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Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 24 Dec 2016 23:04

Three rovers in ISRO’s PSLV mission by Team Indus.
by Avinash Nandakumar Indialivetoday.com December 24, 2016

Image
Three rovers in ISRO's PSLV mission by Team Indus

MUMBAI,DEC24: When ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-Xl (PSLV-X1) lifts off around December 28,2017, with India’s first private mission to the moon by Team Indus, it promises to be one for the history books.

The reason? It is for the first time in the history of space exploration that a rocket will be flying three rovers. Of the three rovers in this private moon mission, two are from Japan and one belongs to Team Indus.

The PSLV-XL launched 20 satellites in one ‘go’ on June 22, 2016. But this is the first time that it will demonstrate its capability of carrying three rovers placed inside a lander. “This will go a long way in further enhancing the confidence of the global community in the PSLV,” said an Isro official. Again around January 27, 2017, the powerful rocket will launch 83 satellites in a single mission. According to the organisers of the global lunar competition, Google Lunar X Prize, “the Japanese Team, Hakuto, is facing the challenges with its unique dual rover system consisting of the two-wheeled ‘Tetris,’ and the four-wheeled ‘Moonraker’, which are linked by a tether”. The organisers added that while Tetris will explore holes thought to be caves in the moon, Moonraker will capture 360-degree images. Team Indus’s new-look sleek rover is solar-powered and the mission duration is one lunar day– equivalent to 14 earth days. The Team Indus lander can carry up to 20kg of payload

Website: http://www.indialivetoday.com/three-rov ... 83824.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby Varoon Shekhar » 25 Dec 2016 18:36

Whoa, so there will be two moon missions in the coming year, before the end of the year. The PSLV with the Indus team's rovers, and the GSLV Mark 2's Chandrayaan 2 mission.

What is going on? Not that I'm complaining! :)

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 26 Dec 2016 10:57

Varoon Shekhar wrote:Whoa, so there will be two moon missions in the coming year, before the end of the year. The PSLV with the Indus team's rovers, and the GSLV Mark 2's Chandrayaan 2 mission.

What is going on? Not that I'm complaining! :)


Varoonji, I think there would be only one mission from India, the Team Indus mission in 2017, as Chandrayann II might happen in 2018.

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 26 Dec 2016 11:01

America Needs a New Moon Mission
by Adam Minter Bloomberg.com December 25, 2016

Image

Fifty years ago, the U.S. had the moon to itself. Starting in 1969, when the first of six Apollo missions touched down, it seemed likely that American astronauts would make a long-term home on the lunar surface. Instead, the U.S. sent its last manned mission there in 1972, and won’t be returning any time soon. That’s a shame: The moon is now a more compelling destination than ever.

Other countries, seeing new scientific and commercial potential there, have started to fill the exploration gap, including China, Russia and Japan. Perhaps the most ambitious effort is the European Space Agency's "moon village,” which is intended to be a permanent international outpost on the lunar surface. In recent weeks, the concept has gained considerable momentum as Europe's science ministers and private space companies have embraced it.

If the U.S. wants to join them, and resume its historic role as the leader in lunar exploration, it’ll need a major shift in priorities.

America’s space program is currently focused on the "Journey to Mars," a hugely expensive undertaking approved by President Barack Obama in 2010. The (still hazy) plan is to fly astronauts around the red planet -- and possibly land there -- in the 2030s, bypassing the moon entirely. As a growing number of experts have cautioned, though, that could be a costly mistake. Getting back to the moon first makes more sense, both as a destination in its own right and as a way station en route to Mars.

For starters, such a mission could be a scientific bonanza. A few years ago, NASA published a list of dozens of research objectives that could be accomplished on the moon, including the long-held dream of a lunar radio telescope, capable of exploring the earliest history of the universe. Another possibility would be experimenting with mining and manufacturing projects in the moon's weak gravity.

Getting those efforts right could have major benefits. Researchers now know that the moon has a trove of raw material, including gold, cobalt, palladium, platinum, iron and -- perhaps most important -- water. A number of private companies are devising ways to mine the metals for profit. But the water could prove far more valuable: In addition to supporting the residents of a moon village, it could be used as cheap fuel for journeys to other destinations in the solar system.

That includes Mars. In 2014, a National Research Council report found that returning to the lunar surface "would make substantial contributions" to a Mars journey. In theory, the moon would offer an off-planet outpost to run experiments, test new systems, cultivate food, monitor astronauts' health and conduct other research that could make the dangerous, months-long trip to Mars much safer and easier. Stopping at the moon would also be cheaper than a direct flight: One study found that a lunar refueling station could save $10 billion a year by allowing NASA to use fewer and lighter rockets.

Europe’s moon village offers a pretty good starting point. As the European Space Agency describes it, the village would provide an open platform that could be used for a variety of missions, public or private, starting by the 2030s. In a sense, it would resemble the U.S.'s 60-year old McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica. Over the decades, different interests and agencies have added on to what started as a small scientific outpost, and transformed it into a thriving research base that supports world-class laboratories.

The moon village would surely be more complicated. But NASA has plenty of experience in complex space collaborations: It heads up the International Space Station, which has been in flight since 1998 and involves agencies from five countries. Although the ISS is slated to wind down in 2024, the system of governance and spirit of cooperation that made it a success could be transplanted to a moon village, with other countries, and companies, shouldering more of the financial burden.

It won't be easy, and it won't be cheap, but it's the natural next step for a country -- and a species -- determined to explore.

Website: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles ... on-mission

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 26 Dec 2016 11:36

Up, up & away: Kolkata joins the lunar journey
by Joydeep Thakur Hindustantimes.com December 26, 2016

Image
S K Chakrabarti (second from right) with ISRO and Team Indus officials in Bengaluru with the model of the payload to be sent to the moon. Behind them is the model of the lunar lander. (HT Photo)

For the first time in the history of the country’s space programme, an instrument designed and built by a team of scientists from Kolkata would be landing on the moon’s surface in January 2018. It would be piggy-riding on the same mission that is planning to unfurl the Indian tricolor on the lunar surface on January 26, 2018 when the country celebrates its 69th Republic Day.

“The four-kg payload would be installed atop a lunar lander that a Bengaluru-based private company Team Indus is planning to send to the moon in December 2017. We have signed a deal with Team Indus. The country’s trusted Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) engineered by India’s space agency ISRO would be carrying the lander and at least two rovers to the moon,” said Sandip Kumar Chakrabarti, who also heads the Indian Centre for Space Physics in Kolkata.

The ‘engineering model’ would have to be handed over to the company by March 2017. It would be subjected to a series of tests to check whether the instrument can withstand extreme temperature, pressure and vacuum conditions. The final ’flight model’ would be made ready and handed over by June 2017. The take-off is scheduled in December 2017.

Fitted with an X-ray detector and four in-built computers among other complex parts, the instrument would be studying the outer space, including Black Holes, Gamma Ray bursts, Neutron stars and the sun from the moon’s surface. “Never in the past had any instrument studied the outer space from the lunar surface. They were all engaged in inspecting the moon’s surface. This includes India’s first lunar probe Chandrayan-I which was focused on chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the moon,” said Chakrabarti, who is heading the six member team at ICSP.

It would take around a week for the Team Indus lander to reach the moon after it is launched. Scientists hope to start extracting data within a day or two after it touches the moon’s surface.

“Once it lands in the ‘Mare Imbrium’ area --- a vast lava plain on the moon’s surface --- we would have to wait for at least a day or two for health check-up of the instrument --- the temperature and pressure among other parameters. We also need to allow the moon’s dust --- regolith --- to settle down before we can switch on the instrument and downlink data,” said Chakrabarti, who also heads the astrophysics department at SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences in Salt Lake.

Scientists said that as one lunar day is equal to 28 days on earth, they expect to get a longer and continuous exposure of the outer space which was otherwise impossible from earth-based satellites. “Satellites orbiting the earth can only give us chinks of data from outer space that last for around 40 minutes. But if we inspect the space from moon’s surface we expect continuous data for more than 42 hours at a time. This would help us to monitor the subtle changes which have been missing till date,” Chakrabarti said.

Chakrabarti and his team had sent a payload to space on a Russian satellite some five years back. The team has already sent balloons with pay loads to the outer reaches of the atmosphere more than a 100 times.

Website: http://www.hindustantimes.com/kolkata/u ... 1RgmL.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 28 Dec 2016 11:29

China plans on being the first country to land a probe on the far side of the Moon
And to launch one to Mars by 2020.

by Josh Hrala Sciencealert.com December 28, 2016

Image

Chinese officials have announced an ambitious plan to land a probe on the far side of the Moon in 2018, adding that they also plan on launching the country’s first Mars-bound probe by 2020.

The news comes just a few months after two Chinese astronauts successfully spent 30 days aboard the country’s Tiangong 2 space station - the longest time Chinese astronauts have spent in orbit.

"To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry, and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly," officials said on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

Not everything has worked out for China's space program lately - the biggest hiccup happened earlier this year, when China lost control of its prototype space station, Tiangong 1, which is expected to enter Earth's atmosphere sometime in 2017.

As Fiona MacDonald reported for us in September:

"The first space lab, Tiangong 1, was launched in 2011 and docked with three rockets, but a few weeks ago China admitted that it had lost control of the spacecraft, and it was on a collision course with Earth in 2017.

It's hoped that this second space lab [Tiangong 2] will have more luck, and extra modules will be added over the new few years with the goal of being a fully operational space station by 2022."

With their successful launch to Tiangong 2, China has become the third country on Earth to complete crewed missions to space. The country has been barred from using the International Space Station over military concerns.

The announcement of their new plans to launch probes to both the Moon and Mars show that China is trying to catch up to the US and Russia in terms of space exploration.

Some experts even believe that the probe to the Moon is the first step for China to eventually land astronauts there, though nothing has officially been announced on that front.

Since being photographed for the first time in 1959, the far side of the moon - the hemisphere that constantly faces away from us - has never been landed on by a probe.

Back in January, China's official news outlets first announced that the space agency would soft-land - a type of landing that keeps the lander intact instead of destroying it when it touches down - on the far side of the Moon. That plan has now been confirmed.

"The Chang'e-4's lander and rover will make a soft landing on the back side of the Moon, and will carry out in-place and patrolling surveys," said China’s lunar exploration chief, Liu Jizhong.

"The implementation of the Chang'e-4 mission has helped our country make the leap from following to leading in the field of lunar exploration."

China's had its eyes fixed on the Moon for quite some time now. The space agency landed its Chang’e-3 lander on the Moon back in 2013, becoming the first agency to soft-land on the lunar surface in more than 40 years.

But a probe on Mars is something new for the agency, which says it hopes to "conduct research into major scientific questions such as the origin and evolution of the Solar System, and search for extra-terrestrial life", Louise Watt reports for the Associated Press.

What that Mars probe will look like, how it will operate, and when it plans to actually launch are still unknown, but the country plans to have it operational by 2020.

Only time will tell if China follows through on its plans, but if it does, it will be the first country to soft-land a probe on the far side of the Moon - a feat that will benefit the scientific community across the globe.

Website: http://www.sciencealert.com/china-reaff ... on-in-2018

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 31 Dec 2016 02:22

Google Lunar X Prize teams await word of their fate
by Jeff Foust Spacenews.com December 30, 2016

Image
PT Scientists, a German team in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, says it doesn't expect to know if its launch contract announced in November will be verified by the X Prize Foundation until some time in January. Credit: PT Scientists

WASHINGTON — Teams competing in the Google Lunar X Prize, facing an end-of-the-year deadline to obtain a verified launch contract, may not know until some time in January if they will be able to continue in their race to the moon.

The competition, which offers a $20 million grand prize to the first private team to land a spacecraft on the moon, travel at least 500 meters, and transmit video and other data, requires the 16 remaining teams to submit a launch contract to be verified by the X Prize Foundation, which runs the competition, by Dec. 31. Teams that fail to do so will be dropped from contention, while those who continue will have until the end of 2017 to launch their missions.

To date, four teams have verified launch contracts: Moon Express, which will launch on an Electron rocket from Rocket Lab; SpaceIL, which will launch its spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9; Synergy Moon, which will use a Neptune rocket being developed by Interorbital Systems; and TeamIndus, which will launch on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Indian space agency ISRO. A fifth team, Hakuto, announced Dec. 20 it had a verified agreement to fly its rover on the TeamIndus lander.

A German team, PT Scientists, announced Nov. 29 it had a launch contract to fly its lander and rover as a secondary payload, likely on a Falcon 9, through a deal arranged by Spaceflight Industries, the same company that arranged the SpaceIL contract. At the time, the Berlin-based team said its contract was pending verification by the X Prize Foundation.

Team spokesman Sven Przywarra said Dec. 28 that PT Scientists was still awaiting word on the status of their launch contract, and did not expect to hear from the X Prize Foundation until next month. “X Prize is still verifying our launch contract and will make their decisions public later in January,” he said. “We have no further details so far and are awaiting the results.”

In a Sept. 27 talk at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, Andrew Barton, the director of technical operations for the prize, said the Dec. 31 deadline for launch contracts was the deadline for the X Prize Foundation to verify them, not for teams to submit them. It’s not known how many launch contracts besides the one PT Scientists submitted are being evaluated. Neither Barton nor X Prize Foundation spokesman Eric Desatnik responded to inquiries Dec. 28 about the status of the competition.

At least two teams are dropping out of the competition. In an op-ed published in SpaceNews Magazine Dec. 19, John Thornton, chief executive of Astrobotic, announced it was leaving the competition. Thornton said the company would continue to develop a lander for a 2019 launch, but said it was unwise for the company to be “chasing unrealistic prize deadlines” to remain in the Google Lunar X Prize.

Also leaving the race is Budapest-based Team PuliSpace. Tibor Pacher, team leader and chief executive of Puli Space Tecnologies, said Dec. 29 that his team was retaining an option to fly its rover on Astrobotic’s lander and was not planning to find another ride to the moon in order to remain in the competition.

The status of eight other teams remains unknown. Synergy Moon, in a Dec. 24 statement posted on Google Lunar X Prize web site, said it was joining forces with four other teams: Independence-X, Omega Envoy, Team SpaceMeta and Team Stellar. In the statement, Synergy Moon team representative Kevin Myrick said the arrangement was not a merger of the teams but instead a partnership “such that each team remains a separate entity and retains their current status as an official Google Lunar X Prize team.”

The statement didn’t explain the details of the partnership that would allow the teams to remain in the competition as separate entities without launch agreements of some kind. The four teams mentioned in the statement as partnering with Synergy Moon did not respond to requests for comment about their status.

Four other teams that have yet to announce launch contracts or other arrangements — AngelicvM, Euroluna, Plan B and Team Italia — also did not respond to inquiries about their status. One of the four, AngelicvM, had previously planned to fly its rover on Astrobotic’s lander.

Pacher said that he was skeptical that any team would be able to claim the prize before it expires at the end of 2017. “I think there is little chance for whatever team to meet the current deadline,” he said. “Signing a contract mere one year before the planned launch date looks anyway extremely risky.”

Barton, speaking at the IAC in September, said there were no plans to further extend the competition, whose deadlines have been stretched out several times. When the Google Lunar X Prize was unveiled in 2007, the competition’s grand prize was set to decrease from $20 million to $15 million if no team won it by the end of 2012, and would expire at the end of 2014.

Pacher said he accepted the X Prize Foundation’s plans not to extend the deadline again, but added that, should the foundation reconsider that view, it should “consider a fair reopening of the contest” for all 16 teams currently in the race.

PT Scientists’ Przywarra said his team would likely continue developing their lunar mission regardless of whether their launch contract is verified in time for them to continue in the Google Lunar X Prize. That mission plans to land near the Apollo 17 landing site, with their two rovers approaching the lunar rover left behind by that mission, the last human expedition to the moon to date.

“Our mission to the moon will take place in any way and as it stands today has a good chance of being highly competitive to be the first private mission to the moon,” he said, “with the added scientific value of visiting Apollo 17.”

Website: http://spacenews.com/google-lunar-x-pri ... their-fate

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 01 Jan 2017 16:12

Want to visit Mars? Start with a new moon mission
by Adam Minter Tulsaworld.com January 1, 2017

Image
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt works beside a boulder at Station 6 during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity at the Taurus-Littrow landing site on the moon on Dec. 13, 1972; Source: NASA/AP File

Image
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt next to a boulder during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site on the moon; Source: NASA

Image
NASA astronaut James Irwin prepares to climb into the lunar rover to explore Mt Hadley behind him, during the moon landing mission of Apollo 15 in 1971; Source: NASA

Fifty years ago, the U.S. had the moon to itself. Starting in 1969, when the first of six Apollo missions touched down, it seemed likely that American astronauts would make a long-term home on the lunar surface. Instead, the U.S. sent its last manned mission there in 1972, and won’t be returning anytime soon. That’s a shame: The moon is now a more compelling destination than ever.

Other countries, seeing new scientific and commercial potential there, have started to fill the exploration gap, including China, Russia and Japan. Perhaps the most ambitious effort is the European Space Agency’s “moon village,” which is intended to be a permanent international outpost on the lunar surface. In recent weeks, the concept has gained considerable momentum as Europe’s science ministers and private space companies have embraced it.

If the U.S. wants to join them, and resume its historic role as the leader in lunar exploration, it’ll need a major shift in priorities.
America’s space program is currently focused on the “Journey to Mars,” a hugely expensive undertaking approved by President Barack Obama in 2010. The (still hazy) plan is to fly astronauts around the red planet — and possibly land there — in the 2030s, bypassing the moon entirely. As a growing number of experts have cautioned, though, that could be a costly mistake. Getting back to the moon first makes more sense, both as a destination in its own right and as a way station en route to Mars.

