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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 » 10 Nov 2016 19:23

This Indian team plans to be the first private company to land on the moon
by Emily Calandrelli Techcrunch.com November 10, 2016

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TeamIndus, a private company located in Bangalore, India, is the one and only Indian entrant into the Google Lunar X-Prize, the international competition to land a private spacecraft on the moon.

For TeamIndus, there are a few, exciting things at stake. If they’re first in the competition, they’ll win $20 million and become the first private company to land on the moon. If they’re successful at all, they’ll achieve something their own government’s space agency has yet to accomplish: soft-landing on the moon.

The company had bit of a late start in the competition, joining three years after the Google Lunar X-Prize was announced. But today, TeamIndus employs over 100 people, was one of three teams to win X-Prize’s $1 million milestone award for lunar lander technology, and is on their way to raising upwards of $10 million.

These factors have helped secured TeamIndus’s spot as a lead contender in the contest, but they certainly have some ways to go. The company has yet to secure a launch contract, for example, which is something they’ll need to do soon if they want to meet the X-Prize’s deadline of landing on the moon by December 2017.

Their Mission to the Moon
Their mission plan involves launching a spacecraft on an Indian rocket into low Earth orbit. The spacecraft will complete two orbits around our planet before initiating a propulsive maneuver that will propel it toward the moon. An insertion burn will place the spacecraft into lunar orbit where it will travel around the moon three to four times before beginning the most complicated part of its mission: descent to the surface.

Once the spacecraft touches down, the TeamIndus rover will deploy from the parent spacecraft. To complete the X-Prize requirements, the lander will roll at least 500 meters along the surface and send high definition images and video of the moon back to Earth.

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Illustration of TeamIndus Rover on the Moon / Image courtesy of TeamIndus

In addition to a rover, TeamIndus will bring a student science experiment, selected from more than 3,000 possible experiments submitted to their Lab2Moon competition, to the lunar surface.

TeamIndus’ Choice of Rocket
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India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle / Image courtesy of ISRO

When asked what the delay was in securing a launch, TeamIndus’ co-founder,
Rahul Narayan explained that their situation is a bit different than other X-Prize competitors. While other teams have signed launch contracts with private rocket companies, TeamIndus will be flying with a government owned and operated rocket.

Specifically, TeamIndus will ride on the Indian Space Research Organization’s PSLV rocket, a vehicle with a solid history of reliability. In June, PSLV completed its 35th consecutive successful mission.

By purchasing a ride on PSLV, TeamIndus is setting a precedent for doing business with the Indian government. Narayan noted that because this is a first-of-its-kind situation, it is taking a bit more time to sort everything out.

“ISRO has never sold a dedicated launch vehicle to a private company before. We’re breaking new ground here.” Rahul Narayan, TeamIndus co-founder


When asked if they would need permission from their government to go to the moon (as Moon Express recently did), Narayan explained that because PSLV is owned by the Indian government, a signed launch contract would inherently include their government’s permission.

Compared to the other rockets selected to bring the X-Prize teams to the moon, the PSLV is arguably the most reliable and may be a great advantage for TeamIndus. Space-IL, an Israeli team, has secured a launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9, which has had two mission failures in the past 18 months causing unavoidable schedule delays. Moon Express has put their faith in Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, a vehicle from a new New Zealand-based launch provider that has yet to fly.

If all else is equal, a team’s choice of rocket may determine who gets to the moon first.

Financing a Lunar Mission
Of course, for their choice of rocket to matter, TeamIndus must first be able to afford the ride. In accordance with the Google Lunar X-Prize requirements, which state that 90% of each team’s mission costs must be privately funded, TeamIndus cannot be “gifted” a ride to the moon from the Indian government.

ISRO, however, will help TeamIndus in other ways. Narayan told TechCrunch that TeamIndus will have access to ISRO’s vibration and acoustic test facilities in order to qualify their spacecraft for flight.

That will certainly save some money, but that type of assistance is on par with other X-prize competitors. All other expenses, including the cost of the rocket, ground operations, and technology development, will add up to about $70 million to $80 million, Narayan estimated.

To date, the company has publicly stated that they’ve raised about $3 million ($500,000 in seed funding, $1.5 million in Series A, $1 million from the X-PRIZE milestone award). But Narayan told TechCrunch that TeamIndus is closing another round soon that will bring their total up to between $10 and $15 million and plans to add more people to their 100-person team.

Putting those numbers in perspective, Moon Express, a Google Lunar X-PRIZE team from the U.S. has raised over $30 million and as of August only had about 25 employees.

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TeamIndus spacecraft (the rover will be carried inside) / Image courtesy of TeamIndus

While employee salaries are only one piece of the overall budget, the average salary for engineers in India is significantly lower than engineering salaries in the United States, so a company like TeamIndus can afford to build a bigger team. Narayan stated that TeamIndus’ ability to hire more people was an asset in a competition as complex as the Google Lunar X-PRIZE.

While a team of that size is unique in this competition, we’ll have to wait and see if the ability to hire more engineers is truly an advantage.

What Happens When It’s All Over?
So what happens after the contest is over? Teams like Moon Express and Astrobotic, another U.S. based competitor, have stated their intent to sustain a lunar-based business after the prize has been won.

TeamIndus, however, has a different plan. Narayan said that while they don’t expect to continue with lunar-based missions after the contest, they do hope to maintain business in the space industry. He noted that TeamIndus has built up a capability for designing, prototyping, and analyzing space-grade technology that could be used to create a business building satellites.

But for now, their focus remains on the moon. Narayan, along with his 100 employees, are all working toward the goal of bringing an Indian to the moon for the first time, something that he spoke about with great pride.

When asked how it would feel if TeamIndus were to win the Google Lunar X-Prize, Narayan said “It would be the same feeling you’d have if your team won the Cricket World Cup.”

Website: https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/09/this- ... -the-moon/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 11 Nov 2016 21:15

China’s Super-Rocket Could Land Astronauts on the Moon
By Jamie Ayque Natureworldnews.com November 11, 2016

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China’s Long March-5 rocket has recently made its maiden voyage into near-Earth orbit. According to scientists, this rocket alone is powerful enough to land people on the moon. (Photo : Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

China's heavy-lift rocket Long March-5 has successfully launched on Nov. 3 from the new Wenchang Space Launch Center carrying an experimental satellite into near-Earth orbit.

The 187-foot-long Long March-5 is equaled in power with the U.S. Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle - which was used by NASA to test-launch the new Orion spacecraft - about 25 metric tons to low-Earth orbit, Ars Technica reports. Scientists said the rocket launch easily shows that China could one day land taikonauts on the moon if it wants to.

Earlier this year, China had expressed its intent to land a man on the moon in the next 15 to 20 years. According to scientists, the Long March-5 is already powerful enough to stage an Earth orbit for landings on the moon and to push payloads of about eight metric tons into a Lunar transfer orbit.

"By launching and rendezvousing four of those in low Earth orbit, it would be possible for the Chinese to construct a manned lunar mission with no more than that rocket and no more than Apollo technology," Mike Griffin, former NASA Administrator, told the House of Representatives in September 2011, as reported by Ars Technica.

"I have in fact, in the past, written up how that mission would work from an engineering perspective. So with the Long March-5, the Chinese inherently possessed the capability to return to the Moon should they wish to do so."

Its most recent launch also demonstrates China's capability to deploy both humans and medium-sized payloads into orbit. As Ars Technica points out, these launch capabilities will allow China to build the modular space station it plans to complete by 2018, which could easily beat the International Space Station (ISS).

"China is developing very rapidly into one of the major space players," Fabio Favata, head of the program coordination office at the European Space Agency's (ESA) directorate of science, said in a statement.

The Long March-5 will also be used to launch China's Mars 2020 probe and the Chang'e-5 lunar probe in 2017.

China is now developing the Long March-9 rocket, a super-heavy lift rocket about the size of the Apollo program's Saturn V. However, the rocket is not expected to fly until 2025.



Website: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles ... s-moon.htm

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 16 Nov 2016 20:24

First Russian to land on Moon in 2031 — space corporation
by Tass.com November 15, 2016

The year 2026 will see an unmanned flight around the Moon
Image
© AP Photo/Amr Nabil

MOSCOW, November 15. /TASS/. Russia’s rocket and space corporation Energiya plans to land the first Russian on the Moon in 2031, Energiya CEO Vladimir Solntsev said on Tuesday.

"After 2025, the start of flights to the Moon and the start of the work to become accustomed to this artificial satellite are planned. The year 2026 will see an unmanned flight around the Moon and in 2027 we’ll launch a take-off and landing module to the Moon’s orbit," he said.


The module will land on the Moon in an automatic mode, he added. "In 2029, there will be an unmanned flight of a new spacecraft to the Moon’s orbit. In the 2030s, we set the task of a manned flight to the Moon and in 2031 we plan landing on the Moon," he said. As the Central Research Institute of Machine-Building told TASS earlier, Russia’s future Moon exploration program envisages flights around the Moon and the landing of cosmonauts on its surface, as well as their delivery to the Lagrange point of the Earth-Moon system (the equilibrium point of the two celestial bodies’ gravitational forces).

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First on the Moon

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Neil Armstrong next to a X-15-3 plane at Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards after a research flight in 1960
© ITAR-TASS/EPA/NASA / HANDOUT


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Apollo 11's lift-off at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, 16 July 1969
© EPA/NASA FILES


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US astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., descends the steps of the Lunar Module as he prepares to walk on the moon
© EPA/NASA FILES


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© NASA

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© NASA

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Neil Armstrong working at the base of the lunar module on the moon
© ITAR-TASS/EPA/NASA / HO


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Neil Armstrong inside the lunar module after his historic walk
© ITAR-TASS/EPA/NASA / HO

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The three astronauts returned to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific ocean
© NASA


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They were picked up by the USS Hornet
© NASA


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The crew were kept in a 18-day quarantine to ensure that they had not picked up any infections or diseases from the Moon. Photo: astronauts in their quarantine van, with their wives upon arrival at Ellington Air Force Base near Houston, Texas
© EPA/NASA / HO


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After the quarantine, the crew were feted across the United States and around the world
© NASA


ISS life cycle may be prolonged
According to Solntsev, partner countries involved in the International Space Station project are discussing the possibility of prolonging the ISS life cycle till 2028.

"We have an effective document on the ISS operation till 2024. The question remains open what will happen after that. The ISS life cycle may be prolonged. At the moment 2028 is being discussed as a possibility," he said.


Earlier, the operation of the ISS was extended till 2024. The decision was announced by Russia, the United States, Canada and Japan. The European Space Agency is still in the process of mulling this issue as part of its long-term budget. NASA’s Charles Bolden said the station might stay in operation till 2028.

Russia invites Europe, US to develop module for Moon landing
Russia is inviting Europe and the United States to jointly develop a module for landing on the Moon, Solntsev said.
"A take-off and landing module [for a flight to the Moon] is a completely new development, which I believe we’ll be making together with our European and American partners. We’re inviting all the countries for participation and the development of new samples of space hardware and the implementation of the lunar program," he said.


Image
Stephen Hawking: I was impressed that Russia was ahead of America in the space race

Website: http://tass.com/science/912408

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 18 Nov 2016 08:59

The future of moon mining
by Matt Williams Universe Today November 17, 2016

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Building a lunar base might be easier if astronauts could harvest local materials for the construction, and life support in general. Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings

Ever since we began sending crewed missions to the moon, people have been dreaming of the day when we might one day colonize it. Just imagine, a settlement on the lunar surface, where everyone constantly feels only about 15% as heavy as they do here on Earth. And in their spare time, the colonists get to do all kinds of cool research trek across the surface in lunar rovers. Gotta admit, it sounds fun!

More recently, the idea of prospecting and mining on the moon has been proposed. This is due in part to renewed space exploration, but also the rise of private aerospace companies and the NewSpace industry. With missions to the moon schedules for the coming years and decades, it seems logical to thinking about how we might set up mining and other industries there as well?

Proposed Methods
Several proposals have been made to establish mining operations on the moon; initially by space agencies like NASA, but more recently by private interests. Many of the earliest proposals took place during the 1950s, in response to the Space Race, which saw a lunar colony as a logical outcome of lunar exploration. For instance, in 1954 Arthur C. Clarke proposed a lunar base where inflatable modules were covered in lunar dust for insulation and communications were provided by a inflatable radio mast. And in 1959, John S. Rinehart – the director of the Mining Research Laboratory at the Colorado School of Mines – proposed a tubular base that would "float" across the surface.

Since that time, NASA, the US Army and Air Force, and other space agencies have issued proposals for the creation of a lunar settlement. In all cases, these plans contained allowances for resource utilization to make the base as self-sufficient as possible. However, these plans predated the Apollo program, and were largely abandoned after its conclusion. It has only been in the past few decades that detailed proposals have once again been made.


Credit: Universe Today

For instance, during the Bush Administration (2001-2009), NASA entrtained the possibility of creating a "lunar outpost". Consistent with their Vision for Space Exploration (2004), the plan called for the construction of a base on the moon between 2019 and 2024. One of the key aspects of this plan was the use of ISRU techniques to produce oxygen from the surrounding regolith.

These plans were cancelled by the Obama administration and replaced with a plan for a Mars Direct mission (known as NASA's "Journey to Mars"). However, during a workshop in 2014, representatives from NASA met with Harvard geneticist George Church, Peter Diamandis from the X Prize Foundation and other experts to discuss low-cost options for returning to the moon.

The workshop papers, which were published in a special issue of New Space, describe how a settlement could be built on the moon by 2022 for just $10 billion USD. According to their papers, a low-cost base would be possible thanks to the development of the space launch business, the emergence of the NewSpace industry, 3-D printing, autonomous robots, and other recently-developed technologies.

In December of 2016, an international symposium titled "moon 2020-2030 – A New Era of Coordinated Human and Robotic Exploration" took place at the the European Space Research and Technology Center. At the time, the new Director General of the ESA (Jan Woerner) articulated the agency's desire to create an international lunar base using robotic workers, 3-D printing techniques, and in-situ resources utilization.

