a crewed circumlunar service, as well.

Now, the price as reported might be a little inaccurate, but since this kind of money is way out of my range anyway, I feel comfortable saying that I for one would still love to go. I'd hope that many others, including those who actually have the means to purchase such a flight, would feel the same.

I should also note that Mr. Gingrich has continued to talk about prizes in recent times in a variety of settings. Hopefully one day, the idea of making innovation incentive prize winning tax free (which Newt often advocates) will become a reality!

mike fabio said...

Maybe this is Larry's big chance to one-up Sergey??

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