For starters, such a mission could be a scientific bonanza. A few years ago, NASA published a list of dozens of research objectives that could be accomplished on the moon, including the long-held dream of a lunar radio telescope, capable of exploring the earliest history of the universe. Another possibility would be experimenting with mining and manufacturing projects in the moon’s weak gravity. Getting those efforts right could have major benefits. Researchers now know that the moon has a trove of raw material, including gold, cobalt, palladium, platinum, iron and — perhaps most important — water. A number of private companies are devising ways to mine the metals for profit. But the water could prove far more valuable: In addition to supporting the residents of a moon village, it could be used as cheap fuel for journeys to other destinations in the solar system.

That includes Mars. In 2014, a National Research Council report found that returning to the lunar surface “would make substantial contributions” to a Mars journey. In theory, the moon would offer an off-planet outpost to run experiments, test new systems, cultivate food, monitor astronauts’ health and conduct other research that could make the dangerous, months-long trip to Mars much safer and easier. Stopping at the moon would also be cheaper than a direct flight: One study found that a lunar refueling station could save $10 billion a year by allowing NASA to use fewer and lighter rockets.

Europe’s moon village offers a pretty good starting point. As the European Space Agency describes it, the village would provide an open platform that could be used for a variety of missions, public or private, starting by the 2030s. In a sense, it would resemble the U.S.’s 60-year old McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica. Over the decades, different interests and agencies have added on to what started as a small scientific outpost, and transformed it into a thriving research base that supports world-class laboratories.
The moon village would surely be more complicated. But NASA has plenty of experience in complex space collaborations: It heads up the International Space Station, which has been in flight since 1998 and involves agencies from five countries. Although the ISS is slated to wind down in 2024, the system of governance and spirit of cooperation that made it a success could be transplanted to a moon village, with other countries, and companies, shouldering more of the financial burden.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap, but it’s the natural next step for a country — and a species — determined to explore.

Website: http://www.tulsaworld.com/washingtonpos ... ge&photo=0

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 03 Jan 2017 00:47

Four Out-Of-This-World Predictions For The Space Industry In 2017
by Elizabeth Segran Fastcompany.com January 1, 2017

Big things are happening in space travel and tech, with new startups mushrooming every day. Here are four trends to watch.

Image
Photo: Flickr user SDASM Archives

There was a time when NASA was singlehandedly driving America's dream of exploring outer space. But that has changed over the last 15 years. A slew of private space companies have entered the market with ambitious plans to build rockets and colonize new planets. SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin—each led by well-known entrepreneurs—have become household names.

But over the last seven years, hundreds of smaller startups have also popped up, each trying to accomplish something different in the new space race. Astrobotic, for instance, has launched a lunar delivery service, charging $1.2 million per kilo to take anything you want to the moon. World View is developing enormous balloons that can take passengers or equipment to the very outer reaches of our atmosphere. Saber Aeronautics is using video game technology to help people create missions and operate satellites with little training.

Chad Anderson has seen these exciting new developments firsthand as the CEO of the Space Angels Network, an organization that surveys and invests in emerging space startups. It began tracking private space companies in 2009, when SpaceX had its first successful launch, and he says that VC investments in private space companies have been on an upward trajectory every year. (This does not include infusions of corporate capital, such as Google's $1 billion investment in SpaceX last year.) He says that seven years ago, there were fewer than 50 private space companies, but this year, the number has grown to almost 200 that have received non-government funding to execute their business plan.

"There's a robust ecosystem in the space industry now," he says. "In the past, the government would have been a space company's customer. Now they might have the government as a customer for some of their data, but other private customers as well. Then they might buy parts from another space company."

I sat down with Anderson to discuss some of the big trends that he believes will take off next year.

GOVERNMENTS PLAY A BIGGER ROLE
While the private space industry is booming, government still has an important role to play in driving space-age technology forward. Space startups often build on primary research that began at NASA, and many also rely on the government to be a customer. "The exploratory science that NASA is doing translates to private-sector activity eventually," Anderson says.

The good news is that Congress appears to be in favor of giving NASA the resources it needs to thrive. It received a $19.3 billion budget in 2016, a nearly $1.3 billion increase from the year before. It is unclear how the Trump Administration will handle NASA. So far, the president-elect has said very little about his plans for the country's space program, and it is unclear whether his pro-business policies will play out in the space sector. "If it comes at the expense of investing in the longer term gain, his pro-business approach could be harmful," Anderson says.

What we do know is that there's growing interest from governments around the world in investing in space. This year, Luxembourg's government invested $227 million in asteroid mining research, which included funds that went to two American companies—Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources—that would create European operations.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency invested $290 million on a probe to orbit Venus, and China's president announced a plan to land "taikonauts" on the moon by 2036 and Mars thereafter. Both countries say these space missions are designed to boost the local economy and spur innovation in robotics, aviation, and AI.

Anderson says we can look forward to more private-public partnerships in the future as governments realize the value of investing in space. All of this will be a boon to the space startup community. "The government has a big role to play as a customer," he says. "It's good to see more agencies, in more countries, interested."

WE'LL FIGURE OUT INTERGALACTIC PROPERTY RIGHTS
The Outer Space Treaty, which was first signed in 1967, is still the basis of international space law. It was developed right before the U.S. went to the moon and stated, among other things, that no country could place a weapon of mass destruction in orbit in outer space or claim any celestial resource. "It's a different time in space now from back then," Anderson says.

Many within the private space industry are lobbying to modify the treaty to allow companies to claim some portion of what they mine or discover on a space mission. "What is the incentive to invest private capital and take on so much risk by going to space if you don't even know if you have any claim to resources once you get there?" Anderson says. "This creates that incentive."

He says that one model for a new treaty could be the Homestead Acts of 1866, which the U.S. government created to entice Americans to settle in less inhabited parts of the country, mostly in the West. The law gave applicants ownership of land at little or no cost, which led to more than 270 million acres of public land given to 1.6 million people. By creating similar legislation for the ownership of property in space, many in the private space industry believe more people will be willing to invest in the technological infrastructure to get there.

SPACE TOURISM WILL ATTRACT MORE PEOPLE
Right now, the idea of space tourism appeals to a small, self-selecting group of people who love the idea of space so much that they are willing to take on the many risks of being among the first private citizens to go to space.

But this is slowly changing. At the National Aerospace Training and Research Center in Pennsylvania, scientists have been trying to understand who can actually withstand the physical stress of flying on a Virgin Galactic rocket, for instance. They're finding that even very old people or people with pins in their bodies after surgery can handle the gravitational pressures and exertion.

As space tourism becomes less pie-in-the-sky fantasy and more concrete reality, and as more people begin to seriously prepare for space flight, the whole concept will seem less daunting. This might even begin happening as early as next year. Again, Anderson compares the voyage to space to the early days of traveling out West. "At first it took a very special kind of person to leave their families and go off with a shovel and a wheelbarrow," he says. "But once they had developed a train to go out there, a different demographic started traveling. We've seen this scenario play out multiple times over history, and I don't see how this will be any different."

MORE LAUNCHES
Anderson says that 2017 will be exciting for launches. Blue Origin is planning to start sending trained astronauts next year, and paying commercial passengers the following year. Rocket Lab is set to begin test flights on its Electron small satellite launch vehicle in 2017 as well. There are many other companies depending on these launches to get their satellites and instruments to space. "Even one new launch system will do a lot to relieve the pressure and backlog we have at the moment," Anderson says.

In the past, companies relied on NASA's much bigger launchers to get to space, but companies like Rocket Lab are testing out smaller launch vehicles. While the price of a payload is about the same on either type of vehicle, smaller vehicles tend to be able to launch more frequently and can have smaller customers. "What they are selling you is the opportunity to be the primary payload," Anderson says. "If the launch is delayed, it is because you were delayed, not because the primary payload you were flying with was delayed. It will take you to the orbit you want to go to, whereas if you ride as the secondary payload you are likely going to another orbit and must figure out how to get to where you wanted to go."

The moon will continue to be the destination of choice for these spacecraft. While a lot of attention has been paid to NASA and SpaceX's plans to go to Mars, a growing number of companies are working on lunar missions. Astrobotic, for instance, is partnering with a range of organizations—from scientific groups to companies who want to use a lunar landing as part of a marketing campaign—to deliver equipment and materials to the moon. Others are thinking about using the moon as a staging area or a launch site for travel to other parts of our solar system.

All of this extraterrestrial activity is causing concern about the trail of orbital debris that might be left behind. Space law requires companies to clean up after themselves, so expect more of them to invest in creating enormous harpoons that pull trash down from space. There will also be an increase in technologies that help us track where objects are in space.

Next year should bring lots of new developments. But there is an infinite area to explore beyond our planet, so there's a lot left to do. "Space is a long game," says Anderson.

Website: https://www.fastcompany.com/3066520/inn ... ry-in-2017

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby Nick_S » 03 Jan 2017 16:53

TeamIndus reproduces moon's surface here on a budget
by J Vignesh January 3, 2017

http://tech.economictimes.indiatimes.co ... t/56304744

About half a kilometre from one of the oldest flying schools in the country, a startup team of scientists and engineers is preparing for an unmanned lunar mission on a budget. Pivotal to this moonshot is a seemingly low-key simulation of the lunar surface the team has reproduced with ingenious resourcefulness.

Compensating for lunar soil, TeamIndus engineers filled a 15-feet by 12-feet box-pit-like installation with 16 tonnes of pale white dust sourced from the plentiful stone quarries nearby. It’s in this pit that the team will test the most crucial component of its lunar rover — locomotion on the moon’s highly unpredictable surface.

“The landing site for the TeamIndus moon mission is Mare Imbrium, a vast lava plain. In this region, the lunar soil is loose and moving on it is a tricky proposition. We have to make sure that the rover we design will move easily on this surface,” said Dr PS Nair, TeamIndus Jedi Commander (Head), Structures.

Nair, an Isro veteran, was part of the team that built India’s first satellite, Aryabhatta, in 1975. A team of more than 100 engineers, including 20 retired Isro scientists, is designing TeamIndus’ lunar spacecraft and rover, named ECA for ‘Ek Choti si Asha’ (a small dream).

“That means we have to design different wheels and test locomotion characteristics of the rover, including traction, sinkage and slippage, and prove obstacle, slope and crater negotiation capabilities,” Nair said.

TeamIndus, the most ambitious project of Axiom Research Labs, is the only Indian team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. To win up to $30 million in prizes, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the moon’s surface, have it explore at least 500 metres and transmit high-definition video and images back to earth.

Launch deadline is December 31, 2017. TeamIndus’ launch window opens on December 28, it said in a statement earlier. A launch vehicle will inject the spacecraft carrying the rover into an orbit around earth. The spacecraft will undertake a 21-day journey to soft land on the moon’s north-western hemisphere.

By March, the team expects to have built a qualification model of its rover, its final test version. For demonstrating its landing technology, TeamIndus has already won a $1-million terrestrial milestone prize as part of the competition.

To build the lunar surface installation, the team sifted through 3,000 tonnes of quarry waste. They chose quarry dust because it comes the closest to imitating the moon’s surface. “The 150-micron filtered and dried stone dust is used because its properties are as close as we can get to lunar regolith (a layer of loose soil and dust) in terms of cohesion. The depth of the testing surface is to simulate a structure similar to the lunar terrain-top — 150-300 mm of loose soil followed by thick and rigid rock,” said Nair.

The simulation pit helps validate and characterise the rover’s wheel and suspension system design, and freeze the team’s locomotion strategies.

Lunar gravity

While the moon’s surface can be imitated to a certain extent, simulating lunar gravity on earth is a more flummoxing challenge. The team overcame this by tying a giant helium balloon to ECA. “It took us a couple of months for planning and realisation of the simulated lunar surface,” said Nair.

Another challenge was to build a rover weighing about 10 kg, much smaller than other machines sent to the moon so far. “It is harder for lighter rovers to drive (on the moon),” said Karan Vaish, rover system engineer at TeamIndus. “If we see all rovers that have gone before, they are bigger than a car. We are trying to build something that is 7-10 kg. This means a whole different set of dynamics as to how the wheel behaves on lunar soil, etc. There is not much of heritage, not much of literature.”

This lunar pit could throw up answers as to how small structures like the ECA would behave on the moon.

TeamIndus secured a commercial launch contract with Isro last month. It also announced a commercial agreement to carry a robotic rover developed by HAKUTO, the Japanese team in the Google Lunar XPRIZE, to the moon aboard its spacecraft. The team is looking to build more installations to test other aspects of the rover.

“New facilities will be broken down into phases — the system will be one. For locomotion, we will come back here. For imaging, we have to create another facility where the sun angles and luminosity are replicated. Obstacle negotiation can be tested in open fields or lake beds with strategically placed rocks,” said Vaish. Final version of the rover will be tested by Isro and lastly at the Sriharikota launch centre.

While many could think of all this as jugaad, Nair does not use that term. “Jugaad is a much abused word in the Indian context. Space engineering is always about optimal frugal engineering and not over-engineering. It is important to understand the test requirements and the scope of the test.“

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 03 Jan 2017 23:45

China's lunar probe to bring soil samples back from the moon in 2017
by Mo Hong'e Ecns.cn January 03, 2017

(ECNS) China's unmanned lunar probe Chang'e-5, set to be launched around December 2017, will bring lunar soil samples back to Earth, says Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the China National Space Administration.

Image
Chang'e 5 lunar probe to land on Moon and return in 2017

The just-concluded Chang'e-3 mission marked the completion of the second phase of China's lunar program, which included orbiting and landing on the moon and returning to Earth. The third phase, which includes unmanned sampling before returning to Earth, will follow the launch of Chang'e-5.

According to Ye Peijian, an expert with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation Fifth Research Academy, Chang'e-5 will consist of the orbiter, the return vehicle, the ascender and the lander. The orbiter and return vehicle will orbit the moon, while the lander and ascender will land on the moon.

After the lander finishes taking samples, the samples will be placed in containers carried by the ascender, which will then dock with the orbiter and the return vehicle. The samples will be transferred to the return vehicle, which will eventually bring them to Earth.

Hu Hao, the chief designer of the third phase, said Chang'e-5 weighs 8.2 tons and will be launched by the rocket Long March 5.

The mission is expected to achieve five firsts for China since the country initiated its space exploration programs: first unmanned sampling, first takeoff from the moon's surface, first unmanned docking on the moon orbiting 380,000km from Earth, and first return to Earth with lunar soil samples at a speed close to the escape velocity.

Website: http://www.ecns.cn/cns-wire/2017/01-03/239914.shtml

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 03 Jan 2017 23:52

China’s Moon Missions Are Anything But Pointless
by Paul D. Spudis Airspacemag.com January 3, 2017

The value of the nation’s lunar robotic missions goes beyond science.
Image
The Chang’E-3 lander spacecraft on the Moon. The two upcoming lunar missions will probably use landers similar to this one. (China News Agency)

At the end of 2016, China released a paper describing the nation’s very successful year in space, including an outline of their upcoming and future plans and intentions. Though well underway, China’s space accomplishments and stated plans continue to fly over the heads of many who continue to dismissively call Chinese lunar efforts “pointless.” While China continues to collect data from their 2013 Chang’E 3 lunar lander, this new report discusses two new Chang’E missions to the Moon—a lander/rover to be sent to the far side and another lander to collect samples of the lunar surface’s near side.

Why does China see value in a mission to the far side of the Moon? And why seek and return lunar samples when there are already ~380 kilograms of lunar material returned by the Apollo and Luna missions (not to mention an additional ~140 kg of meteorites of lunar origin)? China’s lunar exploration program serves many objectives—only some are scientific. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) runs China’s space program and science is secondary to other goals of their missions. So a better question to ask is, what purpose do these missions serve from a national strategic perspective?

In the last decade, China has conducted a series of space missions designed to demonstrate and master freedom of access and movement throughout the volume of space between Earth and Moon (known as cislunar space). This region is home to many different classes of satellites, particularly in the high orbits of MEO (e.g., the GPS constellation) and GEO (e.g., communications and broadcasting, and weather observations). These vital space assets are worth billions of dollars and are difficult to replace, requiring long lead times to design, fabricate and launch replacements if one goes bad or is disabled. In addition to all the commercial assets, our national defense and that of our allies is critically dependent upon satellites in all regions of cislunar space—from low Earth orbit to highly elliptical orbits with apogees beyond GEO. Satellites residing in these higher orbits are difficult to reach with launches from Earth, but relatively easy to approach at distances from Earth using assets positioned in various locations throughout cislunar space.

China’s robotic lunar program provides a case study in how to systematically acquire routine cislunar capability. Their initial missions, orbiters Chang’E-1 and Chang’E -2, were designed to globally map the Moon and collect scientific information. These missions have taught China’s engineers how to operate and maneuver spacecraft in deep space (lunar distances) and conduct routine and specialized in-space operations. As I have written previously, the flight of Chang’E-2 was particularly instructive as to their intentions: After mapping the Moon for a year, the spacecraft flew to Earth-Moon L-2, a point 60,000 kilometers above the center of the far side of the Moon (significant to China’s future lunar missions). Loitering at this locality for eight months, Chang’E-2 was then sent on a flyby of the Moon and then on to fly by the near-Earth asteroid Toutatis. Thus, in one mission, China demonstrated and practiced presence, proximity operations, loiter and interception, all critical skills for the military use of space.

China’s Chang’E-4 mission, scheduled to launch in 2018 (their 2017 mission is listed as Change’E-5), is designed to soft-land on the far side of the Moon and deliver a surface rover (probably a copy of the rover landed on the near side by the Chang’E-3 mission in 2013) to measure surface chemical and mineral composition, the morphology of the surface, and other physical properties. In addition, the lander will probably deploy a demonstration experiment to observe the low frequency radio sky from the far side, a location permanently shielded from the radio noise generated by the Earth’s ionosphere. Such an experiment will have the goal of evaluating the facility of such observations for future larger installations on the far side of the Moon.

