The Big News From Last Week

Last week saw several big announcements from two of our Google Lunar X PRIZE teams. Odyssey Moon had a couple of important press releases, and Astrobotic caused a bit of Net commotion with their mission plan announcement. Here are some details....

Odyssey Moon to Partner with NASA for Lunar Lander Development

Summary: Odyssey Moon and NASA Ames Research Center have announced a plan to adapt the Modular Common Spacecraft Bus (MCSB), a reusable lander vehicle architecture, into a micro-scale lunar lander. Odyssey Moon will reimburse NASA for the cost of tech support and intellectual property.

Why It Matters: Most of the controversy here stems from the public-private partnership that is being formed here and how it fits within the restrictions on public funding that are part of the Google Lunar X PRIZE rules. Since NASA is not providing any technology to Odyssey Moon for free, and since NASA is not restricting the sale of this technology to United States teams (OM is based in Canada and the Isle of Man), this technically does not violate any rules.

Now For The Fun Part: Check out this video of the MCSB in action.

Last Word: The MCSB is pretty cool, but how does it fare against, say, Armadillo's lunar landers? We'll have to wait and see.

LEGO Senior Director Lewis Pinault Joins Odyssey Moon Board of Advisors

Summary: Lewis Pinault, the director of LEGO's Play For Business program, has joined the board of advisors of Odyssey Moon.

Why It Matters: The Google Lunar X PRIZE is, at its core, an educational initiative. Adding LEGO to the mix is a significant step forward for both Odyssey Moon and the X PRIZE Foundation. With LEGO's international educational outreach programs in science, robotics, and engineering, we can begin to leverage the incredible potential of the Google Lunar X PRIZE for inspiring children worldwide. But it doesn't stop there either: Play For Business is a unique program designed to help corporate teams "enhance innovation and business performance."

Now For The Fun Part: Just one awesome example I dug up on YouTube of LEGOs gone wild


Astrobotic announces series of Moon landing missions, expeditions to build lunar data library

Summary: Astrobotic has announced six missions to the Moon, including their first mission, Tranquility Trek, which will win the Google Lunar X PRIZE if successful. Tranquility Trek will explore the Apollo 11 landing site. Subsequent missions will explore the Moon's north and south poles.

Why It Matters: The most significant part of this announcement is that Astrobotic will launch Tranquility Trek in May of 2010. This is the first concrete launch date set for a Google Lunar X PRIZE attempt. Furthermore, it is important to note that Astrobotic has thought far beyond simply winning the PRIZE, instead building a sustainable business model with potential for growth. Of course, their decision to explore the Apollo 11 site brings with it a vibrant debate on the ethics of exploring historical regions of the Moon.

Now For The Fun Part: Here are the Astrobotic missions outlined in their Lunar Data white paper:

astrobotic-technology-product-and-service-announcement-data-licensing.pdf (page 3 of 4).jpg

Last Word: It looks like this competition is gearing up to be one heck of a race. With Odyssey Moon and Astrobotic both making major announcements (and even setting dates), I can't wait to see how this plays out. Will a surprise challenger emerge from the ranks of teams? Will we have a David and Goliath competition? Or will these two titans duke it out for the top spot? As always, stay tuned ;)

Paolo Amoroso said...

During the Apollo 11 moonwalk the astronauts kept within 60-90 m from the LM. Everything happened within that boundary. Tranquility Base might turn out to be the easiest Apollo site to preserve: just don't get closer than 60-90 m, which is good enough for close observation.

Given the lack of a significant atmosphere, the Astrobotic rover should be able to take good pictures from that distance with a moderate focal length lens.

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