I had thought about relating a story involving a telescope, a frosty night and a painful injury as my first blog post, but the commentary in the blogosphere this week has raised a few questions and this seems like a good place to address them, even though they may not be as funny as the aforementioned story.
First up, I was thrilled to learn from one commentator that I am part of some deep dark conspiracy. Fabulous! I always wanted to wear a long raincoat and drink coffee in the back of dingy cafes.
Or stated another way, does the fact that I know and have worked with people in the space community before, some of whom are at the X PRIZE Foundation and others who are involved in Google Lunar X PRIZE teams, mean that I can’t run this prize fairly?
Not at all. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that someone coming in to run this competition would have zero existing connections. Indeed, I've used just one photo I have - from quite some years ago - showing that, yes, I know a few folks. (Google Lunar X PRIZE goodies to the first person to name a) the event and b) all the folks in the photo!) Our ‘NewSpace’ community is a small one. Any regular space conference attendee will attest to the fact that you see many of the usual suspects every year!
In anticipation of exactly this, the X PRIZE Foundation has very solid conflict of interest guidelines that prevent me from being part of a team or having a financial interest in a team. Further, they demand disclosure of all relevant relationships and friendships, and they expect me to exercise professional behavior at all times and be aware of what is appropriate in terms of, for example, sharing information. This type of situation is no problem to anyone who is used to working in a professional manner and with other professionals.
For example, this extends to insuring that any Team can use the services of an airship company I am a shareholder of under the same commercial terms as any other team.
For non-employees of the X PRIZE Foundation, such as Trustees and Supporters, there are also strong conflict of interest rules. As Cristin Dorgelo stated in response to a commentator raising the issue about an X PRIZE Foundation Trustee who was also involved with a Google Lunar X PRIZE team, there are disclosure and recusing requirements which mean that anyone who has an interest in a competing team has to leave the room when the Google Lunar X PRIZE is discussed. Trustees and supporters with interest in teams in our competitions have no access to insider information or any influence on operational decisions.
And just as with the NewSpace industry, I don’t think its reasonable to assume that there won’t be overlap when it comes to individuals. The community of passionate people who would support the goals of the X PRIZE Foundation and get involved in promoting the concept of “Revolution through Competition” is also quite small and connected. It is not surprising then that some Trustees and supporters have involvement in teams who are doing what they also believe in.
Finally, if all these safeguards weren’t enough, in the end, the prize will be judged against objective criteria that are already set and by a team of independent judges. So unless you’re part of the group that believes against all evidence that humans never landed on the Moon in 1969, then presumably you’ll believe that the transmissions coming from our nearest neighbor do belong to the winning spacecraft!
I’m sorry if none of this is as interesting as a conspiracy theory, as I enjoy them as much as anyone. I also know that people who really believe there's something going on will believe that in spite of all evidence and statements made to the contrary, so having said my piece, I'll stop now.
Next Up: Much Ado about the MTA…