Google fund lunar x-prize

Google is offering $30 million for anyone able to land a privately funded rover on the Moon by Dec 31st 2012

space.com story

Interesting.
Especially if this becomes part of a long term strategy by Google as a serious involvement in off-planet exploration, as opposed to a one-off stunt.

Google Lunar X-Prize

I wonder if they funded that prize through an insurance annuity bet, or self-insured?

This is a big jump, since the 2004 Ansari X-Prize was for a suborbital, and the follow through on that is still in the pipeline, although if it does lead to a private suborbital or orbital tourist industry it will have been well worth the prize.

Getting a small package on the Moon is harder - the Δ v required is a factor of few higher, and the launcher will be the limiting issue, not the rover, or even the lander.

Hm, wonder if they'd be charged for telemetry if they did it successfully... to save weight you're better off with low power transmitter, but then to get bandwidth for images you'd better have a big dish on the ground.

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Space-X is offering launch discounts and the SETI Institute is offering free downlink time on the Allen Array.

Hm, well first they have to actually get a Falcon into orbit...

Allen Array will probably be working at an adequate level by then ;-)

Looks like any Rover would need a Falcon-9 - those list at $27million if-and-when they fly. They'd need a third stage for lunar orbit injection, don't think that'd be off-shelf by 2012, and they'd need a lander.

Might be doable for $100 million if it is a very lean, indeed "Heinleinesque", outfit.
Might be able to recoup the rest of the money through suitable sales of the Moon...

That would be SO much easier if "small" meant nanotechnology. The ideal payload would be the size of a bacterium. You fling to moonwards in a beam of charged buckyball derivatives. It builds rovers from regolith, solar powered. It wiggles micromirrors, to send data earthwards, which we can just detect with lasers aimed by adaptive optics.

Oh, 2012. never mind.

For the lander technology I assume they rely on the current X-prize Lunar Lander Challenge to provide that. No one made it last year, but I hear there are more contenders this year. Similarly, I assume that orbit injection stages are available in some simple form.

But while the independent technology may be commercially available outside NASA, it is one heck of an integration effort.

By Torbj�rn Lar… (not verified) on 14 Sep 2007 #permalink

Oh, and the time limit isn't 2012, that is for the full prize. IIRC latest 2015 for a sizable prize, with extensions not excluded.

By Torbjörn Larsson, OM (not verified) on 14 Sep 2007 #permalink

I don't think there are any throttlable stop/start third stages available that could provide a plausible delta vee, and fit a Falcon - I'd be interested to hear of any.
I think the Centaur's currently available are too big for the Falcon fairing.
Also way expensive.
Can an AMROSS do it, fit on a Falcon and is it cheap enough?

So, if someone builds a working lander, and the rocket offered actually flys to orbit, and they have a way to get it from GTO to the Moon, then the Allen Array will relay the signals for free?
That is a start.

I'd really like it if someone wins this one.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you can put a 20 kg payload on the Lunar surface for ~$20M. Can you do any useful research ?

Anywhere on the lunar surface?
I don't know, I think they have to have a camera, and obviously a transmitter, power supply and an actual wheeled/tracker platform with engine.
That might leave 2-3kg for a low powered instrument - maybe a lightweight mossbauer spectrograph and a medium resolution near IR spectrograph?
Do some mineralogy.

Catching up on threads.

IIRC latest 2015

Sorry, that was the end of 2014.

I think the Centaur's currently available are too big for the Falcon fairing.

Yes, the SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy (planned 2010) has a usable payload envelope of 1.86 m radius, while the Centaur seems to have 3.3-5.4 m radius.

Perhaps a heavily modified restartable Falcon 1 second stage may fit (first stage diameter 1.7 m). It is a fairly short fairing, btw.

By Torbjörn Larsson, OM (not verified) on 16 Sep 2007 #permalink