Friday, January 18, 2008

Space Is The Place

‘Ever said to yourself, “If I could get a hold of $10 million, I’d solve world hunger, the energy crisis, or a disease?” What about $15 million dollars to provide safe and affordable outer space travel? The X Prize Foundation is doing just that. Teaming with Google Corp, the X Prize Foundation offers a $30 million cash award to the first two privately funded teams to land and rove a robotic craft on the moon’s surface. This competition is the Google Lunar X Prize. Private firms, nonprofits, and schools around the globe are encouraged to apply through the Google Lunar X Prize Web site. The prize was announced September 13, 2007. On December 7, 2007, Odyssey Moon became the first team to register for the competition.

Santa Monica-based X Prize Foundation was formed in 1995 with the belief that individuals and private entities can solve major issues affecting humankind without government involvement. Though necessary, bureaucracy tends to slow progress. Rather, the foundation advances “revolution through competition’ to find solutions to accessing space, solving health compromises, transportation, education and energy sources and generation. The foundation is a kind of think tank with bank. Its board of trustees, major donors and management team analyze major global quality-of-life issues that are caught up in bureaucratic quagmires, misperception or lack of attention. People like MIT’s Jeffrey Shames, Google’s Larry Page and movie producer Robert Weiss populate the board.

Google Lunar X Prize follows a 2004 space travel competition called Ansari X Prize. The Ansari competition resulted in advancement in personal space flight where price and risk are lowered but speed improved. Google Lunar X promises travel to and industrial development of the moon. By industrial development it’s meant getting the moon’s natural resources and using them to generate energy—solar power collectors made from lunar material—or drive space missions throughout our solar system and beyond. The Google Lunar X competition runs through December 31, 2014.

The world will watch the launch, landing and roving of the future competition winners through the Web site The Web site is fascinating. Go online to watch the Moon 2.0 video; register a team; get competition guidelines; and join online forums. Teams may connect with preferred partners like Universal Space Network, Seti Institute and SpaceX who offer significant discounts on communication and vehicles.

Did you know there’s Lunar Legacy promotion attached to this X Prize? People upload their digital photos and messages to a gallery. Much later, these items will be on the rover that travels on the moon to be left on the moon. Is this legacy or waste? What do you think of space travel or excavating the moon for its natural resources?

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