The far side of the Moon is important for the study of the Moon as a planet. From orbit, we have found that the enormous South Pole-Aitken basin (an impact crater over 2,500 km across) exposes the deepest parts of the lunar crust. This feature is the oldest crater on the Moon, having formed early in the history of the Solar System. Determining its age and compositional effects is a key question, not only for lunar science but also for the history and processes of planetary evolution in general. Although we need samples of this feature to definitively answer these questions, surface in situ measurement of properties at a known location can provide important “ground truth” for data obtained from orbit. Obtaining the first direct measurements of the surface of the far side, as well as getting our first look at the low-frequency radio sky—key to understanding the early history of the universe—is potentially breakthrough science.

The return of samples of the near side by the Chang’E-5 mission this year will be another milestone. Although we do not yet know where this spacecraft will land, indications are that it will probably be in the same region of the Moon where Chang’E-3 previously landed, i.e., the northwest area of the near side, somewhere around or in Mare Imbrium. Samples of relatively young mare basalt lavas will help explain the more recent stages of the volcanic history of the Moon, for which there is currently little direct information (except from lunar meteorites, for which we have no geological context).

But scientific considerations for both of these missions are secondary to their strategic operational value. Together, their successful execution completes China’s mastery of cislunar spaceflight. Landing on the Moon, collecting a sample, and returning it to Earth constitute all the required phases of a human lunar mission. The Chang’E lander is relatively large (capable of landing 1,200 kg on the lunar surface), roughly one-quarter the capacity of the Apollo Lunar Module (4,600 kg)—and much larger than necessary to land the 140 kg Yutu rover. All steps—landing, rendezvous in orbit and Earth return—will be demonstrated on this mission. Coupled with the development of new launch vehicles (including the forthcoming Long March 9, capable of sending 130 tones to low earth orbit, i.e., Saturn V-class), China will have the capability to send human and large cargo missions to the lunar surface within the next 5-7 years.

The far side mission of Chang’E-4 also provides new operational capabilities. Because it is not possible to communicate directly with spacecraft on the far side of the Moon from the Earth, control and operation of the Chang’E-4 lander and rover will use a relay satellite positioned in a “halo orbit” around the distant L-2 point over the far side. This mode of operations will extend Chinese experience in operations and control in deep space beyond LEO, allowing them to move and operate spacecraft at any point in cislunar space. Such capability has serious national security implications.

The concept of concealing true intentions in space by using science as a “cover story” has a long and venerable history. China’s upcoming missions to the Moon, in addition to seeking unique and interesting scientific information, are immensely significant operationally. The lunar science community welcomes these missions, but in this euphoria, those concerned with the broader arena of national interests should not lose sight of the fact that China’s dedicated move into cislunar space is driven by their military needs and ambitions, not by science. These missions are part of China’s long-term, deliberate strategy designed to obtain control of cislunar space. While the missions are not inherently bellicose, we would be foolish to ignore the obvious national security implications of such capabilities.

“Pointless?” Not to China, and certainly not to those who understand the uses and value of cislunar space.

Website: http://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet ... 180961633/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 04 Jan 2017 23:47

25 Experiments In Race To Board TeamIndus Spacecraft To Moon
by Ndtv.com January 4, 2017

Image
More than 3,000 teams participated in TeamIndus' Lab2Moon competition.

BENGALURU: An experiment seeks to study photosynthesis on the Moon, and yet another proposes brewing beer to study yeast formation. These are just a couple of the 25 ideas that Bengaluru-based TeamIndus has shortlisted in its bid to find suitable experiments to fly aboard its lunar spacecraft scheduled for launch in 2017.

More than 3,000 teams participated in TeamIndus' Lab2Moon competition, a global challenge for students under 25 years of age to imagine, design and build a project that could accelerate human evolution into a sustainable multi planetary species, the company said in a statement.

"We are absolutely thrilled that as many as 3000 teams from all around the world participated in this race to the Moon," said Rahul Narayan, TeamIndus Fleet Commander.

The shortlisted teams have each been assigned mentors from TeamIndus, each of whom will work closely with the teams to ensure that the standards needed for space grade experiments are observed and maintained, the statement added.

The winning experiments will be announced in March 2017, said TeamIndus that recently signed a launch contract to land a spacecraft on the Moon with Indian space agency Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

TeamIndus is the only Indian team competing for the Google Lunar XPrize. For demonstrating its landing technology, TeamIndus has already won a $1 million milestone prize.

The goal of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE is to ignite a new era of space exploration by lowering the cost and inspiring the imagination of the next generation.

Website: http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/25-exper ... on-1645098

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 05 Jan 2017 09:00

Aiming For The Google Lunar XPrize, An Indian Startup Is On A Mission To The Moon
by Suparna Dutt D'Cunha Forbes.com January 3, 2017

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Indian startup TeamIndus will fly a probe to the moon in December in an attempt to win the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize. (Photo courtesy International Business Times)

Millions of miles above earth, solar wind, gritty dust storms and radiation await a robot charged with exploring the moon.

When the mission, led by Indian startup TeamIndus and planned for launch on December 28 this year, lands on the moon, it will battle a hugely hostile environment, as it attempts to drill down into the surface to send data and images.

Back on Earth, half a dozen professionals, with no background in aerospace engineering, are carrying out some of the most complex and advanced work in Bengaluru. These men and women of mixed background, from engineers to entrepreneurs, are leading India’s first ever private mission to the moon, as part of the Google XPrize Lunar (GLXP) challenge.

The aerospace startup, founded in 2011, has a 100-person engineering team and is supported by retired scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). “We are a group of ordinary folks with no experience in developing aerospace technologies, neither do we have deep pockets, which are prerequisites to an interplanetary mission,” says Ramnath Babu, co-founder and head of operations at TeamIndus.

TeamIndus was one of four teams in the world to win a $1 million Google Lunar Milestone Prize for completing the viable concept of its moon lander. 
Explaining how it all started, Babu says, “We were closely following the GLXP race. Despite India's remarkable pedigree of mounting space mission on shoestring budgets, we were surprised to see there was no Indian team signing up for the race. That didn’t feel right.”

“GLXP was a great opportunity to showcase the progress that India has made when it comes to space technology,” adds Babu.

To win the $30 million of GLXP challenge, competitors must land a probe on the moon, travel 500 meters, and broadcast high definition video, images and data back to earth.

TeamIndus’ main competitors for the prize are MoonExpress, an American company that aims to fly on a rocket built by the company Rocket Lab, and SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit that booked a flight on a SpaceX Falcon 9. The winner will be declared at the end of the year.

In November last year, TeamIndus signed a contract with ISRO to use its main rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, to lift the probe to the moon. The Indian space agency, which has sent satellites to the moon and Mars, has never soft-landed on the moon. TeamIndus probe to the moon, it is hoped, will lay the path for ISRO’s second mission to moon, Chandrayaan-II, in 2018.

“The launch contract we have signed with ISRO reaffirms the status of our mission — we have come together to realize a common dream,” says Babu. In 1999, NASA estimated the cost of putting a pound of payload in earth orbit at about $10,000. Now, with inflation, that number is probably a lot higher. Since the moon is a whole lot farther away than low-earth orbit, the mission comes with a large price tag.

“The cost of a mission is over $60 million, and a major chunk of that amount will go to ISRO for providing us a dedicated launch vehicle. The launch vehicle will leave the spacecraft on a lower earth orbit from where the rest of the journey will be made by the spacecraft's own rocket engine,” says Babu.

But the road to land on the moon is a pretty circuitous one, says Babu. “Besides the scientific and technological challenges, we also have to raise the money needed for this mission. According to GLXP, a mission competing for the prize has to be 90% privately funded.”

Unsurprisingly, the private spacecraft venture has also found many takers, it has raised over $15 million in equity funding and plans to get another $45 million. Its largest investor has been Indian IT giant Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani. Sachin and Binny Bansal, co-founders of e-commerce firm Flipkart, and Ratan Tata, interim chairman of Tata Sons, also invested in the startup.

It is raising funds in three segments — equity, payload and sponsorships, and crowdfunding.

“Progress is on in all three segments. It is a once in a lifetime event, with which any pioneering brand can ride on. On January 26, we will launch a crowdfunding initiative to allow ordinary people to join in our journey and call it their mission as well,” says Babu.

Not disclosing a break-up of the investments done by angels so far, Babu says, “TeamIndus is developing technologies and capabilities to participate in the nascent private space sector, popularly called new space. The investors understand that this is a huge opportunity and are in it for the long term,” says Babu.

Image
Ramnath Babu, co-founder of head of operations at TeamIndus. (Photo courtesy TeamIndus)

Under payload and sponsorships, the startup is in talks with universities and companies to carry out experiments — such as lunar quakes and the temperature variation — on the moon on their behalf. “We’ve designed this mission to be one of the most inclusive initiatives in space. Our spacecraft will carry experiments developed by students, names of a million Indians who support this mission as well as scientific and commercial payload, including the brands that partnered in the mission.”

For TeamIndus becoming the first private company to land a rover on earth's sole natural satellite is only the beginning.

Already, like SpaceX, which intends to design, manufacture and launch advanced rockets and spacecraft in future, Team Indus is planning on its next business plan. After the moon mission, it’s planing to build aerospace asset such as satellites and payload sensors.

“Space economy is still in its early days. SpaceX concentrates primarily on the launch ecosystem, but there are many other opportunities that are open for private enterprises,” says Babu.

“TeamIndus is looking to leverage the knowledge and infrastructure we have gained in capability and capacity building by executing the moon mission, across multiple orbital and non-orbital opportunities,” he adds.

As it gets ready to take the "giant leap" in global space commerce, TeamIndus is hoping to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers with the right stuff to keep India on the cutting edge.

“It’s been a dream and an all engulfing mission for the past six years. We’ve worked hard at mitigating every risk we can. We are confident that we will be the team to fly to the moon,” adds Babu, with a smile.

Website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/suparnadutt ... a5afee7cb9

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 05 Jan 2017 20:58

Could we yet get Man on the Moon?
by Adrian Darbyshire Iomtoday.co.im January 05, 2017

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SpaceIL's lunar lander - an Israeli bid to reach the Moon has Manx connections

Back in 2010, the Isle of Man was named as the fifth most likely nation to be the next to raise its flag on the Moon. But when Excalibur Almaz pulled out in 2015, taking with it one of its Soviet-era space stations and a re-entry capsule, it seemed our lunar ambitions were just a distant dream.

Image
Chris Stott of Mansat

Not so, insists ManSat’s Chris Stott, who believes we could yet see our Man on the Moon - in 2017!
In 2007, Isle of Man-based Odyssey Moon became the first entrant in the Google Lunar XPrize, a race to the Moon with a $20 million prize for the first to land a privately funded robotic spacecraft there, travel 500 meters, and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth. Odyssey Moon subsequently merged with SpaceIL, the Israeli team which is one of five who have received approval for lunar missions in 2017 - the others being US-based Moon Express, Synergy Moon which is a partnership of five international teams, India-based Team Indus and Team Hakuto from Japan. Part-Time Scientists, a Germany-based team founded by researchers who initially entered the prize alongside their day jobs, are still awaiting confirmation of a launch booking.

But there remains a Manx connection. Mr Stott is director of Houston-based Space Services Inc which bought Odyssey Moon in 2014. And Space Services Inc has a partnering agreement with SpaceIL. Mr Stott explained: ‘They took our number one slot at the GLXP as part of the deal and we get to share the mission with them for our customers and payloads. ‘What seems like science fiction isn’t. It’s happening now.’ In October 2015, SpaceIL announced in a ceremony alongside the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, that they had secured a ticket to the Moon on an American SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, having signed a confirmed and verified launch agreement for the end of 2017. They were the first team to reach this critical milestone in the Google Lunar XPrize competition. Its lander will ‘hop’ across the Moon’s surface using thrusters.

Japan’s Team Hakuto’s lunar rover will be hitching a ride with Team Indus using the same Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket. Team Indus is holding an open competition to send up an experiment devised by young people that could pave the way to sustainable settlements on the Moon. Synergy Moon aims to blend the arts and sciences with the idea of a holographic projector that will display artworks on the Moon. Moon Express is carrying two payloads - laser retroreflectors to precisely measure the distance from the Earth to the Moon and an optical telescope which will have open access for ‘citizen scientists’. It looks like the race to the Moon is on for 2017.

Website: http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of- ... -1-8314924

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 05 Jan 2017 23:05

The Evolution of ECA How to build a rover for the Moon 101
by Team Indus Medium January 2, 2017

ECA, the lovable TeamIndus rover, will fly on board our spacecraft to the Moon in December, 2017.
Here’s a picture of some of the earlier versions.
Image
Earlier versions of our rover ECA

And here’s a picture of our final design. Gorgeous, isn’t she?
Image
The ECA version that will fly to the Moon

Below, we take a look at how our rover design has evolved over the years.

Version 1
This is the first design of our rover ECA from 2013. Can you guess why we opted for Ackerman steering?
Want to know more about Version 1 of ECA? Ask Team Indus engineering team at
https://www.facebook.com/teamindus.in/p ... =3&theater

Image

Version 2
With a redesign to accommodate the internal electronics and camera masthead, ECA 2 boasted a better suspension system to not just move smoothly but also eliminate dust while at it. ECA was lighter but we still had a long way to go!

Our engineering team would love to tell you more about Version 2 of ECA? Ask a question at
https://www.facebook.com/teamindus.in/p ... =3&theater

Image

Version 3
With front cameras for imaging tests and the mast holding it, made the rover look more human than ever before. ECA was alive for the first time.

Want to know more about Version 3 of ECA? Ask Team Indus engineering team at
https://www.facebook.com/teamindus.in/p ... =3&theater

Version 4
ECA 4 was a major improvement. She had become lighter and her electronics were more compact. With a camera that went perfectly with the imaging strategy, ECA was almost ready. But there’s always room for improvement.

Share your thoughts on Version 4. Or ask a question of Team Indus engineering team at
https://www.facebook.com/teamindus.in/p ... =3&theater

Image

ECA 5 is the latest config complete in thermal, structural and operational aspects including a single point hold down mechanism with the lander. ECA is ready to go to the moon.

Image

We hope the series of sketches outlining the design evolution of ECA has given you an idea of how Team Indus team went about building a rover to take on the inhospitable conditions on the Moon.

Image

Website: https://medium.com/teamindus/the-evolut ... .jych163sp

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 06 Jan 2017 22:14

'Levitating' Moon Dust Explained in New NASA Study
by Samantha Mathewson Space.com January 6, 2017

Image
Lunar dust particles can travel across vast regions of the moon via static electricity. Credit: NASA

A new study may explain how dust particles on the moon "levitate" just above the surface, even though there is no wind or flowing water on the moon to kick-up the material.

In a recent laboratory study, researchers found that micron-size dust particles could "jump" several centimeters high under ultraviolet (UV) radiation or exposure to plasmas (electrically charged gas), said a statement from NASA. This finding may help researchers better understand how lunar dust is transported across vast regions of the moon and other airless bodies, according to the statement.

"On Earth's moon, these dust particles would have been lofted more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) above the lunar surface, leading researchers to conclude that the moon's 'horizon glow' — seen in images taken by Surveyor 5, 6 and 7 five decades ago — may have been caused in part by sunlight scattering in a cloud of electrostatically lofted dust particles," NASA officials said in the statement.

NASA's LADEE Moon Dust Mission in Pictures
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NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft is orbiting the moon to study its strange and tenuous atmosphere like never before. The spacecraft launched in September 2013 and flies close to the moon to see its dust and atmosphere. See photos from the LADEE mission in this SPACE.com gallery. HERE: Artist’s concept of NASA's LADEE spacecraft in orbit above the moon as dust scatters light during the lunar sunset.

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The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer will uncover details of the moon's thin atmosphere.

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NASA's Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration is a novel test of next-generation communications technology.

The moon's "horizontal glow" is a slim, bright crescent just above the lunar surface, observed by Apollo astronauts. Scientists think this phenomenon comes from lunar dust particles that scatter light. The recent study builds on previous research and shows that "neighboring dust particles can generate unexpectedly large electrical charges and intense particle-particle repulsive forces," which lift particles of various sizes off the lunar surface, NASA officials said.

What's more, this electrostatic dust mobilization may help explain the formation of "dust ponds" on asteroid Eros and Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as well as the smooth surface on Saturn's icy moon Atlas, according to the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"This new 'patched charge model' resolved a fundamental mechanism of dust charging and transport, which has been puzzling scientists for decades," Xu Wang, first author of the study and a member of NASA's Lunar Science Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder, said in the NASA statement. "We expect dust particles to mobilize and transport electrostatically over the entire lunar surface, as well as the surface of any other airless planetary body."

Website: http://www.space.com/35240-moon-dust-le ... study.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 07 Jan 2017 22:25

To the moon and back: Bengaluru start-up could be game changer in space missions
by Deepika S HT January 07, 2017

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A soft-landing on the moon has never been done by India, and only three countries have been successful so far. Credit: Reuters

Walking through the office of Team Indus in Bengaluru demands a jaunty soundtrack in the background. It’s hard to shake off the feeling of being in a summer blockbuster, a kind of Jobs-meets-Interstellar. Team Indus is a private start-up in the aerospace sector where cabins for meetings in its whitewashed office in the city’s outskirts are given names such as ‘Aspire’, ‘Believe’ and ‘Create’, and company executives have designations like ‘Fleet Commander’ and ‘Jedi Master’. One group of engineers works in a large cabin with glass walls covered in scribbles and notes and diagrams.

Team Indus’ small army of rather young engineers, guided by a dozen retired scientists who formerly worked for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), are racing against time to do what no one in India has ever done before, and only three countries have ever accomplished so far: the soft landing of a spacecraft on the moon. A soft landing is a controlled descent as opposed to crashing into the surface, which other countries including India have done in the past.

Perhaps it should be David Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream’ that plays on loop. India has seen moon missions before: in 2008, ISRO sent a lunar orbiter and a probe designed to crash into the moon’s surface as part of the Chandrayaan-1 mission.

Team Indus came into being in 2011 after Rahul Narayan, one of its co-founders, learned about the Google Lunar XPrize (GLXP). To win the $20 million top prize, a team has to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon’s surface, have a craft travel 500 metres along the surface and transmit high-definition video and images back to earth.

