Google Lunar X PRIZE at ISDC 2011

Last week I ventured to the "Rocket City" (Huntsville, Alabama) for the 2011 International Space Development Conference. This is an annual gathering with topics spanning the space industry; from commercial to government, near-term to far-future, rockets to robotics, and also law, art, and everything in between.

Some of the highlights this year included presentations and keynotes from future space hotelier Robert Bigelow, Jeff Greason of XCOR, George Whitesides of Virgin Galactic, and many others.  I also saw several interesting talks about space policy, the NASA COTS program, and of course the Google Lunar X PRIZE panel, moderated by Michael Doornbos of

The Google Lunar X PRIZE panel took place first thing on Saturday morning, featuring team members from FREDNET, Omega Envoy, JURBAN, Penn State Lunar Lion Team, Part Time Scientists, and the Rocket City Space Pioneers.

As I listened to the teams respond to questions such as, "Which of you will win and why?" and "Why is this competition important?",  it was easy to admire and appreciate the individuality that each team contributed to the panel. In my opinion, this represents one of best aspects of the Google Lunar X PRIZE -- the fact that collectively, all teams are pursuing the common goal of sending commercial vehicles to the Moon, yet individually each team brings unique approaches, perspectives, culture and values to this competition. Represented on the ISDC panel was a range of interests; from an open source non-profit team, to university-based teams, to the "corporate team", to a team which seems encompass aspects of all of these. And despite the differences in opinion on how to accomplish the task laid out in front of them, there was an overlying sense of camaraderie, which is great to see. Tim Pickens of the Rocket City Space Pioneers stated in his recent blog post, " It is always good to meet and see the competition. They are all good guys and we see them as winners, but as second-place winners. :)". Wes Faler of the Part Time Scientists alluded to this as well in a recent post recapping the conference. I highly recommend reading both posts. [Update: PSU Lunar Lions just added a post as well]  

Overall, I was extremely happy to have the opportunity to meet new GLXP team members and catch up with those that I haven't seen in awhile, as well as take part in great hallway discussions about the competition and beyond. I can say that without a doubt, the teams have some exciting things on the horizon (from both technical and outreach standpoints) -- and this competition will certainly be heating up in the coming year.

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