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Google Lunar X Prize
Betelgeuze
post Apr 12 2008, 03:36 PM
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1969 Is not that long ago (heh and I'm only 21), I can understand if the next generations find this place interesting to revisit but this is hardly history. We have pictures and movies of the first steps on the moon, whatís a robot going to show us that those existing movies and pictures don't show already?! The place still looks exactly the same as it did 50 years ago, and you'll get exactly the same pictures as we did 50 years ago, the only difference is that they are taken by a robot instead of a human.
I agree thatís its a very important 'historic' place and Iím sure people would want to revisit it in the future, but whatís the point of revisiting it so early? Itís the only historic place that will stay the same for ages; I want to see something new now that we finally return!
We've been waiting more than 50 year for the next moon landing and we are aiming for the exact same spot to see the exact same things? How crazy is that?

Tbh I would be a lot more excited to see some never before seen landscapes; mountains, gigantic craters, strange rock formations, ice(?!),...


QUOTE
That's why we have museums like the Smithsonian and Natural History Museum

Exactly my point; if I want to see some human history I go to a museum or just look around me. If we go to the moon with a million dollar robotic mission I want to see something new, something 'non-human'.
We go to an unexplored alien world to look for 'human remains', oh the irony...

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Phil Stooke
post Apr 12 2008, 04:13 PM
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I think this is missing the point. Look at Astrobotic's plan; land near Apollo 11 and look at it (there are other things they could look at in the area too - Surveyor 5, Ranger 8) - then drive 300 km to Apollo 16 and look at that. There is lots of new territory along the way to look at in addition to the historic sites. That's why rovers are part of it.

As for the business to support future flights, a big one is just data. Instead of NASA flying landers and rovers, they fly their instruments (maybe as Discovery Missions of Opportunity) on a commercial lunar service. This is Odyssey Moon's business plan, with commercial add-ons like Celestis as well, but a minor component. The Discovery MOO guidelines have, I understand, just been adapted to allow MOOs on commercial missions.

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mcaplinger
post Apr 12 2008, 07:05 PM
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QUOTE (imipak @ Apr 12 2008, 06:41 AM) *
Anyone know any other possibilities? These don't look like they could raise 7 or 8 figure sums sad.gif

If there is any possible way to make money winning the Google Lunar X Prize, I can't think of it. Then again, I didn't get rich in the dotcom boom, either.

Where's D.D. Harriman when you need him?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._D._Harriman


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Phil Stooke
post Apr 12 2008, 08:23 PM
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It's not about making money - nor was the Ansari X Prize. It's just a subsidy, from that point of view. But also, by bringing in big names, it attracts publicity which makes sponsorships or other deals more feasible.

Phil


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Stu
post Apr 12 2008, 08:32 PM
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QUOTE (Betelgeuze @ Apr 12 2008, 04:36 PM) *
1969 Is not that long ago (heh and I'm only 21), I can understand if the next generations find this place interesting to revisit but this is hardly history.


Trust me, to an 8 year old kid, Apollo is ANCIENT history! wink.gif And they're the guys we've got to inspire and excite and find a way to consider entering technology and engineering as careers if we're to leave footprints on any other body in the solar system before the next ice age, or send sample return missions to Mars, balloons to Titan and drills to Europa...


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Betelgeuze
post Apr 12 2008, 10:47 PM
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If pictures and movies from 1969 don't inspire them I'm not sure how new pictures of the same thing are going to inspire them instead. Hell, I don't think 8 year olds will be very excited about a robotic mission to the moon, knowing that humans did it 50 years ago.(that's actually depressing unsure.gif)
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mcaplinger
post Apr 12 2008, 11:12 PM
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QUOTE (Phil Stooke @ Apr 12 2008, 01:23 PM) *
It's not about making money - nor was the Ansari X Prize.

Sure, but you could argue that the suborbital tourism market was something that might make financial sense. It's far less clear to me that there is any source of revenue that could make commercial lunar missions on the scale of the GLXP worthwhile: the NASA data buy idea has been discussed in many contexts over the years and hasn't gone anywhere in any of them that I can think of.

As the saying goes, "the best way to make a small fortune in aerospace is to start with a big fortune."

But as noted, I could be wrong smile.gif


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Greg Hullender
post Apr 13 2008, 12:10 AM
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QUOTE (Betelgeuze @ Apr 12 2008, 03:47 PM) *
I don't think 8 year olds will be very excited about a robotic mission to the moon, knowing that humans did it 50 years ago.


Kids definitely won't be excited if they perceive that the adults around them seem more interested in preserving the old stuff on the moon than they are in discovering new things there. Or even building things there.

--Greg
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Stu
post Apr 13 2008, 07:07 AM
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QUOTE (Greg Hullender @ Apr 13 2008, 01:10 AM) *
Kids definitely won't be excited if they perceive that the adults around them seem more interested in preserving the old stuff on the moon than they are in discovering new things there. Or even building things there.