“The idea (for creating Team Indus) originated from there,” says Ramnath Babu, Jedi Master at the company. Babu had been in touch with Narayan and the two, along with an extended group of friends, had been talking about doing something ‘different’. “We thought if there was an Indian team, deep-pocketed, strong, we would like to support them in some way.” As the registration deadline for the competition grew closer, they realised there was no such team they could throw their weight behind. “That’s when we got together again. Each of us – in different geographic locations – we got on a phone call, and said, ‘Let’s do it’.” In 2013, Team Indus moved operations from Noida to Bangalore, start-up haven and home to the aerospace ecosystem that had come up around ISRO.

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Team-Indus-HHK1-Lander. Credit: Aame.in

Dhruv Batra, fellow Jedi Master who came on board full time in 2013 to handle project delivery, says he knew he wanted to be part of the team after a 5-minute phone conversation in 2011 with Narayan, who he had worked with before, that began, “Radical idea, karna hai kya?” He says the idea of having the tricolour on the surface of the moon got them excited. “It was all about patriotism. Remains about patriotism.”

Babu sounds fed up when he says he is often asked why Indians like him should invest time, effort and resources in space when the country faces so many other problems. He feels that it is a question that no one would ask of an American company, and believes that technology makes large scale improvements possible. He believes their mission’s success will put a stop to questions like those.

What makes the prospect of a private company landing a spacecraft on the moon so radical? For one, no private company has ever created a spacecraft that has travelled beyond earth’s orbit so far. As Naveen Jain, one of the co-founders of Moon Express, an American team in the running for the GLXP, said in an interview, “If we succeed, not only will we become the first private company to land on the moon but the fourth superpower. If a small group of entrepreneurs can do something that only had been done by superpowers, that’s a huge shift in what’s possible.”

PS Nair, who joined ISRO in its early years soon after completing his PhD in the early 70s and worked on projects such as Aryabhata, India’s first satellite, says he feels it would be a waste if all the knowledge and expertise at ISRO remains confined to ISRO. Team Indus’ mission, he says, is “a real step forward for the private industry towards technology building in satellite and aerospace technology, and that will be a big step forward for India. And that is why some of us are really excited and interested in helping and being part of this process.”

Mohini Parameswaran, a former scientist at ISRO and the European Space Agency (ESA), points out that the specific technical knowledge required for such a mission requires practical experience. Parameswaran, who now works at Team Indus on the ground software to command the spacecraft and monitor its health, comes with that valuable experience, having worked with missions like the Rohini series and Rosetta.

With a launch date set for December 28, 2017, Team Indus only has a year in which to develop and test all their technology to ensure their goal for now is met: for their lightweight rover named ECA, which looks rather like a sleek Wall-E (and just as adorable), to fulfil the conditions of the GLXP and plant the Indian flag on the moon’s soil on January 26, 2018 — Republic Day. At the moment, a prototype of the ECA (pronounced eeka), which weighs under 10 kg, sits at their facility for testing in what looks like a large sandbox, which is made up of 16 tonnes of quarry dust, meant to mimic the moon’s fine soil, across which the rover will have to travel. The moon has no atmosphere, and is considered to be surrounded by vacuum. The ECA will also have to withstand the moon’s harsh surface temperatures, which can range from 100°C during the day to -150°C or less at night.

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Team Indus, the only Indian competitor in Google's XPrize competition. Credit: Team Indus

Team Indus’ page on the GLXP website says that its mission is “a celebration of all things great about India – the audacious goal, the young bright engineers, the can-do entrepreneurial spirit, partners who commit their resources, and the new breed of world-class entrepreneurs who have supported (us).” Hyped as it may sound, by early 2015 Team Indus had received their first public affirmation that they were on the right track: they won a GLXP Milestone Prize worth $1 million for demonstrating their landing technology. It was created by a team of around 35 engineers, all under the age of 26 at the time, with the guidance of a few experts.

As for the money, they received funding from high-profile investors such as Nandan Nilekani, former Infosys CEO and former chair of the Unique Identification Authority of India, who in early 2015 came in as an angel investor and advisor. Other investors included HCL founder Ajai Chowdhry, and Sasken Communication founder Rajiv Mody. Put together, Team Indus received about $1.5 million.

Amidst ongoing funding efforts, in November 2016, Narayan told BusinessLine that stock investors Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Ashish Kacholia and RK Damani had picked up stakes in Team Indus, though Nilekani remains their single biggest investor. Industrialist Ratan Tata, and Flipkart founders Sachin and Binny Bansal are also among their top investors. Team Indus pegs the cost of the entire project at $65 million, over thrice the amount of the GLXP prize money itself.

To win the final prize, teams have to prove that 90% of their costs were privately funded, and had to bag a verified launch contract by the end of 2016. The latter was taken care of just in time, with Team Indus announcing a commercial launch contract with ISRO in early December 2016, making it one of only five teams left in the running to have satisfied that criterion. Team Indus’ spacecraft will be launched on ISRO’s trusty polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV). Apart from Team Indus and Moon Express, the Israeli team SpaceIL and the international team Synergy Moon have bagged verified launch contracts to remain in the GLXP.

Team Indus’ latest exciting announcement is a collaboration with HAKUTO, their Japanese competitors in the GLXP who won $500,000 for the robotic rover they developed and the fifth team to make it through this round. The 4 kg Japanese rover will hitch a ride on Team Indus’ 600 kg spacecraft, which can carry up to 20 kg. Apart from the two rovers, Team Indus will also be carrying student experiments and international university payloads under what they call their ‘Lab2Moon’ initiative. One of these will be a 4 kg payload created by a group of Kolkata scientists, which has an X-ray detector and four computers that for the first time ever will study outer space from the surface of the moon.

The Japanese collaboration is in line with what Team Indus plans for its future beyond the GLXP mission: commercial projects that could involve satellite projects; if they nail the descent on their current spacecraft, then commercial payloads are a possibility; also possible would be expeditions to exploit natural resources on the moon such as water and Helium-3 (a non-radioactive isotope of helium that is rare on earth and sought after for its use in nuclear fusion research, cryogenics and for other purposes). In this, their goals are somewhat similar to that of Moon Express, formed by a group of Silicon Valley and space entrepreneurs, which also plans to take payloads to the moon and has its eye on the moon’s natural resources. (However, on the possibility of mining natural resources, Batra points out, they’d rather facilitate such operations than be involved directly. “What the scientific community wants to do on the surface of the moon, we would rather leave to the experts,” he says.) In contrast, SpaceIL is a non-profit that aims to promote science and scientific education with the prize money, and the sees the space industry as having the potential to be “a major growth engine for the Israeli economy”. Synergy Moon’s stated aim beyond the competition is to develop space exploration and adventuring technologies and services “all intended to bring space closer to humanity.”

For now, Dhananjay, a young marketing executive at the company, a former electrical engineer who joined Team Indus after hearing about it from friends, says that the hardest part of the mission is “obviously” the descent algorithm: only China, the erstwhile USSR and the USA have ever managed a soft landing on the moon. With no precedent to go on, not even from ISRO, it’s something Team Indus will have to build from scratch. Once Team Indus’ spacecraft is injected by the PSLV into an orbit 800 km above the surface of the earth, it will have set course to the moon “by switching on its own engines in a series of complex orbital manoeuvres,” says a release from Team Indus. Managing the landing in the vacuum that surrounds the moon is tough, as the engines available to Team Indus are not “throttleable,” says Batra, and its descent onto the moon’s surface cannot be controlled in real time from earth. “The last 900 seconds have to be completely autonomous. Because of the latency between the earth and the moon, the entire decision matrix has to be onboard the spacecraft.” Using a closed loop design, engines will have to control the spacecraft’s thrust, and sensors will have to detect position and velocity and pass this information on to the engines in turn so the craft lands vertically, with its solar panels harnessing energy from the sun.

Nair, who is working on the design and development of Team Indus’ moonlander and rover, believes that now they are past the design stage in some cases, the most critical part will be the hardware realisation and testing, which is just beginning and will have to be done in “war mode”. “Any major slippage can cause difficulty,” he says. The coming 12 months will be the toughest and most critical, he believes, technically far more difficult than anything they have done so far. On the other hand, Batra says carefully that he would rather not focus on any specific aspect of the mission as being the most difficult, as the smallest error at any stage could lead to failure. However, everyone from Batra to Nair appears confident that they will not fail. “There is a good chance of the mission’s success. But there is no room for slackness,” Nair says.

One aspect of the company Team Indus loves to highlight is its young team, with an average age of 28, building their own tech, some of it entirely from scratch. “When I joined ISRO after my PhD in ‘72-73 and we were working on Aryabhata, we didn’t have anyone whom we could go to with our questions,” says Nair, who is now 71. When he began his career at ISRO, the organisation was only a few years old, having been established in 1969. “The starting point for the youngsters at Team Indus now is a lot better. They get a lot more handholding and mentoring than we did,” he says. Parameswaran says she was initially asked to come in twice a week. “After a month,” she says, “all these young people liked my approach and they said, ‘No, no, we want you to come every day.’” She says she enjoys being able to guide the young engineers at the company. “I feel 20 years younger,” says the 61-year-old. As a start-up, the work atmosphere at Team Indus appears casual, and with all the Star Wars references thrown around in the company (apart from the Jedi Masters, there are Skywalkers, Troopers and Padawans), it seems only logical that the release of a new Star Wars movie is considered a good enough reason here for a day off. The same applies to Star Trek films (they do not discriminate, says Dhananjay), and to films about space like The Martian or Gravity.

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Team Indus's core leadership team, including fleet commander Rahul Narayan, fourth from left. Credit: US Wall Street Journal

Behind the light-hearted exterior, Jedi Masters Batra and Babu speak of the initial challenges of being taken seriously as private players in the aerospace arena. Batra says it’s a measure of how far they’ve come in five years that he was recently asked by a vendor if it would be alright to send out a press release announcing their association with Team Indus. Batra and Babu also talk about having left their families behind to relocate to Bangalore with Team Indus (Batra’s family only recently moved to join him), their 24/7 campus and the sheer amount of work that has gone into Team Indus. If the entire endeavour already seems to have an aura of movie-like coolness, Batra and Babu make clear the nuts-and-bolts of the mission holding it together. Although Team Indus’ website makes lofty statements about the possibility of the moon becoming the “first outpost of an interplanetary species of humans,” Batra tells me that, for now, they would “rather position themselves as a logistics company” capable of carrying various payloads to the surface of the moon. “Beyond the [GLXP] mission, the effort that has gone into this will help us build credentials to become proven manufacturers of satellites and as a company capable of doing interplanetary missions,” says Babu.

And then Batra circles back to talking about patriotism. Theirs is, after all, a company that has an inspirational quote in Hindi from Prime Minister Narendra Modi at their entrance (“Yehi naujawan is desh ki taakat hai”: These young people are the strength of this nation) and, reportedly, blessings from Modi himself. The sentimentalism, however, doesn’t seem entirely incongruous with their scientific mission. Perhaps it’s the very movie-like quality of it all that makes it fit right in with stories like Interstellar, whose makers took pains to try and get the scientific details in their movie right, only to throw in a fifth dimension amidst the wormholes and black holes and interplanetary journeys: love.

In Batra’s cabin hangs a drawing of Yoda, done by his daughter. Babu’s cabin has his daughter’s 10th standard board exam schedule. There’s one burning question I have to ask them before I leave their office: have they seen the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One?

Both men shake their heads and laugh. Their work schedules simply don’t allow it.

Website: http://www.hindustantimes.com/tech/to-t ... y20vO.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 09 Jan 2017 00:42

Research may solve lunar fire fountain mystery
by Phys.org August 24, 2015

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Melt inclusions are tiny dots of magma frozen within olivine crystals. The crystals lock in volatile elements that may have otherwise escaped from the magma. Researchers have shown that melt inclusions within volcanic glasses from the Moon contain carbon. They conclude that gas-phase carbon likely drive the "fire fountain" eruptions the produced the glass. Credit: Saal Lab / Brow University

Tiny beads of volcanic glass found on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions are a sign that fire fountain eruptions took place on the Moon's surface. Now, scientists from Brown University and the Carnegie Institution for Science have identified the volatile gas that drove those eruptions.

Fire fountains, a type of eruption that occurs frequently in Hawaii, require the presence of volatiles mixed in with the erupting lava. Volatile compounds turn into gas as the lavas rise from the depths. That expansion of that gas causes lava to blast into the air once it reaches the surface, a bit like taking the lid of a shaken bottle of soda.

"The question for many years was what gas produced these sorts of eruptions on the Moon," said Alberto Saal, associate professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Brown and corresponding author of the new research. "The gas is gone, so it hasn't been easy to figure out." The research, published in Nature Geoscience, suggests that lava associated with lunar fire fountains contained significant amounts of carbon. As it rose from the lunar depths, that carbon combined with oxygen to make substantial amounts carbon monoxide (CO) gas. That CO gas was responsible for the fire fountains that sprayed volcanic glass over parts of the lunar surface.

For many years, the Moon was thought to be devoid of volatiles like hydrogen and carbon. It wasn't until the last decade or so that volatiles were definitively detected in lunar samples. In 2008, Saal and colleagues detected water in lunar volcanic beads. They followed that discovery with detections of sulfur, chlorine and fluorine. While it became apparent that the Moon was not completely depleted of volatiles as was once thought, none of the volatiles that had been detected were consistent with fire fountain eruptions. For example, if water had been the driving force, there should be mineralogical signatures in recovered samples. There are none.

For this research, Saal and his colleagues carefully analyzed glass beads brought back to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions. In particular, they looked at samples that contained melt inclusions, tiny dots of molten magma that became trapped within crystals of olivine. The crystals trap gases present in the magma before they can escape.

Although other volatiles were previously detected in the lunar volcanic glasses and melt inclusions, the measurement of carbon remained elusive due to the high detection limits of the available analytical techniques. Erik Hauri from Carnegie Institution for Science developed a state-of-the-art ion probe technique reducing the detection limits of carbon by two orders of magnitude. That allows a measurement of as low as 0.1 part per million.

"This breakthrough depended on the ability of Carnegie's NanoSIMS ion probe to measure incredibly low levels of carbon, on objects that are the diameter of a human hair," said Hauri. "It is really a remarkable achievement both scientifically and technically." The researchers probed the melt inclusions using secondary ion mass spectroscopy. They calculated that the samples contained initially 44 to 64 parts per million carbon. Having detected carbon, the researchers devised a theoretical model of how gases would escape from lunar magma at various depths and pressures, calibrated from the results of high-pressure lab experiments. The model had long been used for Earth. Saal and colleagues changed several parameters to match the composition and conditions affecting lunar magma.

The model showed that carbon, as it combines with oxygen to form CO gas, would have degassed before other volatiles. "Most of the carbon would have degassed deep under the surface," Saal said. "Other volatiles like hydrogen degassed later, when the magma was much closer to the surface and after the lava began breaking up into small globules. That suggests carbon was driving the process in its early stages." In addition to providing a potential answer to longstanding questions surrounding lunar fire fountains, the findings also serve as more evidence that some volatile reservoirs in the Moon's interior share a common origin with reservoirs in the Earth, the researchers say.

The amount of carbon detected in the melt inclusions was found to be very similar to the amount of carbon found in basalts erupted at Earth's mid-ocean ridges. Saal and his colleagues have shown previously that Earth and the Moon have similar concentrations of water and other volatiles. They have also shown that hydrogen isotope ratios from lunar samples are similar to that of Earth.

If volatile reservoirs on the Earth and Moon do indeed share a common source, it has implications for understanding the Moon's origin. Scientists believe the Moon formed when Earth was hit by a Mars-size object very early in its history. Debris from that impact accreted to form the Moon.
"The volatile evidence suggests that either some of Earth's volatiles survived that impact and were included in the accretion of the Moon or that volatiles were delivered to both the Earth and Moon at the same time from a common source—perhaps a bombardment of primitive meteorites," Saal said.

Explore further: Water on Moon and Earth came from same primitive meteorites, analysis shows
Reference: Carbon content and degassing history of the lunar volcanic glasses, Nature Geoscience, DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2511
Journal reference: Nature Geoscience
Provided by: Brown University

Website: http://phys.org/news/2015-08-lunar-foun ... .html#nRlv

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 09 Jan 2017 07:25

A Walk On The Moon With Apollo 16's Charlie Duke
by Jim Clash Forbes.com January 07, 2016

As part of Apollo 16 in April 1972, Charles Duke became the tenth -- and youngest -- man to step onto the lunar surface, just minutes after his crewmate John Young.

In a way, Duke was famous even before he flew. As a mission control specialist in Houston when Apollo 11 ran long on its landing -- with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin barely reaching the lunar surface before using all of their fuel -- Duke deadpanned, “Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot!"

We caught up with Duke, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general, a while back for, what else: a walk on the moon.

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Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., Apollo 16 Lunar Module pilot, is photographed collecting lunar samples at Station No. 1 during the mission’s first extravehicular activity at the Descartes landing site. Charles Duke, Apollo 16 Lunar Module pilot, is the youngest of the dozen men to walk on the moon.(Image Credit: NASA)

Jim Clash: Take us back 45 years. What are your most enduring lunar memories?
Charles Duke: The most vivid is the beauty: the stark contrast between the brilliant gray of the moon and the blackness of space. The gray was so bright it was almost white -- a sharp break between the surface and the horizon. The sun was always shining, so you didn’t see stars or planets. You could see Earth, but where we were -- a little south of the center of the moon -- it was difficult. Earth was directly overhead, and, when I looked up, I saw the top of my helmet [laughs]! When I look now at photos and videos taken, I can remember landmarks like Stone Mountain and Red Crater -- those kinds of things. I also remember a lot about riding in the rover -- John [Young] drove me around. So, yes, a lot of memories after three days up there.

