No matter how good the paper mache volcano that you built at school was, your effort will most likely pale in comparison to the school project being undertaken by a group of Spanish students. These students are designing a ball-shaped mini-robot named PicoRover that they plan to send to the Moon as their entry in the Google Lunar X PRIZE
. To claim the US$30 million prize the robot will need to travel 500m and transmit video, images and data back to Earth.
Exactly forty years ago today, with fuel running short and alarms buzzing, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set their lunar module Eagle down on the face of the moon, and mankind took its very first step on another celestial body. Last week, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) returned its first imagery of the Apollo moon landing sites. Even after all these years, there’s something truly heroic about seeing those lunar module descent stages sitting silently on the surface, testament to man’s imagination and determination.
As we commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo moon landing this week, it’s worth asking what happened to those old dreams of lunar colonies and missions to Mars. NASA is reportedly struggling
thanks to a general lack of interest and, it claims, funding. But, even with USD$187 billion, their Project Constellation is unlikely to reach the moon before 2020. The best hope right now seems to be driven by the private sector: Google’s USD$30 million Lunar X PRIZE
and one of its most promising contenders, Odyssey Moon, which has announced plans to become the first private company to supply payload delivery services to the Moon.
Space - it's the final frontier of human exploration, a mysterious eternity of distance, all around us and yet so tantalizingly out of reach. In its dark recesses hide the secrets of extraterrestrial life, planets yet to be explored, and it's reasonable to assume, some sort of future home for the human race once we're finished stuffing this planet up. Although mankind has been fascinated with space since we first saw the twinkling of night-time stars, it's only in the last half century that we have developed spaceships that allow us to take both ourselves and our equipment and technology outside the Earth's atmosphere. While the exhilaration of early space exploration seems to have faded in the public imagination over the past three decades, the scene is now set for a whole new space race. Loz Blain looks at where the 21st Century space Odyssey will take us and how we'll get there. Listen to the Podcast
March 5, 2008 In September 2007 the X PRIZE Foundation announced
a $30million prize purse for the Google Lunar X PRIZE
, a robotic race to the moon. Now the Foundation has released details of the first ten teams to register for this amazing space race.
December 12, 2007 Odyssey Moon has become the first team to complete registration for the Google Lunar X PRIZE
, unveiling its plans for a history making private robotic mission to reach the surface of the Moon with a small robotic lander designed to deliver scientific, exploration and commercial payloads.
September 17, 2007 The prize that saw the world's first private spaceship reach beyond the Earth's atmosphere in 2004 is headed for the moon. The X PRIZE Foundation
and internet giant Google are offering a US$30 million prize purse in the Google Lunar X PRIZE
, a competition to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon by 2012.