In 2010, NASA established the Robotic Mining Competition, an annual incentive-based competition where university students design and build robots to navigate a simulated Martian environment. One of the most-important aspects of the competition is creating robots that can rely on ISRU to turn local resources into usable materials. The applications produced are also likely to be of use during future lunar missions.

Other space agencies also have plans for lunar bases in the coming decades. The Russian space agency (Roscosmos) has issued plans to build a lunar base by the 2020s, and the China National Space Agency (CNSA) proposed to build such a base in a similar timeframe, thanks to the success of its Chang'e program.

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An early lunar outpost design based on a module design (1990). Credit: NASA/Cicorra Kitmacher

And the NewSpace industry has also been producing some interesting proposals of late. In 2010, a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs came together for create moon Express, a private company that plans to offer commercial lunar robotic transportation and data services, as well as the a long-term goal of mining the moon. In December of 2016, they became the first company competing for the Lunar X Prize to build and test a robotic lander – the MX-1.

In 2010, Arkyd Astronautics (renamed Planetary Resources in 2012) was launched for the purpose of developing and deploying technologies for asteroid mining. In 2013, Deep Space Industries was formed with the same purpose in mind. Though these companies are focused predominantly on asteroids, the appeal is much the same as lunar mining – which is expanding humanity's resource base beyond Earth.

Resources
Based on the study of lunar rocks, which were brought back by the Apollo missions, scientists have learned that the lunar surface is rich in minerals. Their overall composition depends on whether the rocks came from lunar maria (large, dark, basaltic plains formed from lunar eruptions) or the lunar highlands.

Rocks obtained from lunar maria showed large traces of metals, with 14.9% alumina (Al²O³), 11.8% calcium oxide (lime), 14.1% iron oxide, 9.2% magnesia (MgO), 3.9% titanium dioxide (TiO²) and 0.6% sodium oxide (Na²O). Those obtained from the lunar highlands are similar in composition, with 24.0% alumina, 15.9% lime, 5.9% iron oxide, 7.5% magnesia, and 0.6% titanium dioxide and sodium oxide. These same studies have shown that lunar rocks contain large amounts of oxygen, predominantly in the form of oxidized minerals. Experiments have been conducted that have shown how this oxygen could be extracted to provide astronauts with breathable air, and could be used to make water and even rocket fuel.

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Moon rocks from the Apollo 11 mission. Credit: NASA

The moon also has concentrations of Rare Earth Metals (REM), which are attractive for two reasons. On the one hand, REMs are becoming increasingly important to the global economy, since they are used widely in electronic devices. On the other hand, 90% of current reserves of REMs are controlled by China; so having a steady access to an outside source is viewed by some as a national security matter.

Similarly, the moon has significant amounts of water contained within its lunar regolith and in the permanently shadowed areas in its north and southern polar regions.This water would also be valuable as a source of rocket fuel, not to mention drinking water for astronauts. In addition, lunar rocks have revealed that the moon's interior may contain significant sources of water as well. And from samples of lunar soil, it is calculated that adsorbed water could exist at trace concentrations of 10 to 1000 parts per million. Initially, it was though that concentrations of water within the moon rocks was the result of contamination.

But since that time, multiple missions have not only found samples of water on the lunar surface, but revealed evidence of where it came from. The first was India's Chandrayaan-1 mission, which sent an impactor to the lunar surface on Nov. 18th, 2008. During its 25-minute descent, the impact probe's Chandra's Altitudinal Composition Explorer (CHACE) found evidence of water in the moon's thin atmosphere.

In March of 2010, the Mini-RF instrument on board Chandrayaan-1 discovered more than 40 permanently darkened craters near the moon's north pole that are hypothesized to contain as much as 600 million metric tonnes (661.387 million US tons) of water-ice. In November 2009, the NASA LCROSS space probe made similar finds around the southern polar region, as an impactor it sent to the surface kicked up material shown to contain crystalline water. In 2012, surveys conducted by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) revealed that ice makes up to 22% of the material on the floor of the Shakleton crater (located in the southern polar region).


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Spectra gathered by the NASA Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) on India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission, showing the presence of water in Moon’s polar regions. Credit: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Brown University/USGS

It has been theorized that all this water was delivered by a combination of mechanisms. For one, regular bombardment by water-bearing comets, asteroids and meteoroids over geological timescales could have deposited much of it. It has also been argued that it is being produced locally by the hydrogen ions of solar wind combining with oxygen-bearing minerals.

But perhaps the most valuable commodity on the surface of the moon might be helium-3. Helium-3 is an atom emitted by the sun in huge amounts, and is a byproduct of the fusion reactions that take place inside. Although there is little demand for helium-3 today, physicists think they'll serve as the ideal fuel for fusion reactors. The sun's solar wind carries the helium-3 away from the sun and out into space – eventually out of the solar system entirely. But the helium-3 particles can crash into objects that get in their way, like the moon. Scientists haven't been able to find any sources of helium-3 here on Earth, but it seems to be on the moon in huge quantities.

Benefits
From a commercial and scientific point of view, there are several reasons why moon mining would be beneficial to humanity. For starters, it would be absolutely essential to any plans to build a settlement on the moon, as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) would be far more cost effective than transporting materials from Earth.

Also, it is predicted that the proposed space exploration efforts for the 21st century will require large amounts of materiel. That which is mined on the moon would be launched into space at a fraction of the cost of what is mined here on Earth, due to the moon's much lower gravity and escape velocity.


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Hydrogen detected in the polar regions of the Moon point towards the presence of water. Credit: NASA

In addition, the moon has an abundance of raw materials that humanity relies on. Much like Earth, it is composed of silicate rocks and metals that are differentiated between a geochemically distinct layers. These consist of is iron-rich inner core, and iron-rich fluid outer core, a partially molten boundary layer, and a solid mantle and crust.

In addition, it has been recognized for some time that a lunar base – which would include resource operations – would be a boon for missions farther into the solar system. For missions heading to Mars in the coming decades, the outer solar system, or even Venus and Mercury, the ability to be resupplied from an lunar outpost would cut the cost of individual missions drastically.

Challenges
Naturally, the prospect of setting up mining interests on the moon also presents some serious challenges. For instance, any base on the moon would need to be protected from surface temperatures, which range from very low to high – 100 K (-173.15 °C;-279.67 °F) to 390 K (116.85 °C; 242.33 °F) – at the equator and average 150 K (-123.15 °C;-189.67 °F) in the polar regions.

Radiation exposure is also an issue. Due to the extremely thin atmosphere and lack of a magnetic field, the lunar surface experiences half as much radiation as an object in interplanetary space. This means that astronauts and/or lunar workers would at a high risk of exposure to cosmic rays, protons from solar wind, and the radiation caused by solar flares.

Then there's the moon dust, which is an extremely abrasive glassy substance that has been formed by billions of years of micrometeorite impacts on the surface. Due to the absence of weathering and erosion, moon dust is unrounded and can play havoc with machinery, and poses a health hazard. Worst of all, its sticks to everything it touches, and was a major nuisance for the Apollo crews!

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Schematic showing the stream of charged hydrogen ions carried from the sun by the solar wind. Credit: University of Maryland/F. Merlin/McREL]

And while the lower gravity is attractive as far as launches are concerned, it is unclear what the long-term health effects of it will be on humans. As repeated research has shown, exposure to zero-gravity over month-long periods causes muscular degeneration and loss of bone density, as well as diminished organ function and a depressed immune system.

In addition, there are the potential legal hurdles that lunar mining could present. This is due to the "The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the moon and Other Celestial Bodies" – otherwise known as "The Outer Space Treaty". In accordance with this treaty, which is overseen by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, no nation is permitted to own land on the moon.

And while there has been plenty of speculation about a "loophole" which does not expressly forbid private ownership, there is no legal consensus on this. As such, as lunar prospecting and mining become more of a possibility, a legal framework will have to be worked out that ensures everything is on the up and up. Though it might be a long way off, it is not unreasonable to think that someday, we could be mining the moon. And with its rich supplies of metals (which includes REMs) becoming part of our economy, we could be looking at a future characterized by post-scarcity!

Website: http://phys.org/news/2016-11-future-moon.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 19 Nov 2016 10:18

Forget Mars. Let’s Go Back to the Moon.
by Alex Shephard The New Republic November 18, 2016

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NICHOLAS KAMM / Getty Images

NASA wants to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. Neal Lane, Bill Clinton’s science adviser, says we should be looking at a closer goal.

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Neal LanePhoebe Rourke-Ghabrie

You’ve argued that Mars isn’t the right strategy. Why?
All of us are excited about getting to Mars someday. But there’s a lot we don’t know—the impact of radiation exposure, how humans can work in low gravity. We already know space causes serious health problems: vision impairment and bone loss and things we don’t even know about yet. There’s so much more we need to learn, and we can learn it closer to home: on the moon.

There’s also a geopolitical element, right?
Several nations are interested in the moon: Russia, Japan, China, India, parts of Europe. We don’t want to look down from lunar orbit and watch other countries setting up camp on the surface while we go around and around. Let’s make sure we didn’t make a mistake by leaving a lunar settlement out of the picture.

So we’ve got some serious international competition?
Yes, but it’s also an opportunity for cooperation. You can share the costs, share the risks. It’s good for diplomacy, as we’ve learned from working with the Russians. Congress almost killed the original space station plan, and Bill Clinton resurrected it by pulling together international partners. When I was in the White House in 1998, Russia launched the first space station module using U.S. money, because Russia was short on cash back then.

It’s hard to imagine such cooperation with Russia today.
True. But we’ve depended on Russia to transport our astronauts to the space station since George W. Bush canceled the space shuttle program. Our astronauts have had very good relationships with Russian cosmonauts. Sometimes that mutual respect and affection can really help you when tensions between countries are high. When it comes to our relations with China, tensions might be eased by finding ways to cooperate on space missions.

Why go back to the moon—let alone to Mars—when there are so many problems here on Earth?
The space program is a symbol of what America is all about: the willingness to explore, to take risks, to understand the universe. Plus, there are terrific commercial opportunities: satellites for communication and navigation, or mining precious ores on asteroids. Space should be one of our highest priorities—but no president since Kennedy has really put space at the very top of the list.

What about private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin?
Elon Musk has said his Mars plan will require a huge public-private partnership. Some companies will want to offer services to the government for quite a lot of money, and some may also make money through things like space tourism. There are companies that offer to transport the ashes of loved ones to space!

Do you want to do that?
I want my ashes to be spread over the Hawaiian ocean.

We won’t be seeing NASA do things like space ashes, I hope.
I just want the next president to understand the importance of science. When there are big partisan fights, science often gets lost in the shuffle. But NASA’s contributions have really been extraordinary: astronomy, planetary science, the work of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Goddard Space Flight Center. Whatever NASA winds up exploring next, it can’t be allowed to erode the scientific mission. If you lose the science, the rest frankly doesn’t matter.

Website: https://newrepublic.com/article/138014/ ... -back-moon

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 22 Nov 2016 20:22

How India’s TeamIndus Plans to Put a Rover on the Moon Next Year
by Vasudevan Mukunth Thewire.in November 22,2016

TeamIndus was founded in 2010 to become the first private entity from India to put a rover on the moon by 2017. How is it faring?
Image
Rahul Narayan

Bengaluru: To win the international Google Lunar XPrize, a private team must build a rover, launch it to the moon, ensure it travels for at least 500 metres on the lunar surface and sends back hi-def images and videos – all by December 2017. And the only team from India and still in the race is cutting it real close. TeamIndus, based out of Bengaluru, India, hopes to make it in the last week of the last month of the contest onboard a PSLV rocket. The detail was finalised earlier this month, historic because it is ISRO’s first sale of its launch vehicle to a private entity.

“I think we’re just about two-thirds of the way through,” says Rahul Narayan, founder of TeamIndus. “We’ve got two dozen suppliers, most of them international. All of their material needs to come in at the same time, with the right testing and qualifications.” But even so, he’s very optimistic of TeamIndus’s chances. “First to the launchpad? Highly likely. First to launch? Very, very likely. First to land on the moon? I think so.”

TeamIndus was founded in 2010 to crack the XPrize. Today, it counts over 80 engineers and a dozen scientists among its employees. And it plans to add more once a new round of funding brings $10-15 million into their kitty. Their office is located in north Bengaluru, in a simple white building off a busy highway, obscured by tall tress and vines draping its walls.

The chassis of an early model of TeamIndus’s rover has been parked just beyond the gate. It looks like a big old park bench with space for about four people to sit on; I don’t notice it until Narayan points it out. “That’s actually version two of our spacecraft, from 2013 – that’s how it used to look, that was the size of the spacecraft. The solar panels were flat and it had three engines at the bottom.”

Keeping it simple
The building’s blocks are named Aryabhatta, Bhaskara and C.V. Raman – the names of three of India’s most celebrated scientists. The first two have also had ISRO satellites named after them, but you’d be off if you thought there was a deeper meaning. Narayan likes to keep things simple. “ABC,” he clarifies, just like TeamIndus’s tagline: ‘Aspire. Believe. Create.’ The company’s employees have almost a spartan focus on the basics. Narayan doesn’t want to be “that sexy” or deploy something fancy. Instead, him and his colleagues are trying to build something that just works.

They looked at some of the first American rovers conceived for Mars, which weighed about 20-25 kg and were designed to last for a few months on the red planet. With this choice, the problem they’d be solving for became easier to define: how do you land something that weighs about 25 kg on Mars? And then they worked backwards from there to figure out the whole mission.

The way things stand: in the last week of December 2017, a PSLV rocket will carry a spacecraft – whose launch mass will be around 600 kg – to an orbit about 70,000 km high. There, the spacecraft will orbit Earth twice, each time climbing in altitude by 10,000 km. Then, it will attempt a manoeuvre called a translunar injection and set itself en route to the moon.

Once there, it will orbit the natural satellite for about two weeks before the spacecraft will deploy the rover, which will be moving through space at about 1.7 km/s at an altitude of around 12 km. Over the next 15 minutes, the rover will fire its sixteen attitude control thrusters and one primary thruster to descend on the lunar surface, moving down in a curved path. Once it touches down, it will send a signal back to Earth saying it’s reached safe. Then, the last phase of the mission will begin.