JC: How about personal feelings?
CD: It was exhilarating. But as far as feelings, there was no spiritual or philosophical experience -- it was an adventure. I’m a test pilot who loves exploration. My thoughts were: “What’s over the next ridge? What’s the next experiment? There’s a rock over there we ought to get!” These are the kinds of things that motivated me.

JC: Can you believe you were really there?
CD: Yes. It’s never seemed like a dream to me, and it was so awesome to stand where nobody had ever been before -- at least the area where we landed. You could see the major landmarks you had to explore, so you felt right at home. It was so exciting: “Man, I’m on the moon!”

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Moonwalker Charles Duke at The Explorers Club in New York. Charlie Duke holds a flag like the one carried by Apollo astronauts at The Explorers Club in NYC (Image Credit: Stacey Severn)

JC: How about fear -- any of that?
CD: No, not really, not from a standpoint of a problem with the spacecraft not making it or, “Will we get back?” When you had thoughts like that, it was more, “What if it doesn’t work?" or “How do you get it going? How do you fix it?” I did have one moment of fear having fun at the end of our stay. John and I were going to do the Lunar Olympics and set the high-jump record. When I jumped, I fell over backwards. And that was scary because the backpack is not designed for impact, even at one-sixths gravity. It could have been fatal. I could have broken the plumbing, the pumps, the regulator. If anything fails and you lose pressure in the suit, you’re gone. So it was a scary moment. But I was able to roll right and break my fall. You can watch me trying to get my balance in the video, but finally I disappear behind the rover so Mission Control didn’t see me hit the ground. My heart was pounding, I have to admit.

JC: Did you get to keep any of the rocks you brought back?
CD: Well, I got a lot of rocks with John. We collected a couple of hundred pounds, but a personal one -- no. NASA didn’t approve of that. We eventually were given one with the provision that we had to give it to a museum or university. I gave mine to my prep school, Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida, and it’s still on display there. By the way, that school has two moonwalkers -- myself and Alan Shepard. There were two campuses back then -- in New Jersey, where he went, and in Florida, where I went. They make a lot of miles out of being “the prep school for moonwalkers!”

Website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimclash/20 ... 6276cd7147

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 10 Jan 2017 02:18

Moon may have formed from flurry of impacts on the ancient Earth
by Theguardian.com January 9, 2017

New computer simulations counter widely-held belief that moon was formed from a single massive collision

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A flurry of impacts over 100m years could have kicked up enough material to form orbiting moonlets, which gradually merged to make the moon, say researchers. Photograph: Getty Images/Stocktrek Images

The moon may have formed after an ancient rocky bombardment that pummelled the Earth and sent trillions of tonnes of debris into orbit, scientists say. Computer simulations show that a flurry of impacts over 100m years could have kicked up enough material to form orbiting moonlets, which gradually merged to make the moon.

A pelting from 20 rocky bodies, some moon-sized themselves, and some as large as Mars, would have been sufficient to do the job, according to researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. The proposal contradicts the widely-held view that the moon was born from a single whopping collision in which a Mars-sized object landed a glancing blow on the fledgling Earth and blasted 70 billion billion tonnes of rock into space.

While popular, the idea that the moon was created in a one-off collision raises questions of its own. If the colliding body had a different chemical makeup to Earth, then traces of it should be seen in moon rock. But so far, tests have failed to find any sign of foreign material in the moon.

One possibility is that the body that crashed into the ancient Earth was made of exactly the same stuff as our planet. But Raluca Rufu, an author on the latest study, said that seems unlikely: in contrast to the Earth and moon, meteorites and other material in the solar system vary substantially in their chemical signatures.

Rufu ran a series of computer simulations to see whether a prolonged pelting from objects in the early solar system could have dislodged enough material from Earth to build the moon. In the computer models, some impacts were head-on and flung huge amounts of Earth rock into space, while others struck at shallower angles and lent the Earth its spin.

“We see that multiple impacts will have a high probability of building a moon with similar composition to the Earth,” Rufu said. “With 20 impactors, it would take about 100m years to build the moon.” Details of the study are published in Nature Geoscience.

The simulations showed that high energy impacts often sent plumes of debris filled with Earth rock up into space, where they formed discs around the planet. The material in each disc then clumped together into a moonlet which slowly spiralled outwards to coalesce with other moonlets and form a single, larger moon. The moon is still receding from Earth today, its orbit increasing by 4cm a year.

Rufu’s proposal that the moon could be made from 20 impacts relies on all of the collisions forming moonlets that gradually coalesce into one larger body. In reality, the making of a moon is unlikely to be so straightforward. Her focus now is to model moonlet mergers to see how efficient the process might have been. “As a scientist you always have to ask ‘is it true or not?’ If you have too much confidence in your theory something is wrong,” she said.

Gareth Collins, a planetary scientist at Imperial College, London, said that building the moon from a flurry of impacts was an appealing way to explain why the moon seems to have the same chemical signature to Earth. “It’s quite difficult, in one go, to get a lot of the Earth into orbit to form the moon. It can be done, but it requires very specific conditions which are rare, and you end up spinning the whole system a lot,” he said. “What’s nice about building the moon in stages is that some of the impacts can get stuff off the Earth and into orbit, and another set can set the Earth spinning.”

But Collins is not convinced. Instead of the moon forming in stages, he thinks that whatever hit Earth all those millions of years ago may have had the same chemical makeup after all.

The best shot at an answer may come from the Chinese space programme. Later this year, the nation’s space agency aims to send the Chang’e 5 to the moon to collect and return the first moon rocks since the Apollo missions. “If we had more lunar samples, that would be very helpful,” Rufu said. “One giant impact should produce a more homogenous rock, but under our scenario, I’d expect the composition to vary between different regions.”

Website: https://www.theguardian.com/science/201 ... -years-ago

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 10 Jan 2017 22:17

French space agency to provide cameras to TeamIndus
by Press Trust of India Business-standard.com January 9, 2017

French Space Agency CNES will provide cameras to TeamIndus, the only Indian team competing for the USD 30-million Google Lunar XPRIZE.

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TeamIndus headquarters graced with the presence of French Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault, President of CNES Mr. Jean-Yves Le Gall and H.E. Mr. Alexander Ziegler. Credit: Thetechportal.com

France is the global leader in the micro-camera technology that will equip sensors designed to aid TeamIndus' rover's progress by detecting ground obstacles in its path. The agreement to provide cameras developed by CENS was signed between Rahul Narayan, CEO of leading Indian start-up, Axiom Research Labs, which has put forward TeamIndus.

It is a global competition for engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. TeamIndus plans to design an all-terrain rover by end-2017 for this lunar mission. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and CENS also concluded a partnership in satellite launch technology.

To win, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth. Jean-Marc Ayrault, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, who is on a four-day visit to India to strengthen bilateral ties, was also present during the signing of agreement.

ISRO chairman A S Kirankumar and Gall also concluded a partnership between ISRO and CNES respectively in satellite launch technology. On the occasion, Kumar gave the French delegation a guided tour of ISTRAC (ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network). It is from this latest generation ISRO control center that Indian space missions are monitored, including the two Indo-French satellites currently in orbit for collecting data to track climate change.

Website: http://www.business-standard.com/articl ... 293_1.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 12 Jan 2017 01:04

The Many-Moons Theory
By Alan Burdick Newyorker.com January 9, 2017

Our planet may once have had dozens of small moonlets, which welded together over the millennia into the object that’s visible today. Credit: PRINT COLLECTOR / GETTY

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Unbeknownst to most earthlings, the moon is experiencing a crisis. Geophysicists will tell you that it’s a “compositional” crisis—a crisis regarding the stuff of which the moon is composed. But it’s also an identity crisis, as much for the scientists as for the object they study.

Our moon formed about 4.5 billion years ago, between twenty million and a hundred million years after Earth took shape. How exactly it got there is a matter of debate. Did it accrete in tandem with Earth, from the same proto-planetary stuff, or did it spin off afterward? Is it our fraternal twin or an identical one? Or was it adopted, drawn into our gravitational sway as it passed by? Since the nineteen-eighties, the consensus has centered on the single-impact hypothesis, sometimes known as the Big Splash or the Big Splat, which supposes that the moon formed when a planet-size object, often called Theia, crashed into Earth and sent a huge mass of debris into orbit. But today, in a paper in Nature Geoscience, a team of Israeli researchers is proposing an equally compelling origin story: the moon, they submit, is the product not of one impact but of at least a dozen—and it isn’t just one moon but an amalgam of the many moons that came before it.

The single-impact scenario has prevailed for so long because it gracefully accounts for several critical facts. For one, the moon is severely lacking in iron compared with Earth, and its core is much smaller relative to its mass than Earth’s is. Computer simulations indicate that such a moon could arise if an object the size of Mars (which has one-tenth Earth’s mass) struck our planet at an oblique angle; the resulting moon would be composed mostly of the impactor, including its small core, plus a scraping of Earth’s iron-poor mantle. An off-center impact would also have set our planet spinning at a rate of once every four or five hours, which most calculations indicate was the case with the early Earth. In the past three decades, as simulations have grown more powerful, scientists have been able to test out all kinds of factors—impactors of various sizes, approaching at various speeds and angles, hitting an Earth spinning at various rates. They all show that it’s not so hard to make a moon, if not necessarily our moon.

Which brings us back around to the current crisis. Studies of the lunar soil and rocks that came back with the Apollo missions, between 1969 and 1972, have shown that the moon’s composition doesn’t quite square with the Big Splat. Elements come in a variety of flavors, known as isotopes; for instance, there’s regular old oxygen, or 16O, which has eight neutrons and eight protons, but also the rare 17O, which has an extra neutron. The moon is deficient in certain Earth elements, as the single-impact hypothesis predicts, but the elements it does have—not only oxygen but also titanium, tungsten, and aluminum, among others—possess the same isotopic signatures as on our planet. In other words, a spoonful of dust from the Sea of Tranquility might have an identical ratio of 16O and 17O to one from, say, the Sahara. Unless whatever struck Earth back then was made of precisely the same stuff as Earth, which isn’t so likely, it’s hard to imagine their collision producing two objects as homogeneously similar as Earth and the moon. “That’s at the core of the issue we’ve all been grappling with,” Robin Canup, an astrophysicist at the Southwest Research Institute and a longtime proponent of the single-impact hypothesis, told me over the weekend.

The new study, led by Raluca Rufu, a Ph.D. student in planetary sciences at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and her adviser, Oded Aharonson, effectively started over. The impetus came from Hagai Perets, a planetary physicist at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and a coauthor of the study, who noted that, at the time the moon formed, collisions were commonplace. Given all that activity, it seemed unlikely to Perets that a very large impact—large enough to set Earth and the moon on their current courses—would occur but not be followed by another. Also, all of those impacts must have produced a lot of moons over time. “It’s kind of common to form a moonlet,” Rufu told me. “So where are they?” Maybe, the team thought, all those moonlets are still there, welded into the body of the single object that’s visible today; from many collisions, one moon. To test that idea, Rufu ran more than eight hundred and fifty simulations, involving a wide range of impactors, to see what kinds of moons would result. “I am impacting the Earth, so I’m building the Earth and I’m destroying the Earth,” she said.

Rufu found that it was possible to create a moon from a series of impacts much smaller than those posited in the Big Splat. “If we have about twenty, we can build a moon-size moon,” she said. Each impact would have ejected a disk of molten earth that slowly coalesced into a moonlet. This object would then have migrated far enough from Earth to be safe from the next impact, a few million years later. One by one, Rufu said, the moonlets would have merged to form a single, large, well-mixed lunar mass.

Rufu readily admits that her team has more work to do. Their model assumes that the individual moonlets survived and persisted, whereas, realistically, they may have been just as likely to be reabsorbed or lost. (The next step is to examine the merger process itself.) But for the moment it appears that our moon is statistically as likely to have been produced by multiple impacts as by a single one. “I applaud the group,” Canup said. “They’ve convinced me that maybe it’s now worth considering. Suddenly, the multiple-impact scenario looks equally probable—or improbable, depending on your perspective.” Rufu and Canup wouldn’t mind having a few more moon rocks to study. Although the current analysis is consistent, the rocks come from only a few regions on the moon, and they demonstrate how even a handful of samples can drastically alter what scientists think they know. “If we didn’t have the rocks, we would have convinced ourselves thirty years ago that we’d solved the origin,” Canup said.

What’s clear beyond question is that the moon we see—singular, majestic, the iconic master of time and tides—is only the most recent in a long line of them. Like the human species, maybe, it’s a sole survivor. “Irrespective of whether the moon formed from one impact or many, the last stages of Earth’s growth involved many, many impacts, so we should have had many, many moons before the current one,” Perets told me. “We should have had a ton of them. Probably not more than two, at most three, at the same time.” Rufu said, “That would be fun to see, right?”

Our current moon is also undoubtedly our last, or at least the last one that we’ll see. Its orbit is slowly expanding, sending it a couple of inches or so farther from Earth every year, and one day it will escape our grip entirely. And there will be no new moon to replace it, since there’s nothing big enough left in our neighborhood to help create one—asteroids, maybe, but “nobody really expects a planet-size thing to come and impact Earth,” Perets told me. Then he caught himself. “Actually, Mercury isn’t really stable in its orbit in the long run—we’re talking maybe ten billion years,” he said. “But I don’t think we need to worry about that right now.”

Website: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/ ... ons-theory

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 12 Jan 2017 19:32

Moon likely formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, scientists say
by Abc.net.au January 12, 2017

The Moon is considerably older than previously thought and likely formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, scientists in the US have found.
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Scientists say the Moon is the key to understand how Earth formed and evolved. Credit: Reuters

Key points:
New estimate is between two and four times previous calculations.
Discovery result of analysing rocks and soil from 1971 Apollo 14 mission.
Moon history will shed light on evolution of early Earth and solar system.
Their discovery was a result of analysis of rocks and soil collected by the Apollo 14 moonwalkers in 1971.

The study, by a research team from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), found the moon formed within 60 million years of the birth of the solar system. Previous estimates ranged from within 100 million to 200 million years after the solar system's creation. The scientists conducted uranium-lead dating on fragments of the mineral zircon, extracted from Apollo 14 lunar samples. The pieces of zircon were minuscule: no bigger than a grain of sand.

"Size doesn't matter, they record amazing information nonetheless," lead author Melanie Barboni said, noting the moon held "so much magic".
Some of the eight zircon samples were used in a previous study, also conducted at UCLA.

Dr Barboni said that by studying additional zircons from Apollo 14, she never expected to be revising the estimated age of the moon. "It would be more a double-checking than anything else," she said.

Based on Dr Barboni and her colleagues' research, reported in the journal Science Advances, the Moon is fairly precisely 4.51 billion years old — give or take 10 million years. She said the team was eager to learn more about the moon's history and, in turn, the evolution of early Earth and the entire solar system.

In February 1971, Apollo 14's Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell collected 41 kilograms of rocks, and used tubes to dig up soil while exploring the moon's Fra Mauro highlands. They conducted two spacewalks, spending nine hours altogether out on the lunar surface.

Scientists still to settle how Moon formed
The UCLA report is the second major moon study this week. Earlier, Israeli scientists suggested the Earth's constant companion may actually be a melting pot of many mini-moons. The researchers proposed that rather than one giant impact that shaved off a chunk of Earth and formed the moon, a series of smaller collisions may have created multiple moonlets that eventually merged into one.

Dr Barboni said regardless of how the moon came into being, "you still end up at the end solidifying the moon as we know it today".

The giant impact theory holds that the resulting energy formed a lunar lava ocean that later became solid. It is the date of this solidification that Dr Barboni and her team believe they have established.

"We finally pinned down a minimum age for the moon's formation, regardless of how it formed," she said.

Website: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-12/m ... ts/8177446

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 13 Jan 2017 21:28

City team aims to make mark in race to colonize Moon
by Prathibha Joy TOI January 11, 2017

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For years, man has been pushing the envelope in exploring space and the possibilities of finding or sustaining life elsewhere. And three young space enthusiasts from Bengaluru are looking at doing their bit in the race to make human sustenance a possibility on the Moon by 2025 —the deadline that the International Space Station has set for colonizing Earth's satellite.

Space exploration is a subject of interest for Keerthivardhan M Joshi, his twin brother Harshavardhan and their school pal, Aditya Bujurke, who participated in the Lab2Moon global competition for young minds (U-25) run by Team Indus — the city-based group that is sending a rover to the Moon — to imagine, design and build a project that would catalyze the evolution of mankind as a sustainable multi-planetary species. One of the 25 selected experiments will find a place on Team Indus' Moon mission.

"The three of us have a flair for aerospace, which is why we have also made it our profession. When we came across the competition, the scale seemed exciting. Our first thought was that we keep hearing about advancements and breakthroughs in space, and all we do is read about it in newspapers. We thought, why not become a part of such a success story. This competition seemed the perfect opportunity for us," says Keerthi.
The challenge was to come up with a reliable model that is in sync with the objectives of the competition and make it airworthy, and once they figured that out, the trio, who dubbed their initiative The Lunar Leap, believed that they had a good shot at the finals. "Our initial ideas required more room in terms of budget and power and we realized that it is tough to manage an experiment that meets the objective and is among the best.

In fact, all the other shortlisted teams have amazing ideas. Keerthi adds, "We are trying to send samples of animals called tardigrades to the Moon. They are no bigger than 0.5 mm and have famously been used in space experiments before. NASA has already tried experiments with them on space stations, considering their ability to survive extreme conditions without food and water. But they had the liberty to bring back the samples and test them on Earth. This was an area that we wanted to plug. Since they were tested in the space station, there was only the effect of radiation and temperature fluctuations. Also, at a space station, there is zero gravity, whereas the Moon has micro-gravity — 1/6th of that of the earth's. We wanted to test for this parameter as well, along with others that can help biologists in the long run. What aided our belief in this approach was a study that these animals can be potential radiation shields," Keerthi explains.

Image

In the past, experiments with tardigrades had samples rehydratred on Earth, while Keerthi and his team are looking at doing the same on the surface of the Moon.