--Greg


I have to respectfully disagree, based on 30 years' front-of-classroom experience Greg. Many of the kids I've talked to in that time have been fascinated by the idea of "Museums on the Moon" because they're familiar with the concept and aim of preserving the past so it can be used as a reference. They're dragged around - sorry, taken to smile.gif - museums quite often on school trips, so they know that it is generally felt important in society to ensure that "old things" of significance are preserved and protected. Surely, when we go to so much effort to preserve Roman pots, Greek coins and Egyptian mummies, wrecking an Apollo landing site would send out a message to kids that it wasn't such an important place, or event, after all..?

Besides, this isn't about preservation at the expense of exploration. No-one is suggesting for a moment that the Moon shouldn't be explored or built on; we're just saying that in the particular case of these rovers, they shouldn't be allowed to disturb, more than absolutely necessary, the Apollo landing sites, which are scientifically, historically and culturally significant. Think of it this way: if someone suggested to you removing all the barriers and guard rails in the Smithsonian to allow people to run their grubby, scratching hands all over the Kitty Hawk Flyer, and ice-cream and Coke-stained kids to climb over and into the Eagle capsule, would that be acceptable? No. There'd be absolute hell on if anyone suggested that. So I can't imagine why anyone would be happy to sit back and see the Apollo landing sites ruined either.

As others have pointed out there's a whole lotta Moon to explore - and build on - and I'm sure the vast majority of people here are in favour of lunar exploration and exploitation as soon as possible. But that exploration doesn't have to mean the desecration of the past.

I think the Google rovers project is a fantastic idea, with the potential to inspire a lot of kids, and I've already been in touch with one team about how I can incorporate their plans in my Outreach work to inspire kids about lunar exploration in particular and space exploration in general. But personally I'd be gutted if any of the rovers were allowed to tear around an Apollo landing site like the General Lee. There's no scientific benefit to be gained from that, not with the high-magnification, high-definition cameras available today. Here's my idea: land nearby, drive a bit closer, take your pictures of the LEM descent stage and rovers and flags from a respectable distance, get a killer front page shot of Earth shining above an Apollo landing site, then go look at new stuff, show us exciting landscapes and scenes we haven't seen before. It's not rocket science. Oh, okay, it is rocket science, but it's common sense too... smile.gif


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Stu
post Apr 13 2008, 07:28 AM
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QUOTE (Betelgeuze @ Apr 12 2008, 11:47 PM) *
If pictures and movies from 1969 don't inspire them I'm not sure how new pictures of the same thing are going to inspire them instead. Hell, I don't think 8 year olds will be very excited about a robotic mission to the moon, knowing that humans did it 50 years ago.(that's actually depressing unsure.gif)


You'd be surprised. The difference is it's something we ARE doing now, not something that happened before they were born, when the world was a funny place with funny-looking cars, all the men wore white shirts and ties and the women wore horn-rimmed glasses and kids rolled hoops down the road with sticks and raced twigs down rivers... wink.gif

Seriously tho, I have been discussing future lunar exploration plans with kids in schools and they - some of them at least, I'm not claiming all - are fascinated by the idea of people going back to the Moon and exploring Mars one day, but they're also interested in rovers, on the Moon or Mars, because basically they're gadgets, and gadgets are cool. The kids have their own robots at home and school, and are familiar with the concepts of remote control and navigation in a way we weren't when we were at school. They know all about webcams, and satellites, and know that putting all those things together could allow us to "roam" the Moon remotely as if we were there, but without having to go there in person... and THAT'S the depressing thing, because kids today don't seem to have that adventurous streak. They're growing up in a cotton-wool wrapped, politically-correct, risk-avoiding environment where Health and Safety rules everything and it's not allowed to climb trees, stride across rivers or even, believe it or not, play Conkers or throw snowballs at breaktime. They have no modern explorer heroes to look up to or follow in the footsteps of. Modern astronauts come across to an 8 year old as glorified truck drivers or construction engineers. They don't GO anywhere.

So, my tack on this is to tell them that while the eventual aim is to send people back to the Moon, and on to Mars, that wil, and can, only happen, once we've studied their potential homes robotically, and made sure that those environments are reasonably safe to reach and live in. They accept that, I've found. But the unpalatable truth is we are ANOTHER generation away from sending people to Mars, and a good decade away from sending people back to the Moon, so today's kids are in a kind of limbo between two epic programs. But at least they will get to see the things shown on the fancy NASA CGI animations actually happen, unlike many of us here I fear... but that's a discussion for another place and time, I know.


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Betelgeuze
post Apr 13 2008, 11:18 AM
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I've never been in front of a classroom talking about space exploration, but Iím not sure I can agree with all the things you say. I honestly canít believe kids are more excited about robotic mission than human missions. If thatís so, why arenít the 2 mars rovers doing their trick? I remember seeing studies that showed that kids are far less interested in space-related things now. If itís correct what you say, we should be seeing the opposite now because we have never had so many great robotic missions at the same time.
I can understand your point about kids being familiar and more excited about robots that before, they are after all becoming part of our lives but still...
Media is also very important for kids nowadays; they have TV, movies and games. Sc-fi is an important theme and most of the time itís about 'humans' exploring the universe, if robots show up they are most of the time the 'evil' guys (Matrix, BSG, terminator,...). Iím not sure kids like the fact that robots will replace humans when it comes to space exploration.

