IAC 2010 Wrap Up

Although there's still one day of the 2010 International Astronautical Congress remaining, the X PRIZE delegation is finished with our trip to the conference--we all have to depart for the Isle of Man and next week's Google Lunar X PRIZE Team Summit. Although we're sad to miss the final day of sessions, we can leave in good spirits, as it's been a successful conference.

For those of you who haven't yet been to an IAC, you are missing out--it's the largest and most prestigious international space conference of the year, with a great list of speakers, exhibitors, and attendees. The conference is held in a different location each year; this year's session was in Prague, Czech Republic. Start making your plans now for next year's event, which will be held in Cape Town, South Africa.

Three X PRIZErs attended this years event--Nicky Jordan, Bob Weiss, and myself--and each of us presented a paper. Additionally, the representatives of at least seven Google Lunar X PRIZE teams attended and presented. Last night, we held a session where representatives of four of those teams (Italia, FREDNET, White Label Space, and Barcelona Moon) spoke to and answered questions from an assembled group of students and young professionals. The event was fun and well attended--thanks again to the IAF's Young Professionals program for selecting the Google Lunar X PRIZE as the topic for the evening, and to the Aerospace Corporation, Boeing, and the Space Foundation for providing the food and beverage for the reception. It was excellent to have four speakers from four different nations, representing teams that all place a strong emphasis on student and young professional contributions.

The conference was large enough in scope to defy a quick blog description, especially as I get ready to depart for the airport, but a few key thoughts: first and foremost, I found the general knowledge of the Google Lunar X PRIZE to be much better in than in previous years. Not only did we have more teams here spreading the word, but I heard the Google Lunar X PRIZE mentioned in many more presentations, especially in the various Moon related threads (for obvious reasons). We're grateful to see how the international space community has really latched on to the idea of the prize, and its encouraging that so many people seem to be more or less following along with the competition and the progress of the teams.

The one thing about the prize that hasn't yet gotten full acceptance is the back-end business case for commercial lunar exploration. Our teams, obviously, believe there is one, as do we at the Foundation, our partners at Google, and our large and diverse group of expert advisors, donors, and supporters. It's understandable that there are still skeptics, though--after all, this is still a relatively new and novel concept.  Hopefully, these skeptics are open to changing their minds: there can be no doubt that there was even more skepticism about the business cases emerging from the Ansari X PRIZE and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE at the corresponding points in those program's life cycles, and I'd say both of those worked out okay.

I gave a presentation--basically a highly abridged version of my chapter in this new textbook, soon to be available at Amazon et cetera--about this exact issue of the sustainable market for commercial lunar exploration.  I don't have a recording or slides to post yet, but hope to remedy that once I'm back in the States. For now, I'll just note that the presentation seemed to make a good impression on the audience in my session, many of whom started out quite skeptical, and left considerably less so.  On a related note, I'll point out that people curious about this issue might be interested in this Commercial Lunar Transportation Study / Market Assessment Summary (PDF) performed by the Futron Corporation for NASA about a year ago, and just released to the public. I'm still digesting the reoprt myself, so I'll pass it along here without comment.

All in all, it was a successful trip to the IAC. I wish I'd gotten to see more of Prague, but what I did see of it as lovely, and the people were all quite friendly.  We're looking forward to the 2011 IAC!

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