"This is not a retrievable mission. Assuming that our experiment makes it to the Moon, and some manned mission in the future rehydrates them and these organisms revive, that can positively contribute to the Panspermia theory of life origin, which states that life originated somewhere else and after the Big Bang, it came here in the form of these tardigrades. It is a hypothesis and someone needs to prove it. If we succeed in proving this, it will be our biggest USP," he signs off.

Website: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city ... 442943.cms

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 14 Jan 2017 09:21

The company that wants to mine the Moon has enough money for its first trip there
Moon Express just got $20 million in funding
by Loren Grush Theverge.com January 13, 2017

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A rendering of the MX-1E lander. Moon Express

Moon Express — the California-based company with hopes of mining the Moon someday — has received full funding for its first trip to the lunar surface, slated for later this year. The company just raised $20 million in its most recent round of financing, and has raised over $45 million in total so far. That money will go toward launching Moon Express’s MX-1E lander, which will explore and take pictures of the Moon’s surface after launching on an experimental Electron rocket.

The company’s funding sources come from venture capital firms Founders Fund and Collaborative Fund, the software company Autodesk, and other private investors, according to Moon Express. “We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the Moon,” Moon Express CEO Bob Richards said in a statement. “Our goal is to expand Earth’s social and economic sphere to the Moon, our largely unexplored eighth continent, and enable a new era of low cost lunar exploration and development for students, scientists, space agencies and commercial interests.”

“OUR GOAL IS TO EXPAND EARTH’S SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SPHERE TO THE MOON, OUR LARGELY UNEXPLORED EIGHTH CONTINENT.”

Moon Express is one of the main contenders in the Google Lunar X Prize, an international competition to send the first private spacecraft to the Moon. One of the primary restrictions of the competition is that 90 percent of funding for each lunar mission has to come from private sources, and so far Moon Express seems to have met that requirement. Meanwhile, other key events have been falling into place for Moon Express. Last year, the company announced that it received approval for its mission from the Federal Aviation Administration, the first time a private company had ever received regulatory approval from the US government to go to the Moon.

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Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, which will carry the MX-1E lander. Rocket Lab

The biggest piece of the puzzle that’s still missing is the rocket, however. The Electron that will launch the MX-1E lander is a brand-new vehicle manufactured by Rocket Lab, a US-based aerospace startup that plans to launch from New Zealand. The Electron is a rocket aimed at mostly launching small satellites, but it’s never been launched. Rocket Lab announced late last year that the Electron was ready for flight testing, but a date for the inaugural flight has yet to be announced.

THE DEADLINE TO GET TO THE MOON IS DECEMBER 31ST, 2017

The Google Lunar X Prize deadline to get to the Moon is December 31st, 2017, and the first team to land and explore the lunar surface will receive $20 million. Moon Express’ MX-1E lander is designed to launch into Earth orbit on the Electron and then fire its own engines, making a four-day trip to the Moon. Once it lands, it will explore by hopping across the surface, as well as take pictures and videos to send back to Earth. The lander will also carry scientific instruments, including payloads from NASA, the International Lunar Observatory, and the University of Maryland.

Meanwhile, Moon Express has many other ambitions beyond the MX-1E mission. Ultimately, the company wants to mine the Moon for resources, such as water that can be then repurposed for rocket fuel. Moon Express recently moved into Space Launch Complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, where it will test out its MX-1E lander and future lunar spacecraft.

Website: http://www.theverge.com/2017/1/13/14263 ... ar-x-prize

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 14 Jan 2017 19:08

When and How Did the Moon Form?
by Kelly Beatty Skyandtelescope.com January 13, 2017

New studies offer contrasting scenarios for making the Moon. One argues for a one big splat early in solar-system history; a second envisions a score of lesser blows that built up the Moon over time; and a third suggests water was involved. Given the trove of lunar samples in hand and the power of modern laboratory analyses, you'd think that by now geochemists should have completely nailed exactly how the Moon formed. But not so — in fact, there's still lots of debate on how Earth formed.

Here's the basic problem: about 30 years ago, dynamicists showed that a body roughly the mass of Mars could have struck Earth a glancing blow and ejected enough debris into orbit to collect into a Moon-size object. In virtually all of those simulations, most of what ends up in the Moon came from the impactor rather than from Earth.

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Artwork of a Mars-sized object colliding into the Earth early in solar system history. Many planetary scientists believe that an impact such as this threw off the debris which eventually formed the Moon. Lynette Cook / Getty Images

But the Apollo (and Luna) lunar samples, not to mention lunar meteorites, show that the Moon and Earth have very similar compositions. Apart from their lack of iron and extreme lack of water, Moon rocks match Earth's isotopic ratios for the geochemically diagnostic elements titanium, calcium, silicon, and (especially) oxygen and tungsten. This really pins the dynamicists in a corner — only in rare cases, 1% or 2% of the time, do their simulations yield a Moon with an Earthlike composition. There's also a problem of fine-tuning the impact to yield the angular momentum of the current Earth-Moon system.

I've written about possible solutions to these conundrums (or is it "conundra"?) here and here, but no one idea checks all the boxes. One can imagine that the giant impactor and proto-Earth had nearly identical compositions — but statistically and intuitively that seems unlikely.

In January 9th's Nature Geoscience, Israeli researchers Raluca Rufu, Oded Aharonson, and Hagai Perets argue that the notion of a single, giant impact is wrong. Instead, they propose that Earth endured dozens of lesser (but still potent) impacts with object ranging from 1% to 10% of its mass, each of which ejected debris into an orbiting disk. The rings quickly coagulated into moonlets, and tidal interactions with the young, mostly molten Earth then drove each of them outward. Over time they accumulated into the Moon.

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According to simulations by three Israeli researchers, the Moon might have assembled over time from the debris of 20 or more individual impacts with Earth. Nature Geoscience / R. Rufu et al.

This approach yields a lunar composition that's an amalgam of many compositions, which eases the unyielding isotopic constraints. The most Earth-like contributions came from nearly head-on collisions that drilled deeply into our planet's mantle. A couple of glancing blows late in the process could have tweaked the system's angular momentum to match what exists now.

As Gareth Collins (Imperial College, London) notes in an accompanying News & Views perspective, "Lower-energy moonlet-forming impacts would leave parts of Earth unscathed. Distinct, terrestrial geochemical reservoirs may therefore have survived Moon formation." And, indeed, researchers have identified portions of Earth's mantle that are compositional mismatches to the rest of our planet.

Making the Moon: Slow or Fast?
The piecemeal assembly envisioned by the Israeli team would have taken a long time, perhaps even 100 million years — and that opens up another aspect of the lunar-formation debate. Some planetary scientists have indeed argued, mostly on geochemical grounds, that the Moon might have formed 150 to 200 million years after the beginning of the solar system. Others claim it showed up much sooner, within a few tens of millions of years.

Another new analysis, published January 11th in Science Advances, maintains that the Moon came together in a hurry and had mostly solidified by 4.51 billion years ago, or 60 million years after the solar system's birth. The evidence, say Mélanie Barboni (University of California, Los Angeles) and six colleagues, is found in eight tiny grains of the mineral zircon (ZrSiO4), collected by Apollo 14's astronauts, in which they found traces of uranium, lead, and hafnium used for isotopic age-dating.

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Researcher Mélanie Barboni holds a lunar sample prior to crushing it to extract zircon grains like the one in the inset. Mélanie Barboni / UCLA

Several years ago a different research group had analyzed these same grains, and it also came up with an early formation age. But that result had wide uncertainties, owing to the techniques used. Barboni's team redid the age-dating, carefully measuring the lead isotopes that resulted from the radioactive decay of uranium-235 and -238 and also assaying the decay of lutetium to hafnium. Finally, the researchers also corrected for the lunar samples' exposure to cosmic rays, which can bias the isotopic ratios. They feel the resulting age of 4.51 billion years has an uncertainty of no more than 10 million years — and that the Moon might actually be older.

More pointedly, the Apollo 14 zircon grains presumably crystallized from the deep lunar magma ocean (LMO) that existed right after the Moon came together. This would have happened if the Moon assembled as white-hot debris after a single, catastrophic impact with Earth — but it's less likely if dozens of little cooled-off moonlets coagulated into a single whole.

Throwing Water on the Problem
As if the How and When of the Moon's formation weren't complicated enough, a third new analysis argues that — despite its extreme dryness today — the Moon likely contained a lot of water when it formed. In the same issue of Nature Geoscience, Yanhao Lin (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and three others describe their experimental attempts to mimic how the Moon's magma ocean solidified. Lower density minerals would have floated to the top, forming a crust.

They find that the suite of minerals found in the lunar crust today — combined with its thickness — argue that water was part of the mix at a concentration of 270 to 1,650 ppm. This might not seem like much — but if proven true there'd be significant implications.

"A wet start of the Moon, coupled with the strong similarities between the composition of the Moon and the composition of the silicate Earth," Lin's team concludes, "suggests that equally high concentrations of water were present in the Earth at the time of the Moon-forming event."

References:
Raluca Rufu et al. "A Multiple-Impact Origin for the Moon.” Nature Geoscience. January 9, 2017.
Gareth S. Collins. "Punch Combo or Knock-out Blow?" Nature Geoscience. January 9, 2017.
Mélanie Barboni et al. “Early Formation of the Moon 4.51 Billion Years Ago.” Science Advances. January 11, 2017.
Yanhao Lin et al. "Evidence for an Early Wet Moon from Experimental Crystallization of the Lunar Magma Ocean.” Nature Geoscience. January 9, 2017.

Website: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronom ... moon-form/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 14 Jan 2017 22:47

ImageImage

TeamIndus is inviting you behind the scenes of our Moonshot. The Open House on Jan 21, 2017 (Saturday) is an opportunity to learn more about our Mission, meet our engineers & scientists, take a look at our spacecraft and rover, ECA.

Join by https://teamindus.typeform.com/to/EtMYww

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 15 Jan 2017 11:08

Model shows that multiple impacts could have produced our Moon
Lots of smaller impacts could build a Moon, but the hypothesis has its issues.

by Xaq Rzetelny Arstechnica.com January 14, 2017

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Credit: European Southern Observatory (ESO)

A new paper in the journal Nature challenges the leading explanation for the Moon’s formation. The predominant idea is that the Moon was created after a planetary body roughly the size of Mars collided with the early Earth. The debris it sent up later coalesced into the Moon. But researchers are now revisiting the largely discarded idea that a series of smaller impacts with the Earth may have collectively built the Moon.

Moon history
The giant impact hypothesis was first proposed in the 1970s. When computers became powerful enough, we found that it worked in simulations. A glancing blow from a Mars-sized planetesimal leads to a disc of material around the young Earth that, over time, coalesces into the Moon. And planetesimals were readily available in the early Solar System, flying around on weird orbits which made collisions with planets very probable.

In terms of its mass, angular momentum, and iron content, the Moon formed in these simulations was very similar to the real one we observe. But over the years, researchers kept running into difficulties with this model.

For one thing, the simulations predicted that the Moon would be formed from about four parts material from the planetesimal and one-part material from Earth. That being the case, the Moon should have a substantially different composition from that of the Earth. But recent studies have shown that the two bodies are a close match for each other, at least in terms of isotopes of oxygen, titanium, and tungsten.That doesn’t necessarily mean the giant impact hypothesis is wrong. It could just be that the isotopes in the original planetesimal were already similar to those in the Earth.

If that’s the case, it wouldn’t matter which body the bulk of the Moon’s material came from; we’d get the Moon we observe either way. But that explanation is uncomfortable. For one thing, the isotopes found throughout the Solar System aren’t identical to the Earth’s. So while such an Earth-like planetesimal could form, it’s far more likely the planetesimal’s composition would differ from the Earth’s.

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Artist's rendition of the giant impact scenario, in which a planetesimal collides with the young Earth. Credit: NASA

The other possibility is that the planetesimal was different from the Earth, but most of the Moon’s material came from the Earth, rather than the planetesimal. The trouble with this theory is that only an extremely powerful collision would send that much of the Earth’s bulk into space. But the resulting Moon would have a different amount of angular momentum, one that probably wouldn’t match the angular momentum of the real Moon anymore.

It’s still possible to get a collision that produces the observed composition and angular momentum, but that would need to be a very specific kind of collision. Scientists tend to mistrust solutions that need to be finely tailored to match the data.

Multiple impacts
In the 1980s, an alternative hypothesis was proposed in which the Moon formed out of multiple impacts rather than a single one. The impactors would still be planetesimals, albeit smaller ones. Each impact would send a new disc into Earth’s orbit. These discs would individually coalesce into tiny moons, or “moonlets.” Gravity would draw these moonlets toward each other and merge them into the Moon we know. The merger would be possible because moonlets slow down as they move away from the Earth due to tidal forces from the planet.

It wasn’t clear whether these impacts could create large enough moonlets for this hypothesis to work, and the angular momentum might also be off. This model subsequently fell by the wayside, due to the giant impact hypothesis’ simplicity and elegance. But the problems with the giant impact hypothesis have induced a team of researchers to revisit the multiple-impact scenario.

The researchers ran a series of 864 simulations involving the Earth being hit by multiple planetesimals of medium to large size (0.01 to 0.1 Earth masses). They tried a variety of initial conditions for the simulations—different speeds, object masses, angles of impact. Moonlets of varying masses formed from collisions in 750 of the 864 simulations. Furthermore, in cases where the planetesimal has a head-on collision with the simulated Earth, a large proportion of the resulting moonlet’s mass came from the Earth’s material.

“We believe the Earth had many previous moons,” said Hagai Perets of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, one of the paper’s authors. “A previously formed moon could therefore already exist when another moon-forming giant impact occurs.”

That means a substantial proportion of each moonlet’s composition still originates from a planetesimal. But that’s probably not an issue. The planetesimals probably have different compositions from each other, so when you mix enough of them together, they just dilute each other. This leaves the Earth’s chemistry as the dominant ingredient.

Challenges
One pitfall with this idea is the number of impacts it requires. The researchers estimate that about 20 impacts would get the job done, but this assumes that all the moonlets merged perfectly into the Moon, and very little of their material was lost to the Solar System at large. Reality, unfortunately, is often messier than that, which means that a lot more impacts would be needed to make up for the losses.

If that’s the case, the multiple-impact model starts to look less and less probable—potentially even less probable than some versions of the giant impact model. Of course, that depends on how many planetesimals were flying around the early Solar System. The more there were, the more often one of them would likely smack into the Earth. Future work could make better estimates of the early planetesimal population; if the early Solar System was crowded enough, the multiple impact model could be plausible. If that were the case, however, then you run into the question of why Venus doesn’t have a moon as well.

Future work could also estimate the efficiency of moonlet mergers and how much material is lost to space during the process. The present work made no attempt to do so. Finally, if the multiple-impact scenario is true, it might have observable consequences. For example, since each impact would be substantially less powerful than the single impact of the giant impact scenario, the collisions would have left the original Earth more intact. If so, that might mean that reservoirs of pristine material are hiding somewhere on Earth. And indeed, evidence has turned up in recent studies of pristine reservoirs.

Nature Geoscience, 2017. DOI: doi:10.1038/NGEO2866

Website: http://arstechnica.com/science/2017/01/ ... -our-moon/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 15 Jan 2017 16:56

Why did the USSR lose the Moon race?
by Pravda.ru January 12, 2017

Image
Credit: VentureBeat

The Soviet Union was completely unprepared to beat the US in the space race. Americans landed on the Moon in 1969. The success of the Apollo program was not only a remarkable technical achievement. This achievement proved the political predominance of the United States of America. The Soviet leadership realized that fact perfectly. The USSR was the only country that did not air the live broadcast of the first ever moonwalk.

The Moon was a lot more relevant than just a space body. The USSR came to that realization in the beginning of the 1960s. The Moon was a political arena. This was the reason why the USSR approved of the program to conquer the Moon. The funding of the program was a lot larger than the development of the virgin lands. It goes without saying that the program was totally secret. It has never been mentioned in any special literature. The newspaper Izvestia told the dramatic story of the Soviet Moon program only in August of 1989, when censorship slackened in the Soviet Union.

The Moon program was the last “love affair” for Russian aviation designer Sergey Korolev, who dreamed of interplanetary exhibitions. A group of soviet cosmonauts with Aleksey Leonov (the first spacewalker in history) at the head was set up especially for flying to the Moon. The most difficult part of the program was the construction of a rocket that could land cosmonauts on the Moon. The rocket was called the N1. The rocket tried to take off four times during period 1969 to 1972. It blew up all four times. The last launch of the rocket was the longest. It exploded in the air 112 seconds after its launch. It should be said here that breakdowns during space technology tests are usual things to happen.

Those failures were the reason to fire Vasily Mishin, the chief designer of the country. The new chief, Valentin Glushko, was an ardent adversary of the Moon program. Glushko was determined to work with the development of non-expendable space shuttles. The Communist Party had the same opinion as well, since the Moon race was lost. Furthermore, the Americans did not yet have shuttles back then. They have shuttles now, while Russia still doesn’t.

It is ironic, but the N1 rocket, which failed to fly into space from the territory of the Soviet Union, now serves the United States. Academician Nikolay Kuznetsov designed very powerful engines for the N1. When the Moon program was shut down, Soviet officials repeatedly tried to destroy them. Nikolay Kuznetsov had to hide his creations in hangars. Nowadays, the company Energomash sells modernized RD-170 engines to the USA. America uses the best engines for its new rockets. This is the largest contract of the Russian defense industry with the West.

The Russian Buran space shuttle repeated the tragic fate of the Moon program. There is reason to look into the reasons of its failure. Space exploration failures were indications of the economic weakness of the country. The USSR lost the technical race with the USA, despite the technical genius of Soviet designers. America spent $25 billion on the Apollo project, whereas the USSR spent only four and a half billion rubles, according to unofficial information.