According to Narayan, the landing will be the most challenging part of their efforts because it will be completely autonomous. “Before we say, ‘Okay, you’re good to go’, we’ve to look at parameters starting from the state of charge of the battery, the orientation of the spacecraft, the condition of your knowledge about the spacecraft in terms of whether it’s in line with what you’ve predicted, etc., and only then you send the command to begin descent.” And once that happens, TeamIndus will only be receiving telemetry. Narayan compares the event to what happened when NASA landed Curiosity on Mars in 2012. Its descent phase was defined by seven minutes of silence from the rover, since called the ‘seven minutes of terror‘.

“Almost everybody comes and says, ‘We think you can do the engineering, let’s talk about the other stuff.’ But the engineering is the most complex job,” he laughs. “Every part of the mission has a ‘sphere’ within which it can operate”, a reference to the range of values each part can take on. He extends his thumb and index fingers: “The spacecraft can be here or here” – he points near either finger from within the gap – “but if it’s outside the sphere, then the mission will fail because we can’t predict what will happen next.” Before launch, the mission operations team charts out the entire spectrum of possibilities and within which Narayan says a million scenarios exist. And this is why it’s so important to define the mission’s conditions for success: depending on the desired outcome, the team has to decide beforehand what happens next in each scenario.

Different kinds of failure
In a similar vein, because various segments of the project present different levels of difficulty, TeamIndus also has a graded definition of failure. Narayan thinks that if, in hindsight, they discover that they didn’t get some things right on the drawing board, that’d be the worst for having spent so much time, energy and resources on as well as for what it would mean for the company’s reputation. But “if we build the entire spacecraft, qualify it, put it onto the launchpad” – all of which he thinks won’t really be a challenge – then it will be a success for their engineering team. Finally, if something goes wrong in-flight or after touchdown, Narayan isn’t too worried: “We’re doing it for the first time.”

At this point, he compares TeamIndus’s efforts to full-blown state-sponsored space agencies around the world that spend hundreds of millions of dollars and still can’t be absolutely certain of their chances of success. This is only fair because space isn’t easy. When it successfully began the Mars Orbiter Mission in September 2014, ISRO became the first national space agency to get that far on its first try. But at the same time, Narayan doesn’t think highly of the jugaad that many have attributed to this, especially considering recent reports that it was pulled off on a puny budget of Rs 447.39 crore.

‘Jugaad‘ is Hindi for a make-do attitude that typifies a uniquely Indian brand of entrepreneurialism. Its presence is taken for granted (and so doesn’t elicit surprise) in undertakings that are pulled off against tough odds such as a lack of money or manpower, usually by substituting an ideal resource with one that is readily available or accessible. Of late, this attitude has cropped up when discussing satellites built by Indian universities as well. ISRO has many memoranda of understanding with institutions to ready and launch student-built satellites. However, these satellites often fail soon after they enter orbit and linger there as orbital debris.

“How do a group of 20 students and three professors get together, work on a satellite for three years and spend Rs 20 lakh on the hardware?” Narayan begins cautiously. “If you just looked at the value of their time, it’s an order of magnitude more than that. It’s bound to cost Rs 2 or 3 crore, so at some point you need to stop doing jugaad and start focusing on what you need to do. Instead of spending Rs 2 lakh or 20 lakh, if they spent about a crore and actually built something that worked, it would make a whole lot more sense – rather than take so many shortcuts” and then simply not succeed.

A graded definition of failure also has implications for the cash reward the XPrize carries for the first team that achieves all its objectives: $30 million. Though the stipulated deadline is December 2017 and it looks like TeamIndus’s at least two-week-long mission will begin only in the last week of that month, Narayan thinks there’s some ambiguity in the language there that will see them through. Plus there are only three other teams that have had their launch contracts verified by the contest’s organisers (Narayan is sure theirs will be too, by the January 1, 2017, deadline) – down from the 29 that had initially applied. But even if TeamIndus is the first to get on the launchpad, the reward’s quantum indicates that wouldn’t entirely be the point anymore.

According to Narayan, the mission has cost TeamIndus Rs 400 crore – almost $59 million. So winning the XPrize a year down the line would be a glorious stepping stone: landing on the moon would do a world of good for the “trajectory of the team, of the company, of the country, so to speak”. But it’d be a stepping stone nonetheless, towards the company’s moving on to bigger things. Specifically, Narayan says they want to build as well as provide services for 150-kg-class satellites, a class that has been becoming increasingly popular for its fast turnarounds. “That’s one of the natural segues for us as a team” – a team he feels has been easier to bring together given what they’re trying to do but in an ecosystem that’s mostly devoid of talent.

Controlling the narrative
Yet another source of revenue closer to now is to sell what data TeamIndus’s spacecraft and rover collect to ISRO. He’s not clear about the exact timeframe but there’s a general awareness that the next big Indian rover mission after TeamIndus’s will be ISRO’s own Chandrayaan 2, also slated for the moon. However, Narayan clarifies that there has been no formal discussion on that. “Right now, we’re trying to get the contract and the cross-verification of the mission strategy out of the way. We’re already in touch with some of the other centers of ISRO that build payloads and might be interested.”

Apart from the launch vehicle, the contract gives TeamIndus access to some other mission-critical infrastructure. One is testing and getting the spacecraft ready for launch. The second: ground communications. During the launch and descent phases, the spacecraft/rover will communicate with engineers on Earth through ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), headquartered in Bengaluru. And via ISTRAC, TeamIndus will also have access to NASA’s Deep Space Network, a network of antennae that can ‘listen’ to satellites billions of kilometers away.

But even with this help, one deficiency shouts through. “We do not have a proper planetary sciences group,” says Narayan, which makes it harder to decide what line of research to pursue depending on which part of the moon their rover is going to explore (the current choice is a region called the Sea of Showers). India’s own planetary missions only kicked off with the Chandrayaan 1 in 2008 – while NASA and the European Space Agency have had such groups for many decades now. He hopes the XPrize mission will move things along.

Then again, leading up to this interview, TeamIndus’s staying away from the media until very recently has seemed like a deficiency, too. Narayan justifies it by saying he owes it to his team to “tightly control the narrative” and keep it focused on what they’re trying to do – instead of spending time clarifying that they’re not competing with Mars One, the European organisation that has promised to ferry some people on a one-way trip to Mars next decade. Such reports actually appeared in 2011, followed by some others that said TeamIndus had actually won the XPrize.

“We’ve been very circumspect, but going forward, we know that a lot of people are going to be a part of this. We’re putting together what could be a very public outreach campaign that gets more and more people involved,” Narayan explains. This campaign includes Lab2Moon, an invitation to innovators around the world to pitch a science experiment on the theme of ‘sustainable life on the moon’. TeamIndus, however, doesn’t expect anything groundbreaking: the spacecraft will only have room for something the size of a small water bottle. The first shortlist of 20 entries, choosing from over 3,000, is expected to be announced by next week.

Julius Amrit, Narayan’s colleague, thinks it will be India’s Apollo moment – and why not? When John F. Kennedy addressed a joint session of the US Congress in May 1961, appealing them to fund efforts that would culminate in Apollo 11, he may well have been speaking of efforts underway right now: “For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will find us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world – but as shown by the feat of astronaut [Alan] Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others.”

Website: http://thewire.in/81636/teamindus-moons ... ize-rover/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 23 Nov 2016 19:41

Trump to Cut NASA's Climate Change Budget, Shift Focus to the Moon
by Jessica F Natureworldnews.com November 22, 2016

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President-elect Donald Trump will reported slash NASA's climate change budget to fuel deep space missions to the edge of the Solar System and to send humans to the moon. (Photo : Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Now that President-elect Donald Trump is meeting with his transition committee, NASA is more than ever, prepared to welcome the new leader. However, speculations are circulating saying that Trump threatens to decrease the agency's climate change budget to shift focus on the moon and the solar system.Reports say that Donald Trump will cut NASA's budget to fund missions that will send humans on the edge of the Solar System and to the moon. Although it may sound appealing, that the new leader is actually interested in deep space explorations, it is despondent to hear that the president-elect might still think climate change is a hoax due to this move.

Some changes will also be experienced by NASA as it is said to be reduced to "a logistics agency concentrating on space station resupply and politically correct environmental monitoring," said Bob Walker, one of Donald Trump's space policy adviser in an interview with Telegraph. "We would start by having a stretch goal of exploring the entire solar system by the end of the century," Walker added. The new administration wants NASA to focus on space programs instead on Earth-based climate change programs. Although again, it is enticing to see the new president thinking of space explorations, NASA will definitely not be happy with what looks like Trump's intentional disregard to the pressing issues of climate change.

But NASA is adamant in saying the Earth-based programs is entirely beneficial to human life. "Nasa's work on Earth science is making a difference in people's lives all around the world every day. Earth science helps save lives," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA science administrator said in a statement. Since Trump's advisers already mentioned a possible lunar mission, experts around the world say that Trump may indeed send humans to the moon under his administration. "It is very plausible to speculate that the new administration will insert a mission to the lunar surface, probably international in character, as a step on the way to Mars," John Logston, a science policy analyst said in a statement. NASA received $1.92 billion this year. However, there is no percentage revealed as to how much of the agency's climate change budget will be sacrificed.



Website: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles ... s-moon.htm

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 24 Nov 2016 20:25

Honour for software writer on Apollo moon mission
by BBC News November 23, 2016

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Margaret Hamilton was a lead software developer for Nasa's Apollo Moon missions in the 1960s

An 80-year-old woman who wrote software for the Apollo space missions has been given the United States' highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Margaret Hamilton was one of 21 people awarded the medal by President Barack Obama in a star-studded ceremony. It is almost 50 years since her initial work on the Apollo 11 moon mission. Mrs Hamilton's pioneering software helped land the lunar module and its crew on the Moon in 1969. Other notable medal recipients at Tuesday's ceremony at the White House included comedian and talkshow host Ellen DeGeneres, actor Tom Hanks and musicians Diana Ross and Bruce Springsteen.

President Obama said Mrs Hamilton "symbolises that generation of unsung women who helped send humankind into space". Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin may have garnered many of the headlines after Apollo 11's successful landing, but Mrs Hamilton was among those working behind the scenes at time when computer science was so new it was not even a recognised term, and code was written out by hand.

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US President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to computer software pioneer Margaret Hamilton

Mrs Hamilton led a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that created the on-board flight software for Nasa's moon missions.
One small tweak for mankind?

"Our astronauts didn't have much time, but thankfully they had Margaret Hamilton," President Obama said, as he awarded her the medal.
He was referring to a tweak Mrs Hamilton made to the Apollo system which enabled the computer to prioritise commands when overloaded with tasks.


Her work provided vital on the day: minutes before the lunar lander reached the Moon's surface on 20 July 1969, several computer alarms were triggered. But, thanks to Mrs Hamilton's foresight, the Nasa team was able to see that the alert was nothing critical, and the landing went ahead.

"If the computer hadn't recognized this problem and taken recovery action, I doubt if Apollo 11 would have been the successful moon landing it was," wrote Mrs Hamilton in 1971.


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Margaret Hamilton at the White House ceremony with a fellow recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, actor Tom Hanks (centre), who starred in the Apollo 13 film

Mrs Hamilton was a 24-year-old maths graduate when she got a job at MIT. She planned for it to be temporary step, while supporting her husband who was studying law at Harvard University. She then intended to go back to her own studies. However when MIT was asked to work on the Apollo space program, she joined the team and was hooked in an exciting new field.

A working mother in the 'Wild West'
In an interview with Wired magazine in 2015, Mrs Hamilton admitted that being a working mother in the 1960s brought additional challenges and she often took her daughter, then four years old, into the lab. She also noted that in this new world of computing, there were no footsteps to follow in.

"When I first got into it, nobody knew what it was that we were doing. "It was like the Wild West. There was no course in it. They didn't teach it," she said.


Yet she and her MIT colleagues went on to write the code for the world's first portable computer. From the 1970s onwards, she used her expertise to found her own software businesses, including Hamilton Technologies, which is still based in Massachusetts. Mr Obama also hailed the Indiana-born mathematician for developing software architecture that "echoes in countless technologies today" and said she encapsulated the "American spirit of discovery that exists in every little girl and little boy".

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was also awarded the medal, posthumously. Mr Obama said the computer scientist, who died in 1992, was at the forefront of computers and programming development from the 1940s to 1980s. President Obama hailed the 21 honourees as "extraordinary Americans who have lifted our spirits, strengthened our union, pushed us toward progress".

Website: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38076123

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 25 Nov 2016 21:25

Lawyer to India’s first private moon mission talks space, launch contracts & Manfred Lachs
by Kian Ganz Legallyindia Novemebr 24, 2016

The law firm TRA has been getting its hands dirty with new technologies
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Indian rocket lawyer: Rastogi explains the law in desi bid to reach the moon

TRA managing partner Anirudh Rastogi has negotiated a so-called satellite launch contract for Team Indus, which is the only Indian team competing for the Google-sponsored Lunar XPRIZE, which has set aside $20m for the first 90% privately-funded company to land a robot on the moon and send video footage of its 500m drive on the lunar surface back to earth.

“We advised Team Indus on the launch contract and on various regulatory matters,” explained Rastogi about the launch contract with Antrix Corp, the commercial arm of the government’s Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which envisages Team Indus launching a lunar lander and robotic rover in a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) operated by the ISRO.


Rastogi is an NLIU Bhopal graduate and Harvard LLM, who had begun his career at Nishith Desai Associates in 2006, and moved to O’Melveny & Myers Singapore in 2008 before co-founding TRA in Delhi in 2012.

“Each launch contract can be a very customised and highly-negotiated contract – these are high value and high liability deals. For example, the spaceX Falcon 9 explosion wiped out Israeli Communications Satellite Amos-6 worth about $200m, and we are not even accounting for the loss of business,” he said about the legal and liability complexities of the mission.

Most ISRO and other launches take up multiple satellites at the same time (one upcoming launch by ISRO in January plans to launch 68 in a single mission for instance).
However, Rastogi said that the “interesting thing was that the Team Indus contract is a dedicated launch”.


Securing a launch contract by the end of 2016 is a prerequisite to remain in the running for the XPRIZE, which has an overall deadline of 31 December 2017.