Kids who are really interested in space probably have seen a lot of pictures from the Apollo missions. For me (and for those kids) it would be the first moon landing during my lifetime and I would be very disappointed to see the exact same things Iíve seen on all those pictures and movies from 1969.
So IMO kids who are interested in space will be disappointed, kids who are not interested in space just don't care; its a far-from-bed show 'with robots exploring a world far far away where people once walked but never returned'....
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djellison
post Apr 13 2008, 11:29 AM
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QUOTE (Betelgeuze @ Apr 13 2008, 12:18 PM) *
I honestly canít believe kids are more excited about robotic mission than human missions. I


Why does it have to be one or the other? They might, just maybe, be excited about both. My experience matches Stu.

You keep saying it's the 'same imagery' from the Apollo Era. It really really isn't. We're now talking HDTV colour movies from the surface of the moon ( never seen before ) and surface imagery of an abandoned Apollo site ( never seen before ).

And there's the bits of the moon between landing sites that we've never seen before in any way.

Also - there is the scientific bonus of visiting those sites that have a ground truth for calibration.

Doug
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ugordan
post Apr 13 2008, 11:36 AM
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QUOTE (Betelgeuze @ Apr 13 2008, 01:18 PM) *
For me (and for those kids) it would be the first moon landing during my lifetime and I would be very disappointed to see the exact same things I’ve seen on all those pictures and movies from 1969.

I, on the other hand, would be thrilled by the fact this kind of event happened during my time, even if it were an exact copy of the Apollo landings back then. This would be something I could relate to and say I lived through. It wouldn't be an event from the history books anymore. You can grasp the fact those old landings did take place from school books, but emotionally (and this is what probably matters in inspiring future generations), seeing something like that happen live is something completely different. I don't think we should underestimate the impact that fact alone would make.

This is the sort of thing that makes Pathfinder and the MERs, Cassini/Huygens, etc. much more real to me than Voyagers and Vikings were, even if they were the ones actually pushing the ultimate frontiers.


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Stu
post Apr 13 2008, 11:48 AM
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QUOTE (Betelgeuze @ Apr 13 2008, 12:18 PM) *
I've never been in front of a classroom talking about space exploration, but Iím not sure I can agree with all the things you say. I honestly canít believe kids are more excited about robotic mission than human missions.


I think we're actually on the same side here, because if you please read my post again, I didn't say they were smile.gif I said they were excited about robotic missions because they can identify with the technology. They're just as fascinated by manned missions, but when, being honest, I tell them that they are a long way off it brings home to them that, for the moment at least, robots are the only show in town. Sad, but true.

I have never, ever, in any of my talks told kids that robots have replaced, or will replace, humans. Human space exploration always has been and will remain my passion. So I take great care to put robots in the right context - i.e. we don't know enough about the long term effects of space exploration on the human body or psyche, and don't have the right "kit", to allow us to fire people off to the Moon again or Mars yet, but those things will come, and when we do boy will we see some great sights! But let's be honest: men and women ain't going to be landing on the rolled edge of Shackleton crater until the whole place has been thoroughly mapped by rovers and landers. There's no point telling kids - or anyone - otherwise.

The Lunar Google rovers could - if handled properly, and operated with dignity and respect - be the catalyst for a revival of interest in "space" amongst kids, as long as we make it clear that they are precursors to manned expeditions, not substitutes for them. There's a lot of scientific potential with them - studies of rocks and minerals - as well as the potential for great Outreach imagery too. I worry that there'll be too much emphasis placed on imaging Apollo sites simply because of the financial rewards such images could bring. As you rightly say, there's a lot more Moon to see up there! If the goal simply becomes Land, Take Apollo Hardware Picture, Count the Money, well, the whole thing will be a waste of time. But if Google Rovers do more, if they take amazing images of other sites, if they return useful scientific data, if they flood the media with lunar images, then they really could make a difference. I'm looking forward to "using" them in my talks, but never, ever, will I prioritise wheels and tracks over boots and gloves, no matter how much I adore Spirit and Oppy.

Hmmm, we're getting a bit off track here I think; this started off as a discussion about the merits of preserving Apollo landing sites and seems to have morphed into an old faithful robots vs humans discussion. Easily done, but I apologise if it was my fault.


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Greg Hullender
post Apr 13 2008, 03:25 PM
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QUOTE (Stu @ Apr 12 2008, 11:07 PM) *
I have to respectfully disagree, based on 30 years' front-of-classroom experience Greg. Many of the kids I've talked to in that time have been fascinated by the idea of "Museums on the Moon" because they're familiar with the concept and aim of preserving the past so it can be used as a reference.

This is a place where I'd expect to see a big difference between British and US school kids, though -- and not just because you have more interesting museums, having 10x as much history to put in them. :-)

--Greg
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