The debacle can be explained by the weakness of the state management as well. There was nothing in the USSR like NASA in the United States. Too many political issues in science, imaginary values instead of real ones, and too many personal views played roles as well. Every Soviet chief designer had to stand for his ideas, looking for the patronage of a communist official. There should have been completely different political and economic mechanisms in the country in order to elaborate new approaches to science and industry.

Website: http://www.pravdareport.com/history/12- ... on_race-0/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 16 Jan 2017 21:42

Solar storms can trigger sparks, melt soil on Moon: Nasa
by PTI Firstpost.com January 08, 2017

Washington: Powerful solar storms can charge up the surface in frigid, permanently shadowed regions near the poles of the Moon and possibly produce "sparks" that vaporise and melt the lunar soil, a new Nasa study has found. This alteration may become evident when analysing future samples from these regions that could hold the key to understanding the history of the Moon and solar system. The Moon has almost no atmosphere, so its surface is exposed to the harsh space environment. Impacts from small meteoroids constantly churn or "garden" the top layer of the dust and rock, called regolith, on the Moon.

Image
Solar storms generates sparks, melts soil on Moon. Credit: Indialivetoday

"About 10 per cent of this gardened layer has been melted or vaporised by meteoroid impacts," said Andrew Jordan of the University of New Hampshire in the US. "We found that in the Moon's permanently shadowed regions, sparks from solar storms could melt or vaporise a similar percentage," said Jordan.

Explosive solar activity, like flares and coronal mass ejections, blasts highly energetic, electrically charged particles into space. Earth's atmosphere shields us from most of this radiation, but on the Moon, these particles — ions and electrons — slam directly into the surface. They accumulate in two layers beneath the surface; the bulky ions can not penetrate deeply because they are more likely to hit atoms in the regolith, so they form a layer closer to the surface while the tiny electrons slip through and form a deeper layer.

The ions have positive charge while the electrons carry negative charge. Since opposite charges attract, normally these charges flow towards each other and balance out.

In August 2014, however, researchers showed that strong solar storms would cause the regolith in the Moon's permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) to accumulate charge in these two layers until explosively released, like a miniature lightning strike. The PSRs are so frigid that regolith becomes an extremely poor conductor of electricity. Therefore, during intense solar storms, the regolith is expected to dissipate the build-up of charge too slowly to avoid the destructive effects of a sudden electric discharge, called dielectric breakdown.

The research estimates the extent that this process can alter the regolith. "This process is not completely new to space science-electrostatic discharges can occur in any poorly conducting (dielectric) material exposed to intense space radiation and is actually the leading cause of spacecraft anomalies," said Timothy Stubbs of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt in the US. The team's analysis was based on this experience. From spacecraft studies and analysis of samples from NASA's Apollo lunar missions, the researchers knew how often large solar storms occur.

The research was published in the journal Icarus.

Website: http://www.firstpost.com/living/solar-s ... 93640.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 17 Jan 2017 07:42

12 Men Who Walked on Moon in Final Years of Apollo Program
by The Associated Presss January 16, 2017

NASA's Apollo space program stretched from 1961 to 1972, culminating in a dozen men walking on the moon in its final years. Gene Cernan, who died Monday, was the 11th man to set foot on the moon — but the last to leave the lunar surface at the end of his third and final moonwalk with Harrison "Jack" Schmitt.

The moonwalkers were, in order:

— Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11, 1969. (Died in 2012.)

— Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Apollo 11, 1969.

— Charles "Pete" Conrad, Apollo 12, 1969. (Died in 1999.)

— Alan L. Bean, Apollo 12, 1969.

— Alan Shepard, Apollo 14, 1971. (Died in 1998.)

— Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14, 1971. (Died in 2016.)

— David Scott, Apollo 15, 1971.

— James B. Irwin, Apollo 15, 1971. (Died in 1991.)

— John Young, Apollo 16, 1972.

— Charles M. Duke Jr., Apollo 16, 1972.

— Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17, 1972. (Died in 2017.)

— Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, Apollo 17, 1972.

Website: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireSt ... m-44817689

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 17 Jan 2017 20:30

Mining the Moon: Florida company one step closer
by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud Mining.com January 16, 2017

Image
Moon Express CEO Bob Richards and actor Rod Roddenberry, founder of The Roddenberry Foundation. Credit: Moon Express

After getting the necessary approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration last year, Moon Express began focusing efforts on gathering the funds it needs to land a 20-pound (9 Kg.) package of scientific gear, including a telescope, on the Moon.

This week, representatives for the Florida-based company announced that they have secured $20 million in a new round of Series B funding from private investors, including venture capital firms Founders Fund and Social Capital, and software company Autodesk. The additional resources swelled Moon Express’ coffers with more than $45 million, but its leadership stills wants to raise an extra $10 million as a “contingency.”

This money will allow Moon Express to land its spacecraft on Earth’s only natural satellite and compete for an additional $20 million in funding from the Google Lunar X Prize.

The GLXP requires participants to not only reach the Moon before December 31, 2017, but also to move their vehicles at least 1,640 feet (500 metres) on the lunar surface and send the craft beam high-resolution imagery back to Earth. The funds that they use for their missions must come almost entirely from private sources.

The team that completes the full task, wins the prize.

If that turns out to be the case for Moon Express, the next steps for the company are to start flying commercial flights to the Moon and begin mining Helium-3, which can be used in nuclear fusion reactors.

"Our goal is to expand Earth's social and economic sphere to the moon, our largely unexplored eighth continent, and enable a new era of low-cost lunar exploration and development for students, scientists, space agencies and commercial interests," Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards said in a statement.

The company designed and built its MX-1E lander, while aeronautics startup Rocket Lab will be in charge of deploying it when the right time comes.

Image
Moon Express' MX-1E lander. Credit: Moon Express

Website: http://www.mining.com/mining-the-moon-f ... ep-closer/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 18 Jan 2017 22:18

What you were taught about how the moon formed may be completely wrong
by Jesse Emspak Qz.com January 09, 2017

Image
We used to be one.(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

For years planetary scientists have chalked up the moon’s origin to an impact between Earth and a Mars- or larger-sized body called Theia. According to this theory about 4.5 billion years ago a newly-coalesced Earth was hit by another protoplanet. The impact pulverized a sizable part of our young planet, sending the debris into orbit where, under its own gravity, it accreted to make our moon. A study published today (Jan. 9) in Nature Geoscience is calling this into question, proposing several impacts of smaller bodies instead of a single huge one.

“We have all been focused on the idea of finding a single impact,” says Robin Canup, a planetary scientist at Boulder’s Southwest Research Institute. “The out-of-the-box thinking here is to relax that assumption, asking, Can we form the moon in little bits?” Canup was not involved in the study, though she has herself proposed that the moon formed when a Earth collided with another protoplanet nearly the same size.

The Earth-moon system is a local oddball. First, the relative size of Earth’s moon is huge compared with the moons of the four giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. None of their moons are more than a few thousandths the mass of the planets they orbit. Mars’s two moons are even smaller—hardly more than big boulders. Our moon is a little more than a quarter of the diameter of the Earth and has about 1.2% of Earth’s mass. Pluto and it’s moon Charon are the only bodies that are remotely similar.

Secondly, the composition of the moon looks a lot like Earth’s mantle: the ratio of isotopes of oxygen, titanium, and tungsten are nearly identical to that on Earth. The giant planets’ moons are nowhere near so similar to their hosts.

Last, there’s the way the Earth and moon spin. Earth is slowing down; days get a fraction of a second longer and the moon moves about an inch further from Earth each year. This happens because of the conservation of angular momentum: to use a hoary example, a skater spins faster when she pulls her arms in and slower when she extends them. The moon, in this metaphor, are the arms, and the Earth is the body; as tidal friction slows down the Earth’s rotation around its own axis, the moon moves farther away to conserve the overall angular momentum of the Earth-moon-system. That isn’t like other planet-moon we know of, and it means that any theoretical large-scale impact of a protoplanet with the Earth would have needed to have happened in a way to get our planet spinning faster than it was before.

The theoretical Theia impact would have produced the right amount of angular momentum, if it approached from the right angle and was an off-center hit. It would also explain the relatively large size of the moon and its composition—sort of. The problem is that the odds of getting a single impact that hits in just the right way are relatively small. On top of that, the model also has to assume Theia was made of material very similar to Earth’s mantle. “When you do the modeling, you see the debris disc is mostly impactor material,” says Rahica Rufu, a PhD student at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and lead author of the new study. “The impactor has to be similar to Earth for this to work.”

Yet Mars, Rufu notes, is very different, as are the asteroids. Who knows what Theia’s composition looks like? Only 1-2% of the simulated single impacts in previous studies formed a moon like ours, assuming some 70-80% of the material that ended up in orbit was from Theia. For the impactor to kick up lots of mantle material but almost nothing of itself, you’d need a strike that falls in just the right way—not too head-on, and not too grazing. That Rufu says, seems improbable.

Assuming several impacts, all from bodies between 0.01 and 0.1 times the Earth’s mass, allows the compositions to “average out.” One might have more of a certain isotope of oxygen than the Earth, another might have less. And the odds of a hit by many small objects are greater than getting hit by a single big one—large objects are relatively few and far between. (Even now, on any given day, thousands of dust-sized meteors burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, but a rock big enough to hit the ground is a rarity.) Rufu’s simulations result in a chance of 10% or more of getting the Moon we see today.

Canup says the big challenge for the multiple impact model is angular momentum. Something had to get the Earth-moon system spinning as fast as it does. A single big hit could spin things up or slow the system down, but multiple hits would have a harder time doing that, because the impactors would come from random directions. On the other hand, in single-impact models, the mass of the impactor of Earth has to be just so to produce the rotation of the Earth-moon system we see now. While it isn’t a deal breaker for the multiple-impact theory, it will require more research.

Another challenge would be if a sample of rock from Venus showed the second planet from the sun was very similar in composition to Earth, Canup says. The reason is what we believe Mars and the asteroids formed with compositions different from Earth and the moon. Therefore any other bodies forming in that region were also likely to differ from Earth, but planetary scientists are less sure about the places between say, Mercury and Earth. Getting a rock sample from Venus would show that even planets that formed in the same neighborhood can differ greatly, or it could show they don’t. If Venus turns out to be very similar to Earth, then the odds that Theia was similar go up. If Theia was very similar then the problem of the similarity of the Earth and moon’s composition a single impact presents is less acute, and multiple impacts are less necessary to explain it. But right now many details of Venus’ composition are still unknown—no probe has ever brought back a rock sample or done the kinds of detailed isotopic analyses we’ve been able to do on moon rocks.

Rufu says she has more studies in the works to further refine the hypothesis, and address some of the objections. “The formation of the moon is still a puzzle, and it’s a very interesting puzzle,” Rufu says. “If we can understand that we can understand how other satellites are formed, and even the moons of exoplanets.”

Website: https://qz.com/881264/the-moon-may-have ... otoplanet/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby Nick_S » 22 Jan 2017 20:40

X-post from Indian Space Programme dhaga.

Fly your name to the moon for Rs 500
http://www.business-standard.com/articl ... 656_1.html

If you pay Rs 500 to the first private moon mission in the country, Team Indus, your name could be etched on an object travelling to the celestial satellite next year. Team Indus is looking to raise money through crowdfunding for its mission. Those contributing would have their names written on an aluminium block that will accompany the mission’s rover to the moon, reaching on January 26, 2018. The initiative, to be launched next month, is looking to raise up to $10 million by getting 1.4 million citizens to back the mission

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 26 Jan 2017 09:51

Five Teams Book Tickets To The Moon To Win The Google Lunar XPRIZE
by Brid-Aine Parnell Forbes.com January 25, 2016

Five teams have until the end of this year to launch a spacecraft to the Moon and win Google’s Lunar X Prize.
Image
Credit: GLXP

The clock is ticking for the private space launch hopefuls, who have until December 31st to get their competing probes on their way to the lunar surface in the international competition.

The X Prize Foundation announced yesterday that 16 teams had been whittled down to just five with launch contracts, SpaceIL, Moon Express, HAKUTO, Synergy Moon and Team Indus. However, all 16 teams have shared the $1m Diversity Prize.

“XPRIZE and Google have been awestruck by the educational outreach activities conducted by all of the competing teams and have decided to split the $1 million Diversity Prize across all 16 teams to recognize each of their unique approaches and initiatives over the years,” said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director, Google Lunar XPRIZE.

“Each of these teams has pushed the boundaries to demonstrate that you don’t have to be a government superpower to send a mission to the Moon, while inspiring audiences to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

The teams had until the end of last year to get a verified launch contract into place, but just five groups managed to do that. Israeli non-profit SpaceIL has secured a position on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, while America’s Moon Express has signed a multi-mission launch contract with Rocket Lab USA for three lunar projects by 2020.

SpaceIL, which wants to inspire the next generation in Israel, booked a spot for its lunar lander, named Sparrow, on a Falcon 9 due for launch in the second half of this year.

Moon Express’ long term aim is to open up lunar resources for humanity, including mining on the Moon and exploring commercial space opportunities outside Earth’s orbit. Its MX-1E lander is going to be blasted off aboard the Electron, a small rocket from startup Rocket Lab that has yet to be tested. The first launch for the experimental rocket is expected in the next few months.

Japanese firm HAKUTO signed a rideshare agreement with TeamIndus of India to get its four-wheeled rover to the Moon. The company hopes to explore the holes on the Moon that are thought to lead to underlying lava tubes, a great scientific endeavour and a potential avenue to identify a place to put long-term habitats for humans.

TeamIndus has signed a commercial launch contract with the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle to get its own spacecraft and HAKUTO’s off the ground.

And finally, the international team Synergy Moon will blast off with team member and launch provider Interorbital Systems, using a NEPTUNE 8 rocket to carry a lunar lander and rover to the surface. The team’s aim is to make manned orbital travel, personal satellite launches and Solar System exploration more cost effective and accessible. The NEPTUNE 8 is also a new, as yet untested, rocket.

The five teams now have until December 31st 2017 to initiate their launch, rather than completing it, a change XPRIZE made due to the “diverse mission plans” of the finalists.

Google and non-profit XPRIZE launched the $30m lunar competition in 2007. To win, a team must successfully place some kind of robot on the Moon and explore at least 500m, beaming back pictures and video to Earth.

Website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/bridainepar ... 53051530b6

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 28 Jan 2017 00:35

Google Lunar Xprize Awards $1 Million Diversity Prize, Five Teams Move Forward To Final Phase Of Competition
by Press Release Lunar.xprize.org January 24, 2017

Image
Credit: CNET

LOS ANGELES (January 24, 2017) - Today, XPRIZE and Google announce that a $1 million Diversity Prize will be split among 16 Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, and that five teams have verified launch contracts and are moving forward to the final phase of the competition to land an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the Moon.

“XPRIZE and Google have been awestruck by the educational outreach activities conducted by all of the competing teams and have decided to split the $1 million Diversity Prize across all 16 teams to recognize each of their unique approaches and initiatives over the years,” said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director, Google Lunar XPRIZE. “Each of these teams has pushed the boundaries to demonstrate that you don’t have to be a government superpower to send a mission to the Moon, while inspiring audiences to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

All teams had until December 31, 2016 to have a verified launch contract in place. XPRIZE has verified the launch contracts of the following five teams, who are moving forward to the final phase of the competition:

SpaceIL (Israel), a non-profit organization, has secured a position on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Their goal is to make an educational impact and to create an “Apollo Effect” for the next generation in Israel.

Moon Express (USA), signed a multi-mission launch contract with Rocket Lab USA for three lunar missions by 2020. Their directive is to open up the Moon’s vast resources for humanity and establish new avenues for commercial space activities beyond Earth orbit.

Synergy Moon (International), team member Interorbital Systems will serve as the launch provider, using a NEPTUNE 8 rocket to carry a lunar lander and rover to the surface of the Moon. Synergy Moon is made of up individuals from over 15 countries, with a mission to make manned orbital travel, personal satellite launches and Solar System exploration cost effective and accessible.

TeamIndus (India), signed a commercial launch contract aboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). TeamIndus’ spacecraft is designed to nestle inside the nosecone of the PSLV and will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

HAKUTO (Japan), signed a rideshare agreement to have TeamIndus carry its four-wheeled rover to the Moon. Hakuto’s ultimate target is to explore holes that are thought to be caves or ‘skylights’ into underlying lava tubes, for the first time in history, which could lead to important scientific discoveries and possibly identifying long-term habitats to shield humans from the Moon’s hostile environment.

In recognition of the diverse mission plans of each finalist team, XPRIZE made an update to the guidelines to require that the launch is initiated by the December 31, 2017 deadline, instead of completed.

About the Google Lunar XPRIZE
The $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE 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 XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth. Visit http://lunar.xprize.org/ or @GLXP for more information.

About XPRIZE
XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Active competitions include the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, the $1.75M Water Abundance XPRIZE and the $1M Anu & Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE. For more information, visit http://www.xprize.org/.

Media Contact
Eric Desatnik
310.741.4892
eric@xprize.org

Website: http://lunar.xprize.org/press-release/g ... ve-forward

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 17 Feb 2017 08:33

ISRO gearing up for second moon mission
by T Nandakumar Thehindu.com February 16, 2017

Image
Credit: India TV

Lunar lander ready to be tested
Flush with the success of the PSLV- C37 mission which set a world record by placing 104 satellites in orbit, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is turning its attention to India’s second lunar mission, Chandrayaan- 2, scheduled for 2018.

The static test of the lander module of Chandrayaan- 2 will be held at the ISRO Propulsion Complex, Mahendragiri, by the end of February. Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), S. Somanath, told The Hindu that the test would measure the performance of the propulsion system of the lander module.

The Chandrayaan-2 craft consists of an orbiter, lander and rover to be launched as a composite stack into the earth parking orbit by a GSLV Mark 2 rocket. The orbiter later carries the combined stack upto the lunar orbit where the lander separates to make a soft landing on the moon’s surface and deploy the rover. In contrast, the Chandrayaan-1 mission comprised only an orbiter and moon impact probe.