Team Indus’ launch contract with ISRO, as reported earlier this month, is scheduled to take its rover to the moon in December 2017.

Three other teams from (from Israel, the US and an international group) had secured launch contracts before Team Indus, which is supported by Infosys co-founded Nandan Nilekani. The second team to fulfil the moon mission of the competition would win $5m, with another $5m in bonus prizes up for grabs.

Team Indus concluding its launch contract follows the company signing up with French aerospace company CNES, via Indian company Axiom Research Labs, to supply high-end digital cameras for use in its rover.

Space law: Not just any old contract"When you do a launch contract, there are very significant liability issues but unlike many other contracts that you do that you attribute liability to one party or the other “It is a very specialist area with extremely high liability issues,” explained Rastogi about the practice area. “There are unique elements to a launch contract.”

"When you do a launch contract, there are very significant liability issues but unlike many other contracts that you do that you attribute liability to one party or the other, in a launch contract, both parties generally waive liability,” he said.


“A launch is a complex transaction involving not only the launch provider and the user, but also the satellite manufacturer, the government, contractors, and sub-contractors, and it can often be difficult to pinpoint liability.


“Also, a launch failure may cause damage not only to the payload and launch vehicle but also to persons and property who may not be even involved in the space venture.


“These aspects call for an additional system of indemnities and insurance commitments.”


That means that there is no liability on the launch operator if the rocket blows up, and likewise there is no liability for the satellite maker either if that should derail a mission, noted Rastogi.

“The risk is very significant, largely unknown and unpredictable,” he added. “It came about largely as a way to incentivise launch providers... and parties to assume this risk.”


How to become a space lawyer
He said that TRA - a firm of 2 partners and 7 other lawyers - was “very focused on new technologies”, where policy and regulation are often very ambigiuous. TRA had mostly moved into the aerospace field from aviation work, having also been active in advising in the drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) space, where there is some regulatory overlap with space law work.

“The way we’ve evolved as a firm, we selectively pick up areas of work where there is a lot of evolution in technology and the regulatory environment, and we develop expertise in that. That’s really been our approach at it,” he said, adding: “The space market has also expanded exponentially with lowering cost of space launch technology and hardware, and opening up of the industry to the private sector.


“A number of aerospace ventures have come about in India in the last 5-6 years, from small-satellite manufacturers to component manufacturers to launch facilitators.”


Nevertheless, the area remained “fairly niche”, he said."What is equally important, especially if you want to do commercial work is how the industry operates, you need to pick up on the commercial practice.”


So how can students who want to be space lawyers one day prepare for the area? Would space law moots or studying space law academically potentially help?

“When students talk about space law, they’re generally talking about the public law elements of space law, international space treaties, etc,” said Rastogi. "What is equally important, especially if you want to do commercial work is how the industry operates, you need to pick up on the commercial practice.”

“I don’t think Manfred Lachs particularly prepares you for, or the space law courses particularly prepare for practice. For that you need to be more clued into the industry and commercial practices,” he mused.


“But it is certainly a great start.”

Website: http://www.legallyindia.com/law-firms/l ... fred-lachs

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 26 Nov 2016 19:36

Bullish investors back Team Indus moon shot
by Madhumathi D.S TheHindu November 26, 2016

Three big stock market players pick up stake in Rs. 450 crore private spacecraft venture

Three major investors in the stock market - Rakesh Jhunjhunwla, Ashish Kacholia and R.K.Damani - have picked up a stake in Team Indus, the start-up that plans to send India’s first privately-funded spacecraft to the moon next year.

The three separately sealed their investments in recent weeks, said Rahul Narayan, co-founder and head of the Bengaluru-based company. Details of the individual stakes or infused amounts were not available.

Team Indus is about to raise its second round of financing, Mr. Narayan told The Hindu, adding, “The overall mission will cost us $ 75 million or around Rs. 450 crore.”

The start-up is the only Indian aspirant and among the four from across the world that plan to send spacecraft to soft-land on the moon before December 2017, deploying a rover and sending lunar pictures.

Last year, it won a $1 million milestone prize from Google Lunar X Prize for completing the viable concept of its moon lander. The final prize amount stands at $ 30 million (about Rs. 200 crore at current exchange rates).

Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, the angel backer, came on board two years ago and is now the single largest investor in the company that was started in 2012.

Second funding round
Mr. Narayan, who promoted the company along with a few associates, said, “We raised one round [$ 35 million in finance] in 2014. The second one is in progress now and we will also be equity financing from multiple investors. We expect to close it very soon.”

The company is poised to start building its 600-kg-plus moon lander. It plans to launch it on a hired PSLV rocket of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Not being an Earth-bound mission, the special launch could cost several hundred crores of rupees - a fee not usually disclosed.

Team Indus has attracted 75 investors or sponsors, among them Rajiv Mody, CMD of Sasken Communication Technologies; Subrata Mitra and Shekhar Kirani of Accel Partners; and Sharad Sharma of iSPIRT.

Website: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/B ... 705021.ece

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 27 Nov 2016 08:57

'We're Aiming For The Space': Walk The Talk With TeamIndus' Rahul Narayan
by NDTV Novemebr 25, 2016

"We are aiming for the space, the stars and the planets hence the designations," remarks Rahul Narayan with a smirk on being questioned why the TeamIndus' members were designated after characters of the famous Sci-Fi flick Star Wars. Rahul's name plate flashes Jedi Master and the team leader of TeamIndus which recently won the prestigious Google Lunar XPrize, is quite upbeat on receiving the latest grant of $1 million from Google. Hear Rahul narrate how India's first privately funded space exploration team took off and what lies in the future for them. He ends the interview by tweaking Neil Armstrong's famous quote "One small step for man but a giant leap for Indian start ups".


Duration: 24 MIN, 18 SEC

Website: http://www.ndtv.com/video/news/walk-the ... yan-440170

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby Sharief_siva » 28 Nov 2016 14:00

I heard Rahul Narayan from Team Indus speak at a leadership program this weekend. He shared his journey and experiences. I found him to be very humble and inspiring. When one of the participants asked him about how ISRO treated him because he is technically a competitor for ISRO, He mentioned the following:
"In his first meeting with the ISRO head, when he asked how they felt that their competitor was asking for their help to launch, I believe, the head of ISRO said that you are our "Child". You are a product of the billion dollars invested in Indian Space program. We are glad we could inspire you take this journey."

Disclaimer: I am re-quoting Rahul as far as I can remember.

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby Varoon Shekhar » 28 Nov 2016 18:37

What is the projected date of this mission? Really nice interview with Mr Narayan

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 28 Nov 2016 21:38

Varoon Shekhar wrote:What is the projected date of this mission? Really nice interview with Mr Narayan


Team Indus has to launch their moon craft max by Q4 2017. And to remain in Google's Lunar XPRIZE competition a verifiable launch contract is needed by Q4 2016. Rahul Narayan says he is in a final state of contract with Antrix-ISRO, though business-standard has a news on November 2, that the launch is confirmed.

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 29 Nov 2016 22:12

Himachal scientist to unravel Moon mysteries
by Sanjeev Kumar Thestatesman.com November 29, 2016

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It’s been eight years since India’s first indigenous spacecraft Chandrayaan-I landed on Moon, which detected water on its surface and collected data on its atmosphere and surface. Now, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has assigned a project to interpret data on Surface Geology, composition and Morphology of Mars to a Himachal scientist presently working in the Geology Department of Government Degree College, Dharamshala, Dr Sunil Dhar, who is also the head of the department.

Talking to The Statesman, Dr Sunil Dhar said that ISRO has assigned him to a project for interpretation of data collected by Chandrayaan on Surface Geology, composition and Morphology of Mars. “GDC Dharamshala is only institute after Jawaharlal Nehru University in north India that had been assigned project to study data collected by the Chandrayaan Satellite,” he said. Dr Dhar said the project involves studying and interpretation of data to find as to what type of minerals are there on the Moon’s surface. The study would also focus on identifying the contents on the lunar surface, velocity of rocks and mineralogy.

“ISRO had collected data through remote sensing, terrain mapping camera, hyperspectral imager and video imaging system which needs interpretion to gather more information about the planet,” he said. Dr Dhar said he had applied for the project last year and was granted the project a few days after incorporating several changes in it. “It’s a new kind of study for which ISRO had invited proposals from a group of scientists and academicians belonging to recognised institutions, universities and government organisations of India in the month of AugustSeptember 2015,” he added.

It is worthwhile to mention here that ISRO had invited proposals for conducting research on understanding the Martian Atmospheric processes, including dust storms and cloud formation, surface geology, composition and morphology of Mars, fluvial and aeolian process studies and Integrated studies of MOM payload data with other international missions like MRO, Mars. Further, research proposals were also invited for conducting studies related to trace gases on Mars including Methane, sub-surface water on Mars and assessment of Martian atmospheric escape process.

Website: http://www.thestatesman.com/delhi/himac ... 81434.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 01 Dec 2016 22:34

German X Prize team announces launch contract
by Jeff Foust Spacenews.com November 29, 2016

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An illustration of the Audi Lunar Quattro rover that PT Scientists plans to send to the moon to win the Google Lunar X Prize. Credit: PT Scientists

WASHINGTON — A German team competing for the Google Lunar X Prize said Nov. 29 that it has signed a contract to launch its lander, carrying two rovers, by late 2017.

Berlin-based PT Scientists said that it signed a contract with Spaceflight Industries for the launch of its lander as a secondary payload on a vehicle yet to be identified. Seattle-based Spaceflight serves as a broker for secondary payloads and works with a number of launch service providers. Karsten Becker, head of electronics for PT Scientists, said at an online press briefing Nov. 29 that a SpaceX Falcon 9 is the most likely vehicle that Spaceflight will use to launch their lander. “We are very confident that it will be a Falcon 9, but we cannot say that it will be a Falcon 9 just yet, because Spaceflight needs to confirm it with their other customers, and SpaceX,” he said.

PT Scientists and other teams participating in the Google Lunar X Prize are facing a Dec. 31 deadline to submit launch contracts to the X Prize Foundation and have them validate the contracts in order to continue in the competition. To date, the foundation has verified launch contracts for only 3 of the 16 current teams: Moon Express, SpaceIL and Synergy Moon.

Becker said that PT Scientists and Spaceflight have submitted their launch contract to the X Prize Foundation for verification, a process that is ongoing. “We are in good discussions with them, and are quite confident that they will verify it by the end of the year,” he said of the X Prize Foundation. PT Scientists started in the competition as Part Time Scientists, so named because the team members were volunteers that worked on the proposed mission in their spare time. The effort has evolved into a more professional venture, with 12 full-time employees now, Becker said.

German automaker Audi has also become a major sponsor for PT Scientists, providing support for the development of the team’s rover, now known as the Audi Lunar Quattro rover. The team has additional partners that Becker said PT Scientists would announce in the coming months that are helping fund the overall venture. PT Scientists’ initial mission, to win the $20 million first prize in the Google Lunar X Prize, involves landing their Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module (ALINA) lander near the Apollo 17 site. The lander will then deploy two rovers that will travel towards the site, with specific plans to approach the Apollo 17 lunar rover left behind by that last human lunar landing mission in 1972.

ALINA will carry, besides the two rovers, several other payloads, ranging from a lunar plant growth experiment to a copy of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. The team is selling payload space on its lander for 750,000 euros ($800,000) per kilogram. Becker said PT Scientists has ambitions for future missions, including to the lunar south pole where there are both permanently shadowed craters, thought to host water ice, as well as peaks that are in near-constant illumination. Becker said they estimate a lander mission, carrying 100 kilograms of payload, would cost them 40 million euros ($42.5 million) each, allowing them to be profitable provided they are able to sell most of the payload space on future missions.

Becker said that PT Scientists also has aspirations beyond the moon, in particular Phobos, the larger of the two moons of Mars. “Phobos is a very nice outpost to Mars,” he said, adding that such a mission was only a long-term goal for the team. “It’s a very far-fetched vision.”

Website: http://spacenews.com/german-x-prize-tea ... -contract/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 01 Dec 2016 22:36

Team Indus Signs Launch Contract with ISRO
by Sidharth Shekhar PCQuest.com December 1, 2016
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Team Indus, a space technology enterprise, has signed a commercial launch contract with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for its historic Mission to land a Spacecraft on the Moon as part of its bid to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

Team Indus is the only Indian team competing for the Google Lunar X Prize. The goal of the unprecedented $30 million prize is to ignite a new era of space exploration by lowering the cost and inspiring the imagination of the next generation. To win the prize, privately funded teams must land their spacecraft on the surface of the moon, travel 500 meters, and broadcast high definition video, images, and data back to Earth.

In late 2017, seven years after a group of Indian entrepreneurs with no aerospace experience signed up to make an impossible dream come true, TeamIndus will launch its Spacecraft bound for the moon aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

Announcing the launch contract, Rahul Narayan, TeamIndus’ Fleet Commander, said, “What gave us confidence to dream big when we started on this journey many years back was the heft of the scientific legacy that India, with ISRO, created over decades. This launch contract reaffirms our mission as a truly Indian mission where the best of India’s public and private enterprises have come together to realise a common dream.”

Narayan added the mission will help India join an exclusive club of nations with proven technology to soft-land on the moon, thereby opening newer avenues of space exploration for the benefit of all humankind. “Programs like these are a testimony to the Indian Government’s Make in India initiative in the increasingly competitive world of New Space companies,” he added.

“We are delighted to officially verify Team Indus’ launch contract,” said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director, Google Lunar X Prize. “This is a notable achievement for Team Indus and we are proud to have one more team make it into the final stretch of this competition.”

A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman, ISRO had earlier said, “If you treat space as the new frontier, then who better than the next generation of people who bring in new innovative approaches. We want to see there is enough capacity to make use of the knowledge in India for the world market.”

TeamIndus’ journey has received support from a wide range of thought leaders including Ratan Tata, Nandan Nilekani, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, Venu Srinivasan, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, RK Damani amongst others.

The TeamIndus Spacecraft has been designed and developed in Bangalore by a 100-person engineering team including 20 retired ISRO scientists. In a launch window starting on the 28th of December, 2017, the PSLV will inject the spacecraft into an orbit 880 km x 70,000 km around the Earth. The Spacecraft will then undertake a 21day journey to soft land in Mare Imbrium, a region in the North-Western hemisphere of the moon.

