Friday Fun Day, Ignite Style

If you had 20 slides and exactly 5 minutes to say whatever you wanted about space exploration, in front of a global audience, what would you tell us?

At SpaceUp DC, you'll have the opportunity to do just that. Sign up and submit your talk proposal.
...getting outside of my comfort zone is, by definition, going to be uncomfortable! - Roz Savage, Ocean Rower

Today is Friday Fun Day!

For Friday Fun day, replace the text in the bubble. Tell us what you would tell the world about space in less than 30 words. It's like an Ignite Blurb.

Be creative! I double dog dare you.

Multi-Million Euro Research Grants for Planetary Surface Robotics: European Commission Calls for Proposals

Dr. Peter Breger of the European Commission's Space Research and Development Unit speaks at today's event
Early this morning, I headed up to the Bay Area and the campus of Stanford University for a special session put on by the European Commission and the Stanford School of Engineering's">European Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. The topic; a new call for proposals issued by the EC yesterday for space research grants. The particular reason that I was there: one of the seven specific research categories called out in the RFP as being of interest was "mobility on planetary surfaces (robotics)." Sounds like something that might be interesting to our Google Lunar X PRIZE teams, and to other readers of this blog.

First, a word about our own restrictions on government funding. We do indeed place some restrictions on government funding for our Google Lunar X PRIZE teams, in the interest of trying to make sure the technologies and institutions that emerge from the competition are economically sustainable. However, there are three key caveats to that restriction: 1) we draw a clear distinction between government as customer (good) and government as funder (not so good), 2) even in that not so good case, we consider only the government funding that supports their Google Lunar X PRIZE mission itself, not funding that may support, say, scientific research the team might undertake in addition
to tackling the Google Lunar X PRIZE mission requirements themselves, and 3) even when neither of the first two caveats apply, the amount of government funding we allow is still non-zero. We recognize that in the field of space exploration that their is a long and positive history of government funding advancing important developments, and therefore we don't want to totally disqualify teams that go (or have gone, prior to their registration in the Google Lunar X PRIZE) that route: accordingly, we do allow some government funding, but we limit it to a relatively small percentage of the total mission cost.

Given that, we'd expect that our teams might be interseted in pursuing these research grants. Today's session was essentially an introduction to the program, with a specific focus on providing information to US and other non-european entities on how they can participate.

I was tweeting the first part of the session in real time, so I'll post some of my tweets below, and then add extra detail below.

Finally made it to the european commission event--two hours after landing at SFO. Joining the session already in progress

The part of the EC hosting this session today is, in effect, a granting agency roughly analagous to the US's NSF. Offering research grants.

One category of research that will be granted: "mobility on planetary surfaces (robotics)". Non-euro orgs with euro partners can propose.

Not -every- country can participate, but looks like it is pretty close. Not subject to "geographic return"--best proposal wins.

These grants can be used to cover 50, 75, or 100% of actual costs associated w/ research, inc. overhead but not profit.

Call for proposals went out yesterday on "cordis" website. Search for FP7 SPACE. Grants can be for several million euros.

The research programs can last any amount of time. 3 years is typical. Could be a stand alone component of a larger project. #FP7SPACE

These grants seem to be for -large- consortia, eg 5 to 40 different institutions (wow!). I may have misunderstood this... #FP7SPACE

Consortia must have at least 3 European member institutions. #FP7SPACE

EC does not claim intellectual property; consortium members decide IP assignments among themselves. (BTW phone batt already dying) #FP7SPACE

(Photo to be added here once I can access my camera's memory card!)
Artwork on the wall at the part of the Stanford Faculty Club where today's event was held. Seemed appropriate for an event I was live-tweeting

You know you are having an exciting day when you've depleted your cell phone battery by 10:30 am. I'll continue the notes--and add a bit more context to those 140-character morselsof information--here.

Essentially, these grants are large, multi-million euro (as high as 8 million euro), multi year (2-4 years generally) research grants that fund most or all of the actual costs associated with a relevant research project. These grants go to large consortia of research organizations, universities, non-profits, and/or small and medium enterprises built to collaborate on said research topics. Generally, the consortia include at least five or six instutitions; at times, they've included as many as fifteen or twenty (Note: the non-native English speaker said forty, but I'm guessing that was a mistake). Although this is a European program, entities from outside of Europe are welcome to compete (Note: the list of countries from which entities can be eligible is not exactly the full world, but seemed pretty close). However, each consortium must have some European participation; to be exact, each consortium must have at least three European institutions as participants, including one who will serve as the project coordinator.

Artwork on the wall at the part of the Stanford Faculty Club where today's event was held. Seemed appropriate for an event I was live-tweeting. 

