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Google Lunar X Prize
Phil Stooke
post Mar 28 2008, 08:53 PM
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Am I completely out of it, or is there no GLXP thread on here? I couldn't find one. Anyway, things are moving on it, so I thought we ought to have one.

For the record, I just turned down my second invitation to join a team. I'm staying as an interested observer on this - for now, anyway.

There is a forum at the GLXP site as well as team info. There are a lot of people with half-baked ideas of how to go about it. The real professionals are not doing much on the forum, just working behind the scenes.

At LPSC two weeks ago, Bob Richards of Odyssey Moon invited people to propose instruments to carry on their rover - targeted to a pyroclastic deposit, probably Rima Bode or Sulpicius Gallus. And I see they have now signed an agreement to carry Celestis's lunar burials to the Moon. Richards will be here next week, and I'll be spending some time with him.

This whole thing is going to be interesting.

Phil


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djellison
post Mar 28 2008, 09:26 PM
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I remember discussing it - but it must have been elsewhere.

I'm really looking forward to the creativity that comes out of this. However, the Google cash isn't enough, imho, to do the mission in full. As a result, there needs to be some commercial return (not insignificant commercial return) and I don't know where that will come from or what it will mean for the science that may or may not get done.

With the Ansari X-Prize, there was a world of commercial sub-orbital lobs to tap into, with a lot of people prepared to pay a lot of money. I'm not sure there's money to be made in small scale lunar rovers ( unless ESA/NASA/JAXA start paying people to do them - and the spending of too much governmental money outside of the nations in question isn't going to go down too well ).

And - can anyone figure out a way to get to the surface with just a Falcon 1 sized LEO payload?

Doug
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ugordan
post Mar 28 2008, 09:30 PM
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QUOTE (Phil Stooke @ Mar 28 2008, 09:53 PM) *
Am I completely out of it, or is there no GLXP thread on here? I couldn't find one.

Is it this one?


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Phil Stooke
post Apr 11 2008, 04:38 PM
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I've been thinking about the Google Lunar X Prize in the context of protecting historic sites. Transorbital, Inc. had to guarantee its end-of-mission impact (for the Trailblazer orbiter) would not harm old sites, as a condition of getting government licenses to fly the mission. GLXP specifically encourages people to land close to and visit old sites. Are these incompatible?

I have made this map of the Apollo 17 site to suggest otherwise. A rover could land in one of two relatively smooth areas near the LM and drive to within a few tens of meters of the LM (and the ALSEP just to its west) without even crossing old LRV tracks and footprints. A very accurate landing system could find landing sites just SW or N of the LM and be within the GLXP minimum traverse distance of 500 m as well.

I argue that most or all teams will need sponsorships and potential sponsors will not want the bad publicity that would come from and damage to the sites - purists might interpret that as including driving over old footprints.

Phil

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Stu
post Apr 11 2008, 06:53 PM
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Excellent post, and excellent work Phil. Preserving the historic nature and integrity of the Apollo landing sites really is something I feel strongly about, and is something that the Google people will need to sort out before hardware starts landing. I've been emailing them about it already, and although they do appreciate it is an "issue", there's a long way to go yet.

Some people might think it would be no big deal if Apollo footprints and rover tracks were disturbed by Google rovers. I disagree. These are important and historic sites, and need to be preserved for as long as possible. There will almost certainly come a day when these landing sites are visited, for genuine and scientifically sound reasons (to see how material there has been affected by long exposure to the lunar environment perhaps?), but those visits should be made by people, not robots. The only visitors allowed near to these "Apollo Heritage" sites should be trained professional astronauts who are fully aware of the significance of the sites and the hardware at them, who will make every effort to respect the sites and do as little damage to them as possible. I honestly shudder at the thought of little rovers scudding and scuffing around in the shadows of the lunar landers, obliterating the astronauts' footprints and kicking up dust everywhere.

And if that sounds a bit "rock huggy" and sentimental, or over-romantic, then fine, hands up, guilty as charged, because I seriously believe that a thousand years from now, when there are people living on Mars, Enceladus, Europa, Titan and planets orbiting other stars too perhaps, those people will look back at us, through the wrong end of the telescope of time, and will either praise us for preserving and protecting some of the most significant and - I hesitate to use the word, but I will - sacred sites in human history, or think us pitiful for allowing them to be ruined.



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Betelgeuze
post Apr 11 2008, 09:11 PM
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Also the moon is so big, why land on a place weve already seen while there are so many exciting things we haven't seen yet?!
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climber
post Apr 11 2008, 09:18 PM
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QUOTE (Betelgeuze @ Apr 11 2008, 11:11 PM) *
Also the moon is so big, why land on a place weve already seen while there are so many exciting things we haven't seen yet?!

Because it's there...


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Betelgeuze
post Apr 11 2008, 11:17 PM
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Not sure I understand what you mean with that.

Whats there?
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djellison
post Apr 11 2008, 11:30 PM
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There's the whole of antarctica to visit - so why do so many like to visit Shackletons hut.

Why does anyone go to see the Bell X1, why take pictures of the empty lander from MER like the Lion King pan, why visit the Apollo landing sites...

It's a place of ultimate historical significance.

Or - to flip your argument - when there's so much of the moon to choose, why not choose the site the public will be most interested in from a revenue generating perspective.

Doug
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ElkGroveDan
post Apr 11 2008, 11:38 PM
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It kind of makes you wonder how in the future such sites might be protected and at the same time be available for people to experience the history and the wonder of it all. I'm guessing some kind of acrylic dome structure surrounding the site where people might be able to walk across a transparent floor 10 or 20 feet above it all.

But who knows what technology will bring in the next fifty or a hundred years?


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Phil Stooke
post Apr 11 2008, 11:50 PM
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An even better reason than 'because it's there' - because GLXP will pay several million bucks extra if you do.

Phil


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stevesliva
post Apr 11 2008, 11:53 PM
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QUOTE (Betelgeuze @ Apr 11 2008, 07:17 PM) *
Not sure I understand what you mean with that.

Whats there?

Given the name "climber" I'd assume that he was quoting George Mallory's justification for climbing Mt. Everest. rolleyes.gif
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Stu
post Apr 12 2008, 07:28 AM
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QUOTE (Betelgeuze @ Apr 11 2008, 10:11 PM) *
Also the moon is so big, why land on a place weve already seen while there are so many exciting things we haven't seen yet?!


Because somewhere in our DNA there's an urge to see places, people and things that we have heard about, been affected by, and attribute significance to. That's why we have museums like the Smithsonian and Natural History Museum; that's why we have "Pioneer Cabins" to look around; that's why we will drive hundreds or thousands of miles to see sections of Hadrian's Wall, the Oregon Trail tracks, or abandoned launch sites at KSC; that's why we go to art galleries to see famous paintings in person instead of just looking at them on t'internet. Looking at - better still, touching - something "famous" we've heard about makes it more real to us somehow, connects us to it and our own past, too.

I think this was beautifully shown in the Star Trek film FIRST CONTACT, when Picard and Data find the very first warp drive starship, the Phoenix, in Zeffram Cochrane's missile silo. To Data, lacking emotion, lacking a sense of history or occasion, it's just a spacecraft from his databanks... but to Picard, it's THE PHOENIX, the FIRST STARSHIP, the one that opened up the Galaxy to mankind and altered the course of history.

[Picard puts his hand on the Phoenix]

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: It's a boyhood fantasy... I must have seen this ship hundreds of times in the Smithsonian but I was
never able to touch it.

Lieutenant Commander Data: Sir, does tactile contact alter your perception of the Phoenix?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Oh, yes! For humans, touch can connect you to an object in a very personal way, make it seem more real.


I know that's just a movie, and it's a fantasy story, but it rings so true, doesn't it? Well, maybe not for everyone here, but for most, I'm sure. I'm certain many people here have visited the Smithsonian or other museums to see hardware from past space missions, because they want to see those pieces of history with their own eyes, and not just on pictures. I'm also sure many people here have waited (im)patiently in their gardens or on their doorsteps to watch the ISS going over on a clear night. Why bother, when the net is full of hi-res pics taken during shuttle missions? Because you can't beat seeing something with your own eyes and establishing a connection with it.

Which is why people want to see images of Apollo hardware now, and will go there to see it in person one day in the future, from a distance, under diamond sheeting, or whatever. Not just to wreck once and for all the arguments of the Moon Conspiracy nutters, but because that will link us to it personally. Right now, Apollo is almost considered "ancient history" by many people, especially kids who - rightly, I think, given the current state of manned space exploration - have a hard time believing we actually went to the Moon in those days of black and white television and funny haircuts. Check out the "Space Exploration" section on Amazon and you'll see one Apollo book after another, page after page of them. It's history, right there with the Victorian Era, Egyptians and Knights and Castles.

So, yes, you're right, there's a lot more of the Moon to see than the Apollo landing sites. I can imagine standing in the shadow of the Straight Wall and watching blazing sunlight slide down it as dawn breaks, or gazing across Copernicus crater from its rim, marvelling at the mountains looming up from its centre... but the Apollo 11 landing site is unique in the history of mankind as being the place where human beings first set foot on another world. In the future there'll be similar "First Landing" sites on Mars, Europa, Proxima Centauri B1 or whatever, and a thousand other worlds, but there'll only ever be one "Tranquility Base". Who wouldn't want to see the footprints of the first human being in history to walk on another planet?

smile.gif


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nprev
post Apr 12 2008, 01:13 PM
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QUOTE (Stu @ Apr 12 2008, 12:28 AM) *
In the future there'll be similar "First Landing" sites on Mars, Europa, Proxima Centauri B1 or whatever, and a thousand other worlds, but there'll only ever be one "Tranquility Base". Who wouldn't want to see the footprints of the first human being in history to walk on another planet?


Terrific, very moving post, Stu!

Yeah, I'm more than convinced that nothing & nobody should go near at least the Apollo 11 site--and maybe all the landing sites--except historians and preservationists to set up a proper viewing environment as EGD proposed. These places have the same significance as the unknown locales where our distant ancestors first set foot on the other continents of Earth beyond Africa.

Actually, even more: Neil Armstrong's first step is at the same level as the first step (or drag, or hop, or whatever) of the first ocean creature to venture onto land. It's damn hard to overstate the importance of preserving it.


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imipak
post Apr 12 2008, 02:41 PM
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QUOTE (nprev @ Apr 12 2008, 01:13 PM) *
Neil Armstrong's first step is at the same level as the first step (or drag, or hop, or whatever) of the first ocean creature to venture onto land.


I humbly submit that ~500m years gives us a lot of perspective about the significance of animal life leaving the oceans - a lot more than 35 or 40 years gives us on Apollo. In another half a billion years posterity, if there is one, will doubtless thank us for leaving the landing sites as they were when the ascent modules lifted off.

Referring back to Doug's earlier comment about the funds needed for a successful mission being more than the prize money: what options are there for raising additional commercial funding for a GLXP project?

- Planetary Society-style "fly your name to the moon"
- Kaguya-style sponsorship, funded by subscription access to video eye-candy
- straightforward "picture of your corporate logo on the lunar surface" sponsorship

Anyone know any other possibilities? These don't look like they could raise 7 or 8 figure sums sad.gif


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