After landing in Mare Imbrium, the Spacecraft will deploy its entire payload including the Team Indus Rover that will traverse 500 meters on the moon’s surface in order to accomplish its Google Lunar X Prize objectives.

Website: http://www.pcquest.com/team-indus-signs ... with-isro/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 01 Dec 2016 22:44

Private moon mission plans to revisit Apollo 17 landing site
by Jacob Aron Newscientist.com November 29, 2016
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How’s it holding up? Credit: NASA

A planned private mission to the moon could revisit the spot where astronauts last roamed its surface. German-based PTScientists says it will land a pair of rovers, designed with the help of car firm Audi, near the Apollo 17 landing site and check out the lunar buggy left behind by NASA during its final mission to the moon in 1972.

“Has it been ripped to shreds by micrometeorids, or is it still standing there like on the day they left?” says Karsen Becker, the team’s rover driver. “This is scientifically a very interesting site for us.”

PTScientists is taking part in the Google Lunar X Prize, a race to get the first privately funded rover on the moon. There are currently 16 teams in the running, though only some, including PTScientists, have a contract in place to launch their rovers before the competition deadline at the end of 2017 – a date that has been pushed back numerous times from the original end of 2012.

Becker says the team has booked a flight through launch broker Spaceflight Industries and hopes to share a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket by late 2017, or early 2018.

Lunar conditions
Studying the current state of the buggy should teach us more about the effect of long-term exposure to the harsh lunar conditions. NASA guidelines suggest that moon missions should land at least 2 kilometres away from any Apollo heritage sites, and not approach within 200 metres. Becker says they will land at a distance of 3 to 4 kilometres and drive to within 200 metres to study the buggy remotely.

The team’s rovers have a camera equipped with three lenses that will allow them to zoom in and image the buggy in different wavelengths. Becker says the team also wants to repeat gravity measurements made by the astronauts at the Apollo 17 site. “There are some data points that look a bit funky, no one knows whether it was a misreading or what actually happened,” he says. Confirming the readings could reveal the presence of a lava tube tunnel beneath the surface.

Other planned experiments include firing a laser at the lunar soil, fusing it together in a test of future 3D printing technology, and attempting to grow a plant in a container attached to the rover.

Website: https://www.newscientist.com/article/21 ... ding-site/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 01 Dec 2016 22:49

The Moon’s magma ocean was wetter than we thought
by John Timmer Arstechnica.com November 30, 2016

A water-free magma ocean would produce a very different Moon from Earth’s.
Image
Credit: NASA

Early in our Solar System's history, the Earth was slammed by a Mars-sized body. The collision effectively disassembled both bodies and created a swirling mass of debris from which the present Earth and its Moon condensed. The process of forming these two bodies was violent, as debris of various size rained down on their surfaces. As a result, the Moon's surface started out as a global ocean of molten rock.

Eventually, as this ocean cooled, it formed the Moon's crust. But the process was complex. Different minerals solidified at different temperatures and depths. We've had some models of how this might have happened, based on a limited number of experiments, as well as our early understanding of the Moon's composition. But scientists from VU Amsterdam have revisited this issue in light of what we now know of the Moon. The scientists have tested how various mineral mixes behave under extreme temperatures and pressures. Their results indicate that the Moon must have started out with significant amounts of water mixed into its global magma ocean.

How do you model an entire ocean of molten rock? You start with the known composition of the Moon and use that to create a mix of the appropriate minerals. Then you expose those minerals to extreme pressures and temperatures well beyond the melting point of rock. For these experiments, the temperatures ranged up to 1,550°C. Since the magma ocean was potentially hundreds of kilometers deep (current estimates range from 400 to 1,000 kilometers), pressures ranged up to 3 GigaPascals, which is nearly 30,000 atmospheres.

While the researchers behind the work assumed that temperatures throughout the ocean were kept relatively even by convection, pressure varies with depth and helps set the temperature at which different minerals solidify. So the team tested various mineral mixes at a collection of temperatures and pressures to identify the temperature and depth at which various minerals would solidify.

The results are exactly what you might expect: a series of concentric shells with different mineral compositions, in keeping with previous models that were based on a much more limited sampling of data. That's because of both the influence of pressure and because different minerals are more or less dense. Minerals may float or sink in the ocean once they start forming.

But there was a bit of a problem: the crust that formed was nearly 70km thick. But we recently sent the GRAIL mission to the Moon, which used a pair of orbiters to track subtle gravitational differences. GRAIL showed that the crust varies between 34 and 43km—only about half as thick.

Fortunately, a second set of experiments helped sort the discrepancy out. The initial work was done after heating had been used to drive all the water off the minerals. This created a chemistry like we'd thought the Moon had immediately after the Apollo missions, which found the minerals there to be extremely dry. Since then, data have come in indicating that the Moon has significantly more water than we thought. So the authors did a second set of experiments in which the minerals were allowed to retain water before they were sealed up and melted.

Studies attempting to recreate conditions on Earth had shown that the presence of water inhibited the solidification of one of the first minerals to form under dry conditions. And the authors find that the presence of some water—as little as 1.5 parts-per-thousand—were sufficient to completely change the crust thickness, dropping it to 42km, within the range of data. Adding even more water dropped the crust thickness even further.

The authors find that several different conditions can produce the right thickness of crust: different amounts of water, different original depth of the magma ocean, and so on. But all of these conditions involve a significant amount of water in that magma ocean. All of which suggests that the violence of collision that formed the Earth-Moon system wasn't enough to drive all the water out of the debris.

Nature Geoscience, 2016. DOI: 10.1038/NGEO2845 (Digital Object Identifiers)

Ref: http://www.nature.com/articles/ngeo2845 ... chnica.com

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 01 Dec 2016 23:01

A big step to boost India’s space program, a startup aims to hoist Indian flag on Moon on 2018 Republic Day
by Financialexpress.com December 1, 2016

Taking a major step towards boosting India's space program, a startup is working to be the country's first to send a robot to the moon to erect national flag on its land and capture images.

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Team Indus is a group of around 100 people formed in 2010 with the aim to send an orbiter, a lander and a rover to the surface of moon before this year end. (Representative Image: Reuters)

Taking a major step towards boosting India’s space program, a startup is working to be the country’s first to send a robot to the moon to erect national flag on its land and capture images. A Bengaluru-based private company Team Indus, is working day-night to accomplish its dream on Republic Day (January 26), 2018. Supporting the honest effort, the Indian Space Research Organization has signed an agreement with it which provides a polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) for sending the rover to the company. However, the 320-ton giant rocket will only be allowed to launch if it meets all the ISRO’s stringent specifications.

Team Indus is a group of around 100 people formed in 2010 with the aim to send an orbiter, a lander and a rover to the surface of moon before this year end. It is a part of a competition that offers $20 million prize to the first private firm to land a robot on the moon that travels more than 500 meters and transmits back clear images and videos, quoted NDTV. Rahul Narayan. team leader of Team Indus, has high hope towards completion of the ambitious project. In an interaction with NDTV, he said he has a young and bright team and they are looking at the 2017 launch.

Confirming the agreement to receive permission for the PSLV by ISRO, Rakesh Sasibhushan, chairman and managing director of Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO, Bengaluru, was quoted as saying that they have agreed to provide the launch to Team Indus. But it will only be allowed if the teams qualifies all the test, added he.

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 02 Dec 2016 22:48

Russia develops hi-tech humanoid robot to colonise the Moon for plan to build lunar base by 2031
by Anthony Bond & Jessica Haworth Mirror.co.uk December 2, 2016

The ambitious plans would also see cosmonauts being sent to the moon on a new spacecraft called Federation. This is the humanoid robot that Vladimir Putin hopes will successfully colonise the moon. Fedor is the prototype of a new artificial intelligence the Russian leader wants to send to the International Space Station.

It can work in the extreme temperatures on the moon without the need for a space suit - and can even 'live' outside in the open. This comes as Russia revealed plans to send humans to the moon by 2031.

Putin's deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin said: "This thing can work without a space suit, live not only in a crew vehicle, but even outside it. Its name is Fedor."

A video of the robot shows developers taking it for a walk and testing its human-like abilities. It can stand up, walk around and move all of its metal limbs - it can also "see" through a camera in its head. The robot can even do push ups, as seen in the footage.

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The robot can function like a human

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It can even do push ups on the floor

Rogozin claimed the war in Syria had shown Russia the importance of robots in difficult environments, and promised Fedor would make its space debut in five years. Putin has also instructed his space chiefs to make a first landing on the moon within 15 years. A key task for Fedor will be to "assist in construction and use of bases" on the moon and potentially other planets, said its Russian designers FPI.

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The robot can work without a space suit and is free from other limitations

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Project leader Sergei Khurs says astronauts will rely on robots in the future

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It is hoped that Fedor will be able to help maintain the International Space Station

The robot can "crawl, stand up after falling down, take and leave driver's seat in a car, use tools and operate in a regular building". Fedor stands 6ft tall, weighs between 106-160 kg depending on extra equipment, and can lift up to 20 kg of cargo. Sergei Khurs, head of the project and director of the National Centre for Technology Development and Basic Robotics, said: “During space walking missions and on other planets, astronauts will rely on robots.

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Russia is hoping the AI can colonise the Moon

"Their capabilities are equal to those of humans, and in some ways even exceed them." Vladimir Solntsev, general director of Russian rocket-making corporation Energia, said: "Our involvement in the Fedor-based space robot project will bring us to the next level in the development of robotic technologies."


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It can use tools, such as this drill

Alexander Grebenshchikov, director of the TSNIImash laboratory of space robotics, said: "Every hour of work of cosmonauts on space walks costs from $2 million to $4 million (USD). "The use of robots for routine operations in the future will also spare additional time of the crew for leisure or for the fulfillment of other important tasks."

Fedor is the equivalent in Russian for Theodore, although in this case it is an acronym standing for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research. Russia's ambitious plans would see cosmonauts being sent to the moon on a new spacecraft called Federation.

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Here, Fedor is seen driving a car

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Fedor, the Russian prototype of a humanoid robot

There would also be a new space station built in the next ten years with NASA seen as a possible partner to the plans. There would be unmanned missions into space over a number of years before humans were send to the moon in 2031. Only America has so far managed to land humans on the moon’s surface.

The plans were unveiled by Vladimir Solntsev, of rocket company Energia. He said an unmanned spacecraft would fly around the moon in 2026 followed by another unmanned space vehicle practicing on landing on the moon the following year. Russian experts say 'Every hour of work of cosmonauts on space walks costs from $2 million to $4 million'. In 2029 there would be another unmanned flight before eventually landing on the moon in 2031.

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The first images have emerged of the prototype humanoid robot Vladimir Putin hopes will conquer the moon for Russia

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Fedor doing soldering of PCB

Russia claims the war in Syria has shown the importance of robots in difficult environments, and promised Fedor would make its space debut in five years

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Fedor stands 6ft tall, weighs between 106-160 kg depending on extra equipment, and can lift up to 20 kg of cargo

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Fedor is the equivalent in Russian for Theodore, although in this case it is an acronym standing for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research

As reported by Russian news agency TASS, Mr Solntsev said: “In the 2030s, we set the task of a manned flight to the Moon and in 2031 we plan landing on the Moon.”


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Russia hopes to become only the second country to land a human on the moon

As well as landing again on the Moon, one of the next major space missions is to put a human on Mars . NASA believes it can get to Mars before 2030 and the China National Space Administration has set a target of 2021, while the European Space Agency and the Russians’ Roscosmos are already in the first stages of a joint project to put a robot on the surface by 2020.

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The robot can 'crawl, stand up after falling down, take and leave driver's seat in a car, use tools and operate in a regular building'

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The robot is capable of taking on complicated tasks and was put through its paces on an assault course

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Fedor can crawl and is capable of getting back up after falling over

Meanwhile, SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk aims to ferry 100 passengers there by 2024, the space company of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is rocket-testing in the Texan desert and Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp has already recruited eight people for his Mars One mission.

Credits: (Photo: YouTube/Rokossovskiy Konstantin)
Website: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news ... id-9376743

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 03 Dec 2016 10:22

Indian X Prize team secures launch contract with ISRO
by Jeff Foust Spacenews December 2, 2016

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An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifts off in June. TeamIndus has purchased a PSLV launch in late 2017 for its Google Lunar X Prize lander. Credit: ISRO

WASHINGTON — TeamIndus, an Indian team competing in the Google Lunar X Prize, announced Dec. 1 it has a launch contract for its lunar lander mission with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The contract, which has been verified by the X Prize Foundation, is for the dedicated launch of TeamIndus’ lander and rover on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) planned for December 2017.

As currently planned, the PSLV will place the TeamIndus spacecraft into an elliptical transfer orbit around the Earth of 880 by 70,000 kilometers. The spacecraft will then slowly spiral out to the moon on a 21-day transit before landing in the Mare Imbrium region of the moon, the same general region where China’s first lunar lander, Chang’e-3, landed in 2013.

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Team Indus Mission Overview

TeamIndus is the fourth team to have its launch contract verified by the X Prize Foundation, a requirement for teams that wish to continue in the competition after this year. SpaceIL and Moon Express announced verified launch contracts in 2015, and Synergy Moon has its contract verified in August. A fifth team, Berlin-based PT Scientists, announced a launch contract Nov. 29, but said at the time they were still working with the X Prize Foundation to have it verified.

The Google Lunar X Prize offers a $20 million grand prize to the first private team to land a spacecraft on the moon, travel at least 500 meters, and return high definition video and other data. The prize’s deadline has been delayed several times since its introduction in 2007, with the latest deadline being the end of 2017.

TeamIndus will be cutting it very close, with a launch scheduled for late December of 2017. In a Dec. 1 interview, Sheelika Ravishankar, an executive with TeamIndus, said she expected that the X Prize Foundation might extend the prize deadline by a few weeks if there was a team that launched by the end of 2017 but had not yet landed, but did not expect a longer and more general extension. “There is no reason to extend the contest any more,” she said, citing the contracts several other teams have announced for 2017 launches.

TeamIndus also has an accelerated schedule for assembly of its lander and rover. The company expects to complete work on a qualification model of the spacecraft in a couple months, with work on flight hardware to start shortly thereafter. The spacecraft is scheduled to be completed in September for final testing and integration with its launch vehicle.

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Mission Trajectory

The use of a dedicated launch vehicle, rather than flying as a secondary payload on another customer’s launch, gives TeamIndus the capability to accommodate other team’s rovers, Ravishankar said. “We’re in the final stages of inking a deal with one of the teams,” she said.

Such a partnership among competing teams is not unprecedented: another team, Astrobotic, plans to carry rovers for at least two other teams, although Astrobotic has not yet announced a launch contract for its mission.

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Rover is named ECA (pronounced eeka), meaning 'One Small Wish'

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Team Indus is owned by the parent company Axiom Research Labs

Ravishankar said the total cost of the mission, including launch, is about $65 million, which TeamIndus is raising through the sale of company equity, sponsorships, and a planned crowdfunding campaign set to begin in January.

Website: http://spacenews.com/indian-x-prize-tea ... with-isro/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 03 Dec 2016 16:17

Why Does The Earth Pull On One Side Of The Moon More? Is The Moon Lopsided?
by Jillian Scudder Forbes.com November 20, 2016

Why does the Earth pull on one side of the Moon more than the other side? Is it because the mass of the Moon is not even, and one side has more mass than the other?

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This image shows the variations in the lunar gravity field as measured by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) during the primary mapping mission from March to May 2012. Very precise microwave measurements between two spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, were used to map gravity with high precision and high spatial resolution. The field shown resolves blocks on the surface of about 12 miles (20 kilometers) and measurements are three to five orders of magnitude improved over previous data. Red corresponds to mass excesses and blue corresponds to mass deficiencies. The map shows more small-scale detail on the far side of the moon compared to the nearside because the far side has many more small craters. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT/GSFC

The Moon is pretty round; it’s set up much like the Earth - with a core of iron, surrounded by a mantle of other rocks, and topped off with a crust between 21 and 27 miles thick, at the surface. As far as we can tell, each of those components is pretty perfectly centered within the sphere that makes up our Moon.

Could we tell if the mass of the moon were offset somehow? Let’s say the near side of the Moon were made of denser rock (more mass per unit area) than the far side for some reason. What measurements would that change?

It wouldn’t necessarily change the elevation mapping; after all, you can just as easily have a large pile of dense rocks as you can have a large pile of less dense rock. However, what would change is the gravitational field mapping. In order to better understand exactly this sort of question - are the rocks over here roughly the same density as the rocks over there - we have mapped out very detailed measurements of the gravitational pull surrounding a number of other worlds - not to mention our own.

The final result looks like the image below (when unfurled from the sphere of the Moon), when viewed through the eyes of the twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) satellites. These two satellites, dubbed Ebb and Flow, orbited the moon for nine months in 2012.

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This map shows the gravity field of the moon as measured by NASA's GRAIL mission. The viewing perspective, known as a Mercator projection, shows the far side of the moon in the center and the nearside (as viewed from Earth) at either side. Units are milliGalileos where 1 Galileo is 1 centimeter per second squared. Reds correspond to mass excesses which create areas of higher local gravity, and blues correspond to mass deficits which create areas of lower local gravity. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/MIT

These maps allow us to rule out the Moon’s mass being completely lopsided, because there's no asymmetric gravitational pull being measured. If the Moon's mass were lopsided, you'd expect to see a huge swath of high gravitational pull along the left and right edges of the map, which we don't see here. These maps show us the gravitational acceleration above each of these locations, and typically the punches you see in the surface - the red circles scattered across the Moon - coincide with impact craters we know about.

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This graphic depicting the bulk density of the lunar highlands on the near and far sides of the moon was generated using gravity data from NASA's GRAIL mission and topography data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This graphic depicting the bulk density of the lunar highlands on the near and far sides of the moon was generated using gravity data from NASA's GRAIL mission and topography data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Red corresponds to higher than average densities and blue corresponds to lower than average densities. The average bulk density of the lunar highlands crust is 2,550 kilograms per meter cubed, which is 12 percent lower than generally assumed. White denotes regions that contain mare basalts (thin lines) and that were not analyzed. Solid circles correspond to prominent impact basins. The largest basin on the moon's far side hemisphere, the South Pole-Aitken basin, has a higher than average density that reflects its atypical iron-rich surface composition. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPGP

So if the Moon isn’t lopsided inherently, what is it that causes the Earth’s gravitational pull on one side to be significantly stronger than the pull on the far side? This question works in both ways, as it’s the Moon’s reciprocal pull on the Earth which causes high tide. The answer is simply distance.

Gravitational pull weakens with distance; in fact, if you drift twice as far away from an object, the gravitational pull weakens by a factor of four. Drift four times further, and gravity loosens by a factor of 16. Now, the near side of the Moon and the far side of the Moon are only 2,159 miles apart from each other. If you want to get a general handle on the gravitational pull between the earth and the Moon, you can do the calculation assuming the Moon is a mass collected into an infinitesimally small point. This will get you close to describing the orbit of the Moon around the Earth, but it glosses over a few details.

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This image approximates the look of the Nov. 14, 2016, full moon with data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

One of those details is the difference in gravitational force on the near and far surfaces, knowing that the moon isn't flat. Because the Moon’s front side is 2,159 miles closer to the Earth than the far side, the gravitational force on the near side is just a tad stronger than the gravitational force on the far side. This is not a strong effect, but it is measurable, and it is this differential across the planet and our moon which causes both the liquid of our planet's oceans to pull towards the moon, and the same side of the moon to always face us.

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 05 Dec 2016 22:03

Book A Holiday On The Moon For $10,000: Moon Express Founder Says Lunar Flights Possible By 2026
by Allan Adamson Tech Times December 4, 2016

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The moon could be the target destination of romantic couples ten years from now. Moon Express founder Naveen Jain said space tourists may possibly land on lunar surface for just $10,000. ( NASA/Newsmakers | Getty Images )

It may not take long before ordinary people would get the chance to spend their holiday on the moon. In an interview with CNBC published on Thursday, Dec. 1, Moon Express founder Naveen Jain said that he believes commercial lunar travel could be possible in just a decade.

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Moon Express say it will cost £8,000 for a ticket and they hope to be up and running by 2026


Moon Express
Moon Express is the first non-government entity that secured approval from the U.S. government to land on the moon. The company is also planning to send a robotic rover to the lunar surface in 2017 to conduct a survey for the best spots to mine iron ore, metals, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, rare Earth minerals and helium-3.

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Co-founder of Moon Express, Naveen Jain (Photo: Moon Express)

The space exploration company was born out of the Google Lunar XPrize, an international competition that offers $30 million to a private company that can soft land on the surface of the moon.

$10,000 Ticket To The Moon
Going to space as a tourist does not come cheap. Virgin Galactic, which aims to send tourists to space, charges $250,000 per seat, an amount that can only be afforded by the rich and famous.

More competitive pricing in the space tourism industry, however, could bolster the number of people who would include space travel in their bucket list. Jain said that moon travel is getting cheap and may eventually cost only thousands of dollars per mission.



Moon Express
"In a mission that initially cost us to go to the moon about $25 billion, our mission to the moon next year is going to be $7 million, and the year after it's going to go down to millions," Jain said. "In the next ten years, the cost of going to the moon is going to be $10,000."


Shorter Travel Time
Travel time to the moon may also get eventually shorter. Jain said that getting to the moon would be possible in four hours, which is faster compared with travel time needed to go from New York to London.

Holiday Beyond Earth
With a more affordable price for a commercial trip to the moon, Jain said that Earth's natural satellite could eventually become the target destination of romantic couples.

Jain also said that he is willing to work with SpaceX's Elon Musk, who has a more ambitious plan: to bring people to planet Mars. Musk, however, acknowledged that the goal to bring people to the Red Planet comes with obstacles. During his speech at the International Astronautical Congress earlier this year, he said that the first journey to planet Mars would be dangerous and could be potentially fatal

Website: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/18773 ... y-2026.htm

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 06 Dec 2016 21:27

Galactic gold rush: the tech companies aiming to make space mining a reality
by Dan Tynan Theguardian.com December 6, 2016

Asteroids and the moon contain vast quantities of natural resources, including water, that could be worth billions and fuel a new phase of space exploration

Image
An artist’s impression of Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 200 spacecraft on a mission to mine an asteroid. Photograph: Planetary Resources

Many tech entrepreneurs will promise you the moon. Naveen Jain is hoping to deliver it. Five years ago, the founder of dotcom search giant InfoSpace set his sights on actual space, creating Moon Express, a startup with the then outlandish goal of mining the moon for minerals.

Last August, Moon Express became the first private company to receive permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to land a craft on the lunar surface. By the end of 2017, it plans to launch its first exploratory mission to our nearest neighbor in the solar system. If successful, Jain’s company may collect the $25m Google Lunar XPRIZE, which has been promised to the first private firm to land on the moon, travel at least 500 meters and transmit high-definition images back from the surface.

Jain isn’t proposing to drill holes in the moon or strip-mine Mons Huygens which, at 18,000 feet, is the tallest peak on the lunar landscape. Most of the treasure he seeks is on the ground, deposited by millions of meteors that have struck the lunar surface over the past 4bn years. And he hates the term “space mining”.

“Mining has such a negative connotation, people think you’re drilling a hole and destroying things,” he (Jain) says. “This is more like collecting or harvesting.”

But Jain’s ambitions are much bigger. Like other tech billionaires entering the space race, he hopes to lower the costs of space travel, help enable the colonization of the moon and later Mars – and make a tidy profit along the way.

“To rephrase John F Kennedy, we choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is a great business,” Jain jokes. “The second reason is the moon is the perfect training ground for going to Mars.”

Robots and snowballs
Moon Express is not the only company aiming to get a piece of the gold rush that’s about to happen hundreds of thousands of miles above our heads.

Deep Space Industries (DSI) is building autonomous spacecraft that can extract materials from asteroids. It expects to launch its first experimental mission in 2017, and send its Prospector 1 autonomous craft to a near-Earth asteroid by the end of the decade, says Meagan Crawford, vice-president of strategic communications for DSI.

Planetary Resources – a company backed in part by Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, as well as the government of Luxembourg – is also developing technology that will allow it to begin exploring asteroids starting around the year 2020.

What’s out there worth mining? Every element known to mankind, in virtually infinite amounts. In 2014, the financial services site Motley Fool estimated the mineral wealth of the moon to be between $150 quadrillion and $500 quadrillion – enough to create 500m billionaires. Add in the riches found inside asteroids, and the sky is literally the limit.

The moon, for example, is abundant in Helium-3, an extremely rare element on Earth that could theoretically be used as fuel in future nuclear fusion plants. Asteroids are typically chock full of iron, nickel, cobalt, platinum and titanium.

But the real gold, at least initially, is water. Many near-Earth asteroids are abundant in carbonaceous chondrites that contain a lot of ice, says Crawford. Think of an enormous dirty snowball, winging around the sun at 55,000 miles an hour. Now imagine landing a robot on that snowball that can extract the ice and haul it away.

“Water is the fuel of space,” Crawford says. “The constituent parts are liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen – that’s rocket fuel. We’re also working on technology that uses superheated water itself as a propellant, so you don’t have to separate the oxygen and hydrogen.”

More than 90% of the weight of modern rockets is the fuel, Jain notes. As companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin begin launching reusable vehicles, fuel becomes the biggest cost of going into space. The less of it you have to carry, the cheaper space travel becomes.

In this scheme, asteroids would essentially be gas stations, allowing ships to carry just enough fuel to emerge from Earth’s gravity well, then fill up their tanks as they head toward their final destination. 'Mining' has such negative connotations – people think you’re destroying things. This is more like harvesting.

Naveen Jain, founder of Moon Express
Of course, water is also useful for drinking, hygiene, irrigation and extracting oxygen for the Mars colonies Jain, Elon Musk, and others are so keen on creating. And it’s a more effective shield against solar radiation than lead. Future Martians could conceivably be living inside domes, insulated by a protective layer of water.

'Mining' has such negative connotations – people think you’re destroying things. This is more like harvesting, says Naveen Jain, founder of Moon Express


Once DSI has figured out how to mine ice, the company plans to begin extracting ore – not for hauling back to Earth, but to help space manufacturers build structures in space that are too big and expensive to cram inside a rocket. Likewise, Planetary Resources aims to distribute water and metals in space, where it will be far cheaper than hauling it up through Earth’s gravity well.

“Our business is about obtaining resources and using them pretty close to where we got them,” says CEO and co-founder Chris Lewicki. “With space travel, you need a really big rocket to take along tiny amounts of things. Ultimately, we want to be able to send more people and bring less stuff.”

Is this really legal?
Can any American citizen just go into space, latch on to an asteroid or moon, and start hauling back rocks? Yes they can, thanks to the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, signed by President Obama in November 2015.

While the law stipulates that no nation can claim ownership of an asteroid or other heavenly body (in accordance with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967), US companies will be able to extract and own any materials they find in the great beyond. Other countries have yet to adopt similar treaties, though Luxembourg is close to passing similar legislation, Crawford says.

“We expect in the next few years there will be several bilateral and multilateral agreements that will settle on an international convention for how this is going to be regulated, similar to how deep-sea mining is handled today,” she (Crawford ) says.

‘Shiny things in a stream’
But for now, space mining is an industry still waiting for its moment. Even with SpaceX and Blue Origin slashing launch costs, sending anything into space remains a radically expensive proposition. The market for raw materials to build moonbases or refueling stations to enable busloads of Mars colonists has yet to materialize.

While all three mining companies are planning launches next year, none expect to begin extracting anything of value from space until well into the next decade.

“The cost of space transportation will have to come down drastically before it becomes economical to transport minerals to Earth from asteroids,” notes William Ostrove, aerospace and defense analyst for Forecast International. “If colonies on the moon or Mars become a reality, it may be cheaper to mine resources on asteroids rather than transport them from Earth. But that’s also decades away.”

