Lunar Water

Yesterday, in celebration of the LCROSS water discovery, Google put up a Google Doodle with a LCROSS theme. If you click on it you get search results on the water news. The Doodle still up this morning. I'm not sure if the Doodles are based on UTC time or not always up exactly 1 day. In case this one is gone by the time you read this, you can see what it looks like here:

Google doodle: water found on the moon by Nasa -

Doodle 4 Google - Google - This is the 2009 student contest with the theme "What I Wish for the World". You can see the winner and finalist art there.

Water Found on Moon, Researchers Say - New York Times

A Wet Moon Is Hot Once Again - NASA Watch:

... Meanwhile, word has it that NASA is now looking to match Google's $30 million pledge to the Google Lunar X Prize - and that Google may up their ante as well.

These would be interesting developments if they happen. I've thought for a long time that NASA and the world's other space agencies should make the most of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, but my concept for how they should do that is some or all of the following (and please note, Launch Pad readers, that I'm a guest blogger and these are just my opinions - I have nothing to do with NASA or Google or X PRIZE Foundation policy-making, nor do I know how seriously to take the "looking into" and "may" phrases in the NASA Watch excerpt):

  • make serious moves to buy services from teams that demonstrate lunar capabilities the space agency can use
  • offer prizes that "fit" with the Google Lunar X PRIZE in the sense that similar components might be used to get to the Moon or operate once there, like non-mobile landers, regolith excavators, or ISRU demonstrators
  • offer additional bonus prizes or augment existing bonus prizes
  • offer a 3rd place prize and/or larger 2nd place prize
  • see the first bullet again, and again
I'd hesitate to add to the main prize, simply because that might encourage more high-cost systems. However, without knowing details of teams' fundraising efforts, I could certainly understand that even there a recalibration might be in order considering the global economic setbacks that have happened since the original Google Lunar X PRIZE plan.

It will be interesting to see how the LCROSS results feed into the decision-making process related to the Augustine Committee "Moon First" and "Flexible Path" options. My take is that the Augustine options really aren't "pure" - they have "off-ramps". Flexible Path has an "off-ramp" using commercial participation to help get astronauts to the Moon's surface. It also starts with trips to lunar orbit and Earth-Moon Lagrange points. Those initial destinations strike me as being all about lunar observations, lunar telerobotics, and space infrastructure for lunar and deep space access. The space infrastructure could even include refueling nodes that could use propellant derived from Earth or lunar resources.

It seems to me that both "Moon First" and "Flexible Path" need ambitious lunar robotics efforts.

Briefs: SpaceX protests USAF launch contract; CCDev update - RLV News - The first part of this concerns the launcher for LADEE, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer orbiter.

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