Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams Call for Science Payloads
|Team Puli’s Rover Courtesy of Team Puli|
The race for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is creating science opportunities for European lunar researchers. Four teams competing for the competition presented their plans at the European Lunar Symposium in Berlin. Representatives from Hungary’s Team Puli, Italy’s AMALIA mission, and European members of Team FREDNET and Synergy Moon have invited the 170 lunar scientists attending the meeting to come up with science payloads that could be carried by their rovers and landers.
The Google Lunar X PRIZE challenges a privately-funded team to successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface, explore at least 500 meters and transmit high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so can claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is one of three active competitions from the X PRIZE Foundation, a non-profit organization that creates and manages global, incentivized competitions.
“The Google Lunar X PRIZE offers real opportunities for science on the Moon,” said Alex Hall, Senior Director of the Google Lunar X PRIZE. “High-resolution imaging is a core part of the prize, and there’s much we can find out from images alone, but there are many possible small experiments that our teams could also potentially carry that would allow lunar scientists to get data that they might otherwise have to wait years to get on a government-funded mission. Scientists here at the European Lunar Symposium raised a variety of exciting ideas, from radio antennae to X-ray spectroscopes! We’ve also had one institute offer to open up its hardware testing facilities to teams in exchange for carrying instrumentation. The level of interest has been very exciting.”
The first European Lunar Symposium has been organized under the umbrella of the NASA Lunar Science Institute’s European node network in response to a global surge of interest in lunar exploration. The meeting brings together the European scientific community interested in various aspects of exploration of the Moon and lunar resources, as well as lunar experts from around the world.
Dr. Mahesh Anand of The Open University, who leads the UK node of the NASA Lunar Science Institute and is co-organizer of the meeting, said, “When organizing the program for the European Lunar Symposium, I thought that giving a platform for the Google Lunar X PRIZE European teams would be a great way of bringing opportunities outside the state-funded program to the attention of the European lunar science community. The session was really successful and, from the level of interest that I’ve seen here in Berlin in the Google Lunar X PRIZE activities, I would definitely look to include these sessions in future events. I look forward to seeing what transpires from collaborations initiated at the meeting.”
Plans presented at the meeting by the teams highlighted the range and innovation of the teams’ approaches to the lunar challenge. Designs for rovers included a mast carrying stereo cameras from Team Italia, a spike-wheeled locomotion system by Team Puli and a spherical rover by FREDNET that propels itself along through displacement of ballast.
“Our proposed design offers significant room — both on the lander and on the surface vehicle — to carry either scientific or technological payloads with a Moon focus. Thanks to a very highly space engineering skilled team, the AMALIA mission has a great chance of succeeding,” said Michèle Lavagna, who talked on behalf of Team Italia.
Jordi Gutiérrez, who presented the spherical rover designs, said, “This kind of rover is simple, robust, cheap, but capable of moving on rather rough terrain. It can become a reliable means of giving mobility to scientific payloads. Several scientists here have shown an interest in the concept.”
Márton Deák, whose presentation focused on Team Puli’s analysis of potential landing sites said, “It would be truly fascinating to discover deposits of water ice or explore a lava tube on the Moon. I think Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams, like Team Puli, can come up with surprisingly good solutions for these kinds of challenges!”
“This was a truly outstanding symposium,” said Greg Schmidt, Deputy Director and Director of International Partnerships for the NASA Lunar Science Institute. “We are proud to be allied with our European partners in furthering the many facets of lunar science. The Google Lunar X PRIZE offers a unique way to return to the lunar surface and, in so doing, brings new and exciting opportunities to the science community in the near future.”
Eight teams headquartered in Europe have registered for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Three further teams have significant European involvement.
About the Google Lunar X Prize
Generously funded by Google, the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters (1/3 of a mile) and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. Teams are also eligible to win a $1 million award for stimulating diversity in the field of space exploration and as much as $4 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks such as moving ten times as far, surviving the frigid lunar night, or visiting the site of a previous lunar mission. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is available to be claimed until the end of 2015. It is the largest incentivized competition offered to date. http://www.googlelunarxprize.org.
About the X Prize Foundation
Founded in 1995, the X PRIZE Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the leading organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself. The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity. The X PRIZE Foundation conducts competitions in four Prize Groups: Education & Global Development; Energy & Environment; Life Sciences; and Exploration. Prizes won include the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private, suborbital space flight; the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE for creating safe, affordable, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPGe (energy equivalent); the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE for advanced rocket development; and the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE for highly effective, ocean surface oil spill cleanup methods. Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco, and the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE. For more information, go to www.xprize.org.