Image
The moon’s surface as photographed by Apollo 17. Valuable minerals could be easily available on the surface. Photograph: Nasa

Even then, the first efforts are likely to be modest, says Lewicki. “Gold mining didn’t start as a massive industrial operation with complicated machinery and complex supply chains,” he says. “It started with a Levi’s-wearing gentleman looking for shiny things in a stream and picking them up. Space mining is likely to start out as something pretty simple as well.”

In the meantime, Planetary Resources has begun launching compact Earth observation satellites for use in agriculture, environmental monitoring and energy industries. It allows the company to generate revenue while it waits for the space mining industry to take off, and gives it a chance to test and refine the technology it will use to detect water and minerals in space.

“Lots of people got wind of the gold rush, cashed in their fortunes, got on a wagon headed west and staked their claims,” says Lewicki. “And most of them failed. Nine out of 10 startups fail as well. Success isn’t assured for anyone in this business, but the opportunity is clearly there.”

Like Bezos, Musk, and other tech billionaires, Jain is hoping to bring down the marginal costs of space exploration low enough to enable entrepreneurs to come up with solutions not yet imagined – just as the PC, internet and iPhone spurred innovation no one at that time could foresee.

“When Steve Jobs asked people what apps they wanted to see on the iPhone, not a single person said ‘Hey, I would like to throw the birds at the pigs,’” says Jain. “But that’s what people did. Once we land there, someone else will build the Angry Birds and Pokémon Go of the moon.”


And, like Musk, he’s trying to use his personal wealth to ensure the future of humanity by enabling it to expand beyond our planet’s fragile boundaries.

He’s also a hopeless romantic.

“Moon rocks themselves may be the most valuable thing – they are beautiful,” says Jain, who gave a moon rock to his wife for their 25th anniversary, and claims to own the largest private collection of meteorites in the world. “They could replace diamonds. You simply change the paradigm: ‘Anyone can give her a diamond. If you love her enough, you’ll give her the moon.’”

Website: https://www.theguardian.com/science/201 ... -companies

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 07 Dec 2016 21:14

Why Even Space Startups Do Sales First, Tech Later
by Harry Red Huffingtonpost.com December 06, 2016

Image
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Given a brand new idea, entrepreneurs tend to wonder: how do I build this thing? What technology do I need?
So they dive in, work like crazy and finally end up with a solution...but only after much time and effort went up in smoke.
Bad move. As a smart entrepreneur, you want to avoid this approach like the plague. Because if you can’t sell your solution, your technical work amounts to precisely nothing.

Space technology startups know this well. Working on ambitious ideas in an industry most people consider outlandish, you’d think they have their hands full with technology only.

But guess what? Successful space companies assign a special priority to sales. They know every dollar and minute spent on tech must ultimately justify itself.

To save you a mountain of time, you’re about to learn some of their most powerful ways to get the information you need, without doubling down on product development.

First though, do me a favor. Next time you want to test an idea by building something, ask yourself: can you skip the building step and test it anyway?

Test for market need by pre-selling
Take Jane Poynter, founder and CEO of World View Enterprises — a space company which aims to use special high-altitude balloons as both a new kind of satellite and as a vehicle to take passengers on a trip almost 20 miles up into the sky. In an interview, Poynter told me:

“The moment we started talking about World View and the kinds of things we were going to do, our phone rang off the hook.”

Early on, Poynter experienced strong enthusiasm from her potential customers. People wanted to use their technology for all kinds of things. And hence, she saw a market need and redoubled her efforts to serve it. She sold the value proposition underneath the technology before developing it.

Okay — but what if your vision is so ambitious that people just won’t believe you can do it? Well, don’t panic: you need to make your voice more authoritative, so the right people can’t ignore you.

For instance, Astrobotic Technology — a space logistics company aiming to deliver payloads to the Moon — built significant authority over nine years by assembling a credible team of space scientists and engineers. And thus, it managed to pre-sell its logistics services to big clients. Suddenly, it no longer sounds crazy.

As Astrobotic CEO John Thornton told me:
“The ultimate way to test for market need is by selling and collecting checks.”

True. And you need to do the same. Describe what value your product or service will deliver for your customers, and see if you can get them to buy it before it’s built. Score even a few pre-sales and your voice will already weigh more — and thus your vision will seem more attainable.

And once you start building, you’re still not off the hook. See if somebody already solved your technology problem

Even when you do have a genuine technology problem which will lead to actual sales, chances are somebody out there already had a crack at it.

Alistair Brett, a World Bank science commercialization expert and partner at innovation consultancy firm Rainforest Strategies, points out how science-based companies tend to reinvent the wheel. They face a specific technical problem, but can’t find a solution outside the company, so they just roll their own.

Thing is, the solution often does exist out there, even if it takes a diligent search to find it. And sometimes, it exists in an outside industry.

“In a substantial number of cases, the problem has been solved by somebody who is not directly working in that field of research or development,” Brett said in an interview.

He gives an example of a company that struggled to create a chemical adhesive. The solution was eventually found by an electrical engineer — someone from an outside industry. An expert on a different kind of stickiness.

Bottom line? When you face a technical problem as an entrepreneur and go out to find an existing solution, a brief search won’t do. Instead, make a special search effort, because the solution might lie hidden outside your industry. See if you can find an expert on a similar problem and learn how they solved it.

Outside experts can help you stumble upon innovations. But watch out: an innovation by itself isn’t the point. You have to go sell it. For instance, when I spoke with Chad Anderson, managing director of Space Angels Network, a large community of investors and entrepreneurs in the private space industry, he told me:

“Engineers and scientists often discount the difficulty of getting an innovation out into the market. For the innovations that stick, it all comes down to the CEO and the team. It’s a sales job.”

See the point? For an innovation to stick, you must be its salesperson. Successful space companies learned this lesson early on.

But look — you don’t need to have a space company to take value from their efforts.

Take a down-to-Earth example
Let’s say you want to solve IT problems for small law firms.

First step? Consider talking to larger law firms. Because law firms with in-house IT departments have wisdom for you: what kind of problems lawyers have with IT, what technology they need to solve them, how much time this takes away from clients, and so on. Instead of starting the puzzle from scratch, you extract wisdom from those who’ve been there before. Simple.

And then, you go talk to smaller law firms and put your new insights to the test.

Do these same IT problems still run deep, and how do they differ? Plus, see if you can pre-sell your value proposition: would these law firms pay you right now, so you can deliver a killer solution to their problems once you have everything in place?

Start this way and you save yourself from grinding through much of the initial learning curve.

Your mission: get it into the hands of people who will benefit from it. It’s a sales job, even if you aim for the sky.

Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harry-red ... 40864.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 08 Dec 2016 21:20

One Giant Leap for India: TeamIndus Aims to Land Rover on the Moon
by Sunita Sohrabji, India-West December 8, 2016

Image
TeamIndus ie employing the ECA rover to traverse 500 meters on the moon in January 2018, sending back high-definition video footage, in an attempt to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE of $20 million. Credit: TeamIndus

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Vivek Raghavan, known as the 'Jedi Master for Tech' at TeamIndus, at 'Startup Bridge India' at Stanford University. Credit: TiE

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TeamIndus at work on their ECA Moon Rover. Credit: Lunar.xprize.org

STANFORD, Calif. – Bangalore-based TeamIndus inched one step closer to putting its space rover on the moon in competition for the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, as it finalized its launch contract Dec. 1 with the Indian Space Research Organization.

“It is the first time for a private enterprise that is interplanetary. We are democratizing space,” Sheelika Ravishankar, TeamIndus’ ‘Jedi Master’, told India-West on the sidelines of the Startup Bridge India conference here, jointly organized by the U.S. India Business Council and TiE.

TeamIndus is the only Indian team participating in the challenge, and one of the top three teams around the world. SpaceIl from Israel announced its launch contract in October 2015, and the U.S-based Moon Express finalized its launch contract last December.

“This is a great source of pride for India,” said Vivek Raghavan, announcing the project at the business conference. “This represents a potential whole new class of industry for India.”

Apart from winning the Google Lunar XPRIZE, the goal of TeamIndus is to build an aerospace company which is globally viable, said Raghavan. The 100-member team consists of engineers as young as 25 to retired ISRO scientists with an average age of 75.

Only three countries have soft-landed on the moon: the former USSR, the U.S., and China. India’s Chandrayaan moon mission has failed twice, first in October 2008, and then six months later.

The cost of the TeamIndus launch is $65 million, of which no more than 10 percent can come from government funding, according to contest rules. TeamIndus has raised $17 million, according to Raghavan, from more than a dozen investors including industrialist Ratan Tata, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, and Sachin and Binny Bansal, founders of Flipkart. Raghavan stated that he would like to see every Indian contribute Rs. 500 to the project, so that the entire nation is involved in TeamIndus’ success.

Two years ago, TeamIndus received the Landing Milestone Prize of $1 million for demonstrating its landing capability and software.

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.

If it is successful, TeamIndus will blast off a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on Dec. 28, 2017, from Sriharikota, an island near Andhra Pradesh, which ISRO has used several satellites and rockets. The PLSV will spend 30 days in orbit before landing on the moon on Jan. 26, 2018, India’s Republic Day. The Indian flag will be placed at the landing spot. The ECA will spend 10 days on the surface of the moon.

TeamIndus’ ECA Moon Rover – ‘Ek Choti si Aasha’ in Hindi, meaning ‘One Small Wish’ – will traverse 500 meters and send high-definition video footage back to Earth. The ECA weighs just six kilograms and will move on the lunar surface at an average speed of two and a half inches per second, with a maximum speed of about four inches per second. Two state-of-the-art cameras are provided by CNES, the French national space agency.

Ravishankar told India-West that the technology for the mission is “very much on track now.” She joined the team “when it was just five people with a dream, and the potential to make it happen.”

“There is enormous impact for the next generation,” she said.

TeamIndus has received a lot of validation over the past couple of years, said Ravishankar, noting that – for the first time – ISRO has given a rocket launcher to a private agency. She also noted the tie-up with CNES.

Announcing the launch contract, Rahul Narayan, founder of TeamIndus, who is known as the organization’s fleet commander, said in a press release: “What gave us confidence to dream big when we started on this journey many years back, was the heft of the scientific legacy that India – with ISRO — created over decades. This launch contract reaffirms our mission as a truly Indian mission where the best of India’s public and private enterprises have come together to recognize a common dream.”

Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director of the Google Lunar XPRIZE, said in a press statement: “This is a notable achievement for TeamIndus. We are proud to have one more team make it into the final stretch of this competition.”

Website: http://www.indiawest.com/news/global_in ... b6e02.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 09 Dec 2016 08:58

Moon Mission Ahead! Private Rovers to Visit Apollo 17 Landing Site
By Alixandra Caole Vila Natureworldnews.com December 08, 2016

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Private companies are competing to send their rovers to Apollo 17's landing site on the Moon. (Photo : NASA/Liaison via Getty Images)

Private companies are competing to send their rovers to Apollo 17's landing site on the Moon.

The proposed private space mission is part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. According to the XPRIZE website, the first team to successfully place a spacecraft on the moon's surface, travel 500 meters and transmit high-definiton video and images back to earth will win the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE. The team will get extra points if they manage to make it to the Apollo 17 site.

The group, called PT Scientists, is one of 16 teams competing for the prize. BBC notes that PT Scientists is only one of the few groups who have already secured a deal with launch broker Spaceflight Inc. for a seat on a commercial launcher.

According to New Scientist, the group is planning to send a pair of rovers, designed with Audi, to check on the lunar buggy left behind by astronauts Eugene Cernan (Apollo 17 commander) and Harrison Schmitt (only trained geologist to walk on the lunar surface ) during NASA's final mission to the moon in 1972.

Expounding on the PT Scientists' plan, Popular Science said the team will set its Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module within two to four miles of the 1972 landing site. Then, it will deploy the pair of rovers, equipped with High-definition camera equipment, to take photos of the abandoned buggy.

"Has it been ripped to shreds by micrometeorids, or is it still standing there like on the day they left?" says Karsen Becker, the team's rover driver told New Scientist. "This is scientifically a very interesting site for us."

Apollo 17, which included three days on the lunar surface, is the last manned lunar landing. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum reported that of all the Apollo Missions, the Apollo 17 astronauts traversed the greatest distance using the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) and returned the greatest amount of rock and soil samples. The astronauts covered a distance of 35 km with a time on the lunar surface of 75 hr.



Website: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles ... g-site.htm

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 10 Dec 2016 00:59

This Is NASA's Plan For Humanity's Return to the Moon, and Beyond
by Anatoly Zak Popularmechanics.com December 8, 2016

A decades-long plan that could end with humans finally reaching the Red Planet.
Image
NASA's Orion station module. Credit: NASA

There is still no official NASA mission to Mars, but after years of uncertainty, America's space agency is giving us a glimpse of its grand strategy to extend human presence beyond low-Earth orbit with a plan to build a solid technological foundation for sending astronauts to other worlds.

The decades-long space exploration schedule, detailed in a press conference last week with NASA's William Gerstenmaier, lists 10 upcoming missions involving NASA's new-generation Orion spacecraft. But unlike earlier disjointed proposals for loosely defined missions, this new plan is laid out more like an Ikea manual—a step-by-step guide on how to get to Mars. NASA says the enterprise relies on a substantial but not outrageous budget, and that the plan has been drafted in close coordination with NASA's key partners like the European Space Agency, Roscosmos, JAXA, and the Canadian Space Agency.

THE PROGRAM WILL CERTAINLY BE THE BOLDEST, RISKIEST, AND MOST AMBITIOUS UNDERTAKING FOR HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT IN NEARLY HALF A CENTURY

A NEW PLAN
The main goal of the Orion program is to assemble a Moon-orbiting space station, which by the end of the 2020s could be beefed up to become a kind of interplanetary mothership. Without additional money, the proposed spacecraft will not be able to put astronauts onto the surface of Mars, but it will be able to carry a crew into the vicinity of the Red Planet as early as 2033, says Gerstenmaier. Visits to Martian moons Phobos and Deimos and expeditions to asteroids might also be possible.

In a nutshell, this is the closest humanity's ever been to setting foot on Mars and many other destinations in the Solar System. The program will certainly be the boldest, riskiest, and most ambitious undertaking for human spaceflight in nearly half a century—since the end of the Apollo program in 1972.


Orion Exploration program

Now for a gut punch of reality. Due to budget constraints, the Mars program likely move at a snail's pace, according to available flight manifests. That means it's unlikely astronauts will have a chance to leave new footprints on another world before well into the 2030s. An even longer wait is a bitter pill to swallow, and that probably explains why NASA has been shy about publicizing its mega-plan right away.

LONG ROAD TO A MOON BASE
It's easy to draw parallels with the Apollo program's 10-year plan for putting a man on the moon to the Orion project, which has been in planning and development since 2003 and is not even expected to carry its first crew until 2021. The first manned flight of Orion, called Exploration Mission 2 or EM-2, was recently "de-ambitioned" from entering a lunar orbit to just running a quick loop behind the Moon and returning to Earth eight days after liftoff from Cape Canaveral.

Orion's approach to the Moon will be carefully navigated along the so-called "free-return trajectory," meaning that even if the ship's main engine fails, leaving the crew without a capability to maneuver, the gravitational field of the Earth will still pull the capsule back to the home planet for a safe landing. However, NASA has reserved an option to extend the mission and, possibly, enter lunar orbit if everything works perfectly in the initial phase.

After its maiden flight with a pilot in tow, NASA hopes to begin annual flights to the lunar orbit starting in 2023. All but one of the eight planned missions in NASA's latest flight manifest will be dedicated to the assembly of the mini-International Space Station in lunar orbit. Various pieces of the future habitat will be hitchhiking on each Orion flight.

Image
Credit: NASA

The first assembly mission, EM-3, will carry a power and propulsion module with a pair of huge solar panels to supply electricity to power-hungry ion thrusters of the module. The two following Orion flights will bring habitation modules, built in Europe and Japan, and bolt them to the propulsion module. At least one unmanned cargo ship will resupply the station in 2024.

Four more missions in the second half of the 2020s will deliver a bigger, better power and propulsion module around 2029, which might be able to carry astronauts as far as Mars' orbit.

In the meantime, NASA's international partners will have an opportunity to dispatch robotic and, possibly, even human missions to the surface of the Moon. With the nascent outpost growing in the vicinity of the Moon, the Orion crews could extend their stays in lunar orbit from a week to months or even a year. Inhabitants of the outpost could also make outings to other locations near the Moon, such as a visit to a scientifically interesting Lagrangian points, where gravitational forces of the Moon and the Earth cancel each other out.

Image
Concept for a future Martian habitat. Credit: NASA

TEST BED
But the main purpose of the near-lunar habitat will be as a test bed for the new-generation electric propulsion systems that will also be crucial for a Mars trip.

NASA hopes to conduct endurance tests for closed-loop life-support systems and find out whether it is possible to keep crews safe for months at a time in the radiation-filled vacuum of space. In 2026, NASA plans to take a break in the construction of the near-lunar orbital station to launch the so-called Asteroid Redirect Mission. Instead of visiting the station, Orion will meet up in lunar orbit with a space rock delivered by a robotic space tug. The crew will then bring samples of the asteroid back to Earth.

In the past few months, NASA and its partners quietly charted a roadmap that leads to a summit of all agencies involved in the International Space Station program as early as August 2017. NASA hopes it will green light the effort, so that the components of the near-lunar station could be ready to fly in time with their respective Orion missions.

It's been 44 years since NASA's last attempt to put a man on another planet, but finally the space agency is once again preparing to push humans beyond the gravitational grasp of mother Earth—and beyond.

Website: http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/m ... pace-plan/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 11 Dec 2016 20:50

Malaysia eyes Google Lunar XPrize
by Akil Yunus Thestar.com December 11, 2016

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Mohd Izmir Yamin, Team Leader Independence-X Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of Malaysians are aiming to make a breakthrough in space exploration in the region after becoming the only South-East Asian team to participate in the Google Lunar XPrize competition.

Independence-X, comprising a team of 14 local aerospace engineers, are among 15 finalists participating in the global competition that is open to private-sector players.

Image
Source: Independence-X


The competition requires participants to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, have it travel 500m and transmit high-definition (HD) video and images back to Earth. And they will need to do all of that by the end of 2017.

“Our aim is innovation. It’s impossible to have a vision of the future without development in space technology,” team leader Mohd Izmir Yamin told CNBC in a recent interview.

The team has already launched their robotic spacecraft, named "Henry", which they hope will take the country closer to achieving history in the area of space exploration. CNBC, which was recently given exclusive access to images of "Henry", reported that the 1.4m tall and 2m-wide spacecraft weighed about 850kg. It comes with an HD imaging camera and a water sensor.

Image
Source: Independence-X

However, "Henry" is not ready to take off just yet as the bigger challenge now looms for Independence-X. They now need to secure a contract to launch the spacecraft into orbit before the end of this year, a feat that only four teams in the competition have achieved so far.

A tricky requirement is that government funding can only account for 10% of a team’s total mission cost, as the Google Lunar XPrize competition is focused on promoting entrepreneurship and low-cost space economy. Izmir told CNBC that much of his team’s costs thus far have been funded by private corporations, crowd-funding campaigns, and reward-based contributions.

The first team that completes the mission will receive an astronomical cash prize of US$20mil (RM88.4mil), while second-place winners will get US$5mil (RM22.1mil).

The four teams that have already secured verified launch contracts are SpaceIL from Israel, Moon Express (United States), Synergy Moon (international), and India’s Team Indus.

Izmir said his team has a launch provider in the pipeline and is currently finalising the process, adding that an official announcement could be expected in January.

“I feel both worried and confident at the same time as this is the first attempt of its kind in South-East Asia. “We admit that SpaceIL is one of the toughest competitors but we’re going to do our best to make the mission cost-effective and reliable,” Mohd Izmir Yamin added
.
Independence-X, which operates out of Technology Park in Bukit Jalil, is the only private space company in Malaysia and one of merely a handful in South-East Asia.

Website: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2 ... ar-xprize/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 11 Dec 2016 21:11

Scimy interview: Mr Mohd Izmir Yamin of the Malaysian Independence-X team at Google Lunar XPrize
by Dr. New Jaa Yien Scientific Malaysian October 31, 2016

The Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) is the largest incentive competition of all time (USD$30M ≈ RM120M) that aims to reward the brightest minds of space entrepreneurs to create a new era of economical and easy access to the Moon, which paves the future for commercial space travel. This competition started in 2007 and is entering its final phase. The first team that successfully lands a robotic spacecraft on the Moon by August 2017 and captures high-resolution images and videos of the Moon will be declared the ultimate winner.

Currently, 16 teams from 11 countries, including our Malaysian Team, Independence-X, are in the running for the GLXP. Independence-X is also the only team from the Asia Pacific region. To catch a glimpse of the project led by Independence-X, Scientific Malaysian visited the Google Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Our correspondent, Dr. New Jaa Yien, spoke to the Independence-X Team, which is currently led by the Founder and CEO of Independence-X Aerospace Sdn. Bhd., Mr. Mohd. Izmir Yamin, on the team’s progress in racing to the final stage of the competition.

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Mr. Mohd. Izmir Yamin, Founder and CEO of Independence-X Aerospace Sdn. Bhd.

1. What got the team interested in joining GLXP?
The competition provides an opportunity to be involved in a space race, which is not funded by the Government. The core of the race strongly relies on innovation, creativity and cost-effectiveness. We were also interested in getting to know the other teams which are private companies themselves, and to learn how to do things effectively from them. Conventionally, going to space requires government funding and support, thus, doing it in the private sector presents a separate, different set of challenges. We believe that if we are successful, we will actually provide huge benefits not just for commercial purposes but also for humanity.

2. What is the team’s source of inspiration for the project?
Our idea was conceived prior to this competition, which is to help the needy ones in under-developed countries. This is referring to the population who do not have regular access to daily resources such as food, water, and education. Our idea is to provide access to education via remote communication so that they can gain knowledge in agriculture and resource management. With this approach, we can empower microeconomy in remote societies around the globe and facilitate their transition into a developing society.
Usually, the approach to establish communication in rural regions is by building telecommunication towers. However, this is challenging due to geographical issues, the lack of power supply, and the huge construction cost.

3. How can this be done in a cost-effective way?
We did a preliminary survey and found that the best approach would be to launch a communication satellite into the space and have a ground terminal to receive the signal, similar to the operation of smartphones. This approach has been adopted by Thuraya, a company based in the United Arab Emirates. Inspired by this, we aim to develop and deliver a better prototype with a lower cost. By launching our own robotic spacecraft to the moon, we should be able to do the same for the communication satellite, in a cost-effective way. Joining this competition also speeds up the whole process. In addition, Malaysia is strategically located on the equator, which can serve as a natural space pod that enables us to save fuel for launching, and to increase payload for launching.

4. What are your sources of funding for the project?
We do not and have not received any government funding and we wish to keep it this way. We are looking at getting the public involved through crowd funding initiatives. In addition to Independence-X, we have a drone company that provides mapping services for the agriculture industry and an engineering company that provides consultation services. All the revenue from these companies is channeled into the research and development of our space project.

5. Can you briefly describe your project?
For a single unmanned mission to the Moon, the spacecraft will be carrying out three major operations, which is to transport itself from Earth to the Moon, conduct lunar landing maneuver, and finally the same craft itself will act as a hover type lunar rover. It will then hover forward from its landing point to another point in a straight line for 500 m. This spacecraft comprises of Malaysian designed and made Liquid Bi-Propellant Rocket engines which consists of 1 Main Thrusters and 8 Attitude Control Smaller Thrusters.

This development will be the first in the entire Southeast Asia. The craft will also be equipped with a long range and high gain antenna and communication system to enable data to be sent and received via a specially designed transponder. Two kinds of data are involved: TT&C data (Telemetry, Tracking and Control) that keep us on the Earth updated regarding the health status of the spacecraft, and the Payload Data that will provide the High Definition Images and Video of the lunar surface.

The entire craft is expected to weigh about 850 kg. Since weight limit is an issue, we have opted for a different kind of power source instead of the conventional solar panels and batteries. Solar panel will still be used as a secondary power for minor electronic applications. The electrical power requirements of the spacecraft will be supplied using a Hydrogen PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) Fuel Cell, which has significantly higher energy densities than batteries with solar panels. Thus, these fuel cells make the spacecraft lighter.

The space journey starts with the spacecraft departing the lower Earth orbit, about 500 km from the Earth. The spacecraft has to accelerate at a velocity of 10.8 km/sec precisely to escape from the Earth’s gravity and to enter the higher elliptical orbit. This orbit will then intercept with the Moon’s sphere of influence, which allows the Moon’s gravity to act on any object that crosses its radius. During the capturing process, the spacecraft will reduce its velocity to descend and reach a distance of ≤15 km from the Moon’s surface, where the lunar lander separates from the spacecraft to prepare for landing.

The landing has to happen at the side of the moon that is exposed to the Earth to allow maximum communication. All the monitoring will be done via the communication device that runs on solar batteries, which also powers the control system of the robotic spacecraft. The telemetry data generated by the robotic spacecraft will be delivered and received by portable devices such as tablets, which in turn can be used to control the spacecraft.

For the lunar rover that has landed, it has to first take photographs of itself and the Moon’s surrounding before traveling for another 500 meters to take more photographs and videos. The first team to send the images back to the Earth wins the grand prize. Due to time constraint, our spacecraft will be launched with the help of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

6. Why is winning this competition so important for your team?
We aim to win GLXP instead of treating GLXP as a stepping stone. Winning this competition will create a lot of opportunities within our organisation to move forward even after the competition has ended. We view the competition as a way to push our limits to achieve greatness. If we win, we will create an impact on the nation by showing that we are capable in space technology. For our own commercial agenda, we hope that our success will attract business collaborations such as providing launching services after this competition has ended.

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The model of the lunar lander that the Independence-X team designed.

7. What is the current progress of your team’s rover development?
We want to complete the project by December 2016, given that the launch ideally should take place on 31 August 2017. The launch window is when the distance of the Moon is the closest to the Earth. We need a five-month gap after December to prepare ourselves for thorough checks of the robotic spacecraft and for the set-up of ground control communication.

Alongside this competition, we are also planning to design and build a launch vehicle specifically to carry Micro satellites into LEO (Lower Earth Orbit) as part of LAAS (Launch as a Service) in the immediate future after the GLXP competition. The construction of the vehicle will take less than five years to complete.

The vehicle is dubbed the DNLV (stands for the ‘Dedicated Nano Launch Vehicle’), which also has been endorsed by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and published in the December 2015 : Small SpaceCraft- State of The Art NASA Report.

8. In comparison to other groups, what are the unique aspects of your project and what sets you apart from other teams?
The people we have. We have a unique combination of expertise in our team. Dr Clement Lo, who is the 2nd in command of this mission, is an expert in the nanotechnology realm. Other members of this mission bring more than just technical skills –they share the same ideology with the aviation and aerospace industries, pursue the same design objective, and engage in highly complex and challenging projects. For other teams, they are more research-oriented with most of them being academicians. That might create a gap in terms of executing such audacious project. Our team balances that out by having people previously involved in audacious projects.

9. Two groups in the competition have already secured their launch contracts. What is your approach in securing such contract and what are the stumbling blocks?
So far the basic logistics have been secured with regards to the choice of rocket, the payload capacity and the desire launch date. The next step will be to raise enough funds to pay for the deposit by the end of this year. Once the deposit has been put in place, we can declare that the launch contract has been successfully secured, becoming the third team (post facto: effectively fifth after Team Indus) to do so. The deposit will be raised by Dr Clement Lo and his commercial team comprising of professional individuals.

10. What is the biggest challenge in the project so far?
It would be the commercial side (funding) and not so much on the technical side. We try to strengthen the commercial side of the project by employing the right brains. It is also important that all of us share the same vision for the project. The lack of awareness is also a challenge. There are many people who are very interested in what we do but the aim is to reach the masses so as to inspire them. To do this, we have engaged with public relations experts, marketing and branding specialists who share the same vision for the project.

11. How could this project contribute to the R&D scenario in Malaysia?
Completing this project will bring credibility of a private company in Malