The 21st Century Space Program

On February 1-2, the Google Lunar X PRIZE held its 3rd Team Summit at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The timing of the Team Summit coincided with the announcement of the FY2011 budget proposal on February 1, just as representatives of the entrepreneurial GLXP teams from around the world were meeting with fellow competitors, the X PRIZE Foundation, and NASA’s resident robotics experts. On Monday, as NASA Administrator Bolden articulated his vision for NASA’s future support of the commercial space industry, a perfect example of such collaboration was taking place on the campus of NASA JPL (Bolden's remarks on the 2011 budget are available here).

Here is a short video from the Team Summit, recorded by X PRIZE Foundation Chairman and CEO, Peter Diamandis:

As most are aware by now, last week's budget proposal included significant proposed changes to NASA programs, the implications of which have been heavily commented on during the past week. Adding to the conversation, Peter Diamandis contributed a post applauding the new direction for NASA on the Huffington Post:

“After 30 years of doing business the same way, NASA is finally entering the 21st century by embracing competition, capitalism and entrepreneurship... The U.S. Government doesn't build your computers, nor do you fly aboard a U.S. Government owned and operated airline. Private industry routinely takes technologies pioneered by the government and turns them into cheap, reliable and robust industries. This has happened in aviation, air mail, computers, and the Internet. It's about time that it happens in space.” (full article available here).

James Cameron, director of the film, “Avatar”, also contributed an op-ed to the Washington Post in support of the new budget and investment in commercial space:

“I applaud President Obama's bold decision for NASA to focus on building a space exploration program that can drive innovation and provide inspiration for the world. This is the path that can make our dreams in space a reality.” (full article here)

The call for additional support of commercial space companies by NASA is an important milestone for space exploration, and for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. This decision may result in increased market opportunities for the future technology and services offered by the teams, and also demonstrates confidence from NASA that private space ventures will not only be successful, but will play a significant role in the future of space exploration.

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