Challenges in soft landing
Mr.Somanath said the soft landing involved in the Chandrayaan- 2 mission required special propulsion and control systems and complex electronics. The lander would have four engines to make a controlled descent from the orbiter.

For the static test, the craft would be mounted on a frame and the four engines fired at varying thrust. A month later, another lander module, a replica of the first one, would be tested in a suspended state. The craft would be hung from a crane and the engines fired to move the module in different directions and simulate a soft landing.

According to the ISRO website, the scientific payloads on board the orbiter, lander and rover of the Chandrayaan- 2 mission are expected to perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface.

In 2010, it was agreed that the Russian space agency Roscosmos would develop the lunar lander while the ISRO would be responsible for the orbiter and rover as well as the launch by GSLV. But with Roscosmos seeking more time to fulfil its commitment, ISRO took up the development of the lunar lander, turning Chandryaan-2 into a totally indigenous project.

Cryogenic engine
Meanwhile, the stage is set for the second ground test of the cryogenic upper stage of GSLV Mark 3, India's heaviest launch vehicle, at Mahendragiri on Friday. Designed and developed by the LPSC, the C- 25 engine which uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for propulsion will be fired for 640 seconds during the test. In January this year, the cryogenic stage was successfully tested for a duration of 50 seconds.

Website: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/k ... 313134.ece

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 17 Feb 2017 20:38

NASA Just Got Real About Returning to the Moon
by Jeffrey Kluger Time.com February 16, 2017

Image
A glimpse of home: Apollo 8 captured the iconic earthrise image during the first lunar orbit mission, in 1968. Fifty years later, NASA may be going back. (NASA)

Americans can get awfully dreamy about the moon — and with good reason. The flags and footprints we left there in the 1960s and 1970s were symbols of what we can achieve when we just plain decide to achieve it. And the fact that we abandoned it all — no permanent scientific moon bases that could also serve as test beds for deeper-space exploration — is an equally powerful symbol of what has long felt like national drift.

Now, however, the moon is making headlines again. On Wednesday, NASA's acting administrator Robert Lightfoot circulated a memo to employees hinting at the possibility of flying astronauts aboard the space agency's new heavy-lift rocket and crew vehicle as early as 2018. What's more, the mission would not just be to low-Earth orbit, but to lunar orbit — coming during the 50th anniversary year of the Apollo 8 mission, when astronauts first achieved that singular exploratory feat.

That, in the space community, amounted to an earthquake.

The rocket, known prosaically as the Space Launch System (SLS), has been in slow-walk development since 2004, as has the Orion spacecraft — a sort of souped-up, 21st-century Apollo capsule. According to the current schedule, the first mission, known as EM-1 (for Exploration Mission 1) would be an unmanned flight, launched sometime in 2018. The spacecraft would spend three weeks flying to and orbiting the moon, and then return home, demonstrating the deep-space flight-worthiness of all of the hardware. EM-2, a manned mission, would follow three to five years later and would repeat EM-1's flight profile, this time with astronauts aboard.

But Lightfoot, the former director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., prefers to step on the gas. In his surprise memo, he wrote that he wants to "assess the feasibility" of adding a crew to Exploration Mission-1, and then added:

I know the challenges associated with such a proposition, like reviewing the technical feasibility, additional resources needed, and clearly the extra work would require a different launch date. That said, I also want to hear about the opportunities it could present to accelerate the effort of the first crewed flight and what it would take to accomplish that first step of pushing humans farther into space.

Lightfoot isn't kidding when he speaks of challenges. Not only has the U.S. not sent human beings beyond Earth orbit since the Apollo 17 lunar landing in 1972, it hasn't had a crew-capable spacecraft of any kind since the space shuttles were mothballed in 2011. But the go-slow nature of the SLS and Orion development has less to do with the technological hurdles in a return-to-the-moon mission — considerable though they may be — than with political and institutional ones.

NASA has been hamstrung for 13 years by forever-changing signals coming from regularly changing administrations. It was former President George W. Bush who who first called for the construction of a new booster and spacecraft and for a return to the moon and a later trip to Mars. Former President Barack Obama scrapped all of that, then quickly reversed himself, restoring finding to the SLS and Orion programs after howls from space-dependent states, especially Florida, Alabama and Texas. The moon mission, however, was off the table; instead, astronauts would fly to an asteroid sometime in the 2020s and Mars in the 2030s.

The Trump Administration has now changed course again. As TIME reported last month, President Trump has signaled his interest in a robust manned space program, and moon advocates like Newt Gingrich have his ear. Lightfoot, with his pedigree at Marshall — where the old Saturn V moon rocket was designed — has long been an advocate of returning to deep space and using NASA-designed hardware to do it, as opposed to relying on the private companies like SpaceX to do the job. He may only be the acting administrator, but until a permanent replacement is named, he can help determine the agency's direction.

It is not lost on the White House that a moon program would also be a job creator, benefiting not only mega-contractors like Boeing (the prime builder of the SLS) and Lockheed Martin (which is building the Orion), but subcontractors around the country. The Apollo program was estimated to have meant jobs for a stunning 400,000 people, from the workers on the assembly lines to the three astronauts in the spacecraft.

A key hurdle for NASA in getting astronauts back into space aboard American vehicles has not just been the forever-changing exploratory target, but also securing the needed money. NASA's current budget is about $18 billion per year, less than a third of the nearly $60 billion inflation-adjusted outlay the agency received in the mid-1960s. As a share of the overall budget, the difference is even starker. NASA got about 4% of the annual budgetary pie during the peak of the space race; today it's 0.4%. On those kinds of starvation rations, NASA has spent 13 years just noodling with the SLS and Orion. In the cash-flush 13 years from 1961 to 1974, the space agency built and flew the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, as well as the lunar module and Skylab, American's first space station.

If NASA indeed secures the budget and the backing to send astronauts to orbit the moon in 2018, it would not simply mean re-checking a box it first checked half a century ago. Getting human beings to Mars requires testing the hardware — including habitats, pressurized rovers and fuel and water manufacturing equipment — that will make such longterm homesteading possible. Working all that out on the moon first — where an emergency return to Earth will take only three days — is a lot more sensible than testing it on Mars, from which a trip home would take eight months at a minimum.

Certainly, the turmoil that has marked the first month of the Trump presidency has proven that what looks like a plan today can easily be discarded tomorrow. On the other hand, the 1960s practically defined the idea of turmoil, and yet the drive for the moon pressed on, through four presidencies and half-a-dozen Congresses.

It was something America did right and did well. And it's something we could do again.

Website: http://time.com/4673290/nasa-moon-astronauts/

bharats
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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 18 Feb 2017 10:14

How Axiom Research Labs has emerged as India’s first private aerospace company
by Kunal Talgeri ET Bureau February 12, 2017

Bengaluru, Circa 1972
A young Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist Parameshwaran Sivasankaran Nair signed off a letter addressed to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He sought a software product called NASTRAN that helped design more efficient space vehicles. NASA had released it to the public a year before. Nair was one of many scientists working on India’s first satellite Aryabhata at ISRO’s satellite division, then in Peenya in Bengaluru.

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It is the first private sector company from India that is readying a space mission.

Three weeks passed, and a reply arrived in the ISRO mailbox — in the negative. The letter said something along the lines of: “If you have a software, we can try and exchange. But we don’t give such software.” Nair turned to the treasure trove that was the Indian Institute of Science library, which housed the country’s finest aerospace journals. What did NASA know? ISRO scientists had to write their own code. With no computer in Bengaluru, they travelled to Ahmedabad or the Indian Institute of Science library, which housed the country’s finest aerospace journals. What did NASA know? ISRO scientists had to write their own code. With no computer in Bengaluru, they travelled to Ahmedabad or the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, to access one.

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Noida, December 2011
Nirmal Suraj Gadde, 21, was a few months from graduating from IIT-Kharagpur. Schooled in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, the lean lad wasn’t bothered about the Delhi winter. The aerospace engineer from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, wanted to work at TeamIndus, but his only contact with boss Rahul Narayan for weeks was on the mobile phone. Worse, Narayan wanted him as an intern.

His first assignment at the company that was working out of Noida: “We are going to the moon. What I need you to do is study previous moon missions. Tell me how trajectories are done.” Gadde did that, but hit a block after studying several research papers from NASA’s Space Science Data Coordinated Archive online. “Going to the moon is not that tough. It’s about getting the timing correct,” he told Narayan, adding that he could calculate the trajectory. “Maybe there is some software solution for it?” asked the voice in Gadde’s phone. Gadde found two options: an AGI software priced in the region of Rs1 crore. Or, a free open source tool: General Mission Analysis Tool. “The satellite STK (software tool kit) is very costly,” Gadde said, “so I will go with the open source toolkit.”

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“Can you walk to my cabin?” Narayan asked. “Open the drawer. The STK CD is there. Use it.” “You have this software here? Have you done anything with it?” Gadde didn’t know that Narayan had no aerospace background. “No, I haven’t installed it yet. I will give you a contact to figure out the licence,” the boss replied. “Can I install it on my machine?” Gadde asked. Narayan thought for a moment. “No problem. You are the only employee right now.”

But how did a bootstrapped entrepreneur like Narayan get his hands on the Rs1 crore software?

The Google Lunar XPrize (GLXP).
This global contest has a $30 million prize purse for teams that can land a spacecraft on the moon, get a robot to move 500 m on the surface, and send back high-definition video footage to earth. XPrize, a non-profit organisation that designs and manages public competitions like GLXP, had sent a tool kit comprising the AGI software to more than 30 GLXP applicants. One of them was TeamIndus, founded by Narayan with Indranil Chakraborty (the only cofounder with an aerospace background at inception), Sameer Joshi, Julius Amrit and Dilip Chabria. TeamIndus is among the final five that will set off for the moon later this year. And ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle XL will inject them into lower earth orbit.

What makes these audacious space missions possible? Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and aerospace company Blue Origin, told this writer when he was in Bengaluru in 2014. “All the computation required now is extremely low cost,” he said. “What Blue Origin can do with 350 people couldn’t have been done by 1,000 people 20 — or even 10 — years ago. Now you can do computational fluid dynamics, say, to simulate what’s happening inside a rocket thrust chamber.” Blue Origin does such experiments on a computer, and then builds the hardware.

At its very essence, TeamIndus — and Axiom Research Labs, the company that houses it — is on track to becoming a citizen of that space industry. It is the first private sector company from India that is readying a space mission.

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Shooting for the Moon
After Gadde joined in 2012, he used all the gravitational parameters and physics built into the AGI software to design moon missions. Back then, it took him more than five hours to do one “trip” to the moon. He would get the trajectory close to it, not quite on the moon. By now, he’s done more than 5,000 moon “landing”. It now takes him five minutes to calculate the most suitable route. “We have laid down the path.
Shooting for the Moon

After Gadde joined in 2012, he used all the gravitational parameters and physics built into the AGI software to design moon missions. Back then, it took him more than five hours to do one “trip” to the moon. He would get the trajectory close to it, not quite on the moon. By now, he’s done more than 5,000 moon “landing”. It now takes him five minutes to calculate the most suitable route. “We have laid down the path. Then, navigation is about whether we are following that path or not. And then, how do we control?”

In the same period, Axiom Research Labs has evolved into a 110-employee organisation, including Nair, that young ISRO scientist from the 1970s. He is employee No. 25, and has embraced the new era, where young engineers can email the University of Colorado Boulder for a mission operations software that tracks a spacecraft when in flight — and buy other software off the shelf. His only grouse: the software influence is growing at the cost of aerospace engineers losing touch with hand-calculations for basic design — “the physical understanding of engineering”.

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“There is plenty of information available on the net now,” says Nagapathi Chidambar Bhat, 69, another ex-ISRO scientist and TeamIndus employee. “India didn’t even have a Xerox machine in our days.” Bhat and Nair are among eight former ISRO scientists at Axiom Research Labs. These and 20 other experienced consultants from the space fraternity (professors, scientists) form a core group, with a bulk of the work managed and done by engineers in their 20s.

“A TeamIndus may not have been possible in the US because there are many established aerospace companies and it requires a lot of capital to create an aerospace startup,” says Vivek Raghavan, who heads the technology function at TeamIndus as a volunteer, in addition to being an investor and director on the board of Axiom. “Here, the unique thing is that a bunch of talented engineers graduated and TeamIndus became an employer of choice. It has allowed us to build a large team despite not having large funding in the early years, compared with other teams competing for the GLXP.”

The unique aspect of the journey to date has been a systems-engineering culture that marries the experience of ISRO veterans with the work of young engineers, many of whom are here because they love aerospace engineering and see this as a gateway for a career in it. Take the ones in their early 20s: systems engineer ES Paul Edward, in the structures and mechanisms team, who finished his master’s from Cranfield University, UK; Karan Vaish, an aerospace engineer who has already worked on the moon rover. Nakul Kukar, another systems engineer who trained at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Department of Space, in Thiruvananthapuram, even worked with ISRO for some time before joining Axiom.

“Each one of the kids who joined four or five years ago is now ready and primed to go to the next level,” says Narayan, fleet commander (aerospace parlance for CEO) of Axiom. “They will be able to lead a much bigger team, to lead a program. In any industry someone starts it. Maybe, Axiom is that entity for private aerospace. I am fairly certain that a lot of what we do here is creating a template for what more can be done from India.” But the ISRO confluence has been crucial, especially for an organisation that cannot afford to look back on what is a $65 million moon mission. And the costs are eye-popping, considering that Axiom has placed 95% of the orders for equipment and material in the US (10+ vendors), Europe (10+ vendors), Japan (one), apart from home (7).

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The TeamIndus spacecraft (or lander) has tanks that will cost $2.5 million, a $3 million engine and an IMU (inertial measurement unit) to manoeuvre the spacecraft that costs $1.5 million. The vibration test of the spacecraft at ISRO (over Rs50 lakh) costs more than that version of the spacecraft. The XPrize has already awarded a $1 million milestone prize to TeamIndus, and ISRO’s Antrix sign-off for the PSLV deal has been another huge validation. Says Narayan: “There are rough edges. But as an organisation, we are able to punch way above our weight.”

“The real challenge is now,” says Nair. “Overcoming technological and time constraints, testing, showing the functionality and, of course, the mission itself. Compared with what we have been through, the biggest challenge is in the next 12 months.” The ISRO veterans have already instilled something invaluable: a review structure.

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The spacecraft: The all-aluminium quadrapod has been designed and developed by TeamIndus to survive temperatures between -230°C and 150°C.

Do, Review, Repeat
To do any space mission, there are 11 or 12 standard steps to follow. Narayan didn’t know about this until 2012. That year he met Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, who had retired as ISRO chairman and was member of the now disbanded Planning Commission in Delhi. The 15-minute appointment went on for more than an hour. Kasturirangan said TeamIndus is on the right track, a validation that would in time prove crucial in many of the ISRO veterans making time for Axiom.

The Moon Mission is divided into around 10 subsystems (See Inside TeamIndus’ Technology Subsystems), each of which has four 4 to 12 people. There is an expert or manager in each subsystem. Since 2013, Axiom has separately built a group of 20-odd independent reviewers who know about the mission. “Early on, it was OK to start from scratch and tell somebody in half hour how we got here and what the design is. Now we need people who have reviewed us before, so they don’t have to start from scratch,” Narayan explains.

From December 13 last year, TeamIndus had a weeklong review of all systems. Forty reviewers sat together for the systems-engineering overview, and then broke into groups of six or eight that reviewed each subsystem. Reviews can take half a day to two days. “I can choose to do a review every two months,” says Narayan. “Or when I have made a dramatic change,” like a supplier backing out. In that case, a change in component has an impact on power, mechanism and structures. “Therefore I want to do a review.” Every subsystem knows it has to get an independent review before proceeding to the next level. The next all-systems review is in April. Nair says ISRO has always had such an open environment. “If you attend an ISRO review, you see the real nature of analysis and criticism,” he says. Even for Chandrayaan I, a lot of changes were made after every review for improvement. “I see the effort to emulate our processes here at TeamIndus.” The young engineers couldn’t have asked for a more testing environment, while working on subsystems. Such a project approach also lends itself to a flat organisation. “At ISRO too, everyone’s work was open to very critical reviews. Everyone could question, criticise. There would be arguments. Once the decision was made, it would be executed as a team,” Nair says.

Epilogue
Will Axiom evolve into a Blue Origin? Perhaps not, with the capital at its disposal. It looks improbable for India’s private sector today. “Aerospace engineering is learned by experience,” says Rishikesha Krishnan, director and professor of strategy at Indian Institute of Management, Indore. “Organisations like Boeing or ISRO have cumulative expertise who can build from the experience of trying and failing,” Krishnan explains. “That is hard to replicate and can’t be bought. The other issue is material — aerospace is all about having very strong but lightweight material, which India currently imports or are not available because of import restrictions.”

Axiom has started on the path by blending ISRO wisdom with an organisational model. The market they target needs to be deep, if not a mile wide. Bhat, the ex-ISRO scientist, says India’s private sector can have an infrastructure to build satellites rather than focus on launching rockets. “Building and testing is one of the key areas which we have to turn into a world-class capability, so that satellites can be built and tested from India,” he explains, “while the others compete over preparations and launch.” Even this slice of an opportunity calls for huge investments. And the moonshot will prove critical to draw attention to India — and Axiom.

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The team has made a small dent in the global supply chain by making it to the top five at the GLXP contest. Dhruv Batra, Jedi master (program), has been instrumental in stitching together the vendor base with global players, notably in the US. But when the team started meeting vendors, he heard the following from one of the companies there: “We have the financial muscle to pull off what TeamIndus wants to do. But do you have the technical capabilities to do what you want to do?”

TeamIndus was in the US to collect the milestone prize for its spacecraft. But the vendors had grown used to several other GLXP contenders approaching them for sweet deals or freebies. “We are not here to donate our products for charity,” a vendor said. Axiom had done its legal paperwork and emphasised, “This is going to be a commercial venture.”

Website: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/sma ... 101170.cms


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