One good aspect of the requierment that each consortia's coordinator be European is that, presumably, the coordinator will be familiar with European contractual norms that may be foreign (pun intended) to entities unacustomed to working in that particular framework. Indeed, as part of the program, the participating institions will be required to submit agreements formed between each of the members of the consortium dealing with Intellectual Property rights and other topics, and will also be required to follow certain procedures such as conducting many of their contracting procedures through open, competitive bids (this caveat goes for the whole post, but especially this section: read the exact details! I'm briefly summarizing based on my understanding of today's talks. That's no substitute for you going direct to the source.). This does add a bit of red tape to the research process--but given the scope of the grants, and the fact that the European Commission does not claim the resulting intellectual property, this is probably worth the cost. Additionally, this is a foot in the door for teams that plan to do business in Europe in the future--an important strategic advantage.

I certainly hope that our Google Lunar X PRIZE teams will seriously consider these grants. Those teams that are already built as consortia of institutions and universities, especially those with a presence in Europe already--for example, White Label Space, SYNERGY MOON, ITALIA--should be well positioned to be quite competitive in pursuing these grants. The deadline for submitting these proposals is in November.

More information can be found online at the following links.

Call for Proposals
Registration Page
Participants' Portal
EC's Space Research and Development Unit

Slides from today's presentations will be posted early next week, I'm told.

Professor Ron Li from the Ohio State University presents on the Planetary Robotics VIsion Ground Processing work that he and his colleagues conducted as part of a consortium with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and several European partners. Dr. Li's lab was funded at 75% of its actual costs over a period of roughly three years. Other partners included Surrey, TU Berlin, University College London, EADS, Scisys, DLR, and CNES. The coordinator was Austria's Joaneum Research

Catching up with the Part Time Scientists

I'm having a great time guest blogging/tweeting for GLXP this week. I caught up with the Part Time Scientists team this afternoon on the Evadot podcast.

I'm struck by their attitude towards progress and their willingness to stop what they are doing to answer a question asked by a kid.

Their team blog is one of the most updated and interesting in the last few months. It's really worth checking out.

Tuesday feels left out, Bacon man to the rescue

Since the beginning of Friday Fun Day, Friday usually gets all the fun around here, and Tuesday kept calling to complain:

"I'm the boring one. Monday is the one everyone hates, Wednesday is hump day, Thursday is time for Spacevidcast and sometimes football, and Friday is fun day. Where does that leave me? I'm just boring old Tuesday".

After I talked Tuesday off of her ledge, we agreed on a temporary trial of "Tuesday Fun Day: With Bacon Man". It's like the CSI: Miami of the CSI world without the silly sunglasses.

By day, he's just an ordinary space nut...
And by night, he's Bacon Man!

You know what he really needs? A sidekick. I'm thinking Moonpie Boy...

Finally, a shop manual for your Lunar Lander

41 years ago today, the United States managed the impossible. Landing a man on the moon and returning safely to the earth became reality.

Now that the surplus lunar landers are really classified as antiques, it's time to dust off that old lander in your garage and get her rebuilt. Thankfully, Hayes publishing has just the resource you need to get started.

Whether your lander is in cherry condition and you just want to keep it running well, or you have one you found covered in dust in a warehouse in New Mexico, this manual can help you get the most out of your 1969 series lunar lander.

You'll be the talk of the town as you hover down the strip while others are stuck cruising on 4 wheels.

Get your copy from Hayes today!

Handing Over the Keys to GLXP

Exciting times are upon the X PRIZE Foundation, as we are about to do one of our favorite things: hand out several more checks for large sums of money! Starting on Wednesday, July 21st, the 15 remaining vehicles in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE will battle it out for millions of dollars in prize purses.  By the beginning of August (pending some final verification tests) we'll know what teams will claim the second $10 million X PRIZE. Pretty cool!

About half of the XPF office is clearing out and heading for Michigan this week to support the finals event, including myself. But we are extremely lucky to have one of our awesome Google Lunar X PRIZE superfans covering the channels in my absence: Mike Doornbos, of Evadot and SpaceUpDC fame. As a knowledgeable and active member of the Google Lunar X PRIZE community, I think many of you are already familiar with Mike -- but if not, don't worry, we made sure that he likes bacon and moonpies before handing him the keys to the Launch Pad, Twitter, Facebook, and the Flight Plan. So stop by and say "Howdy!" to him this week, he would love to hear from you. Thanks for helping us out, Mike!

As for me, I will return to the office on August 3rd. Expect another quick post or two from me during the next week with more details on some of the interesting things happening in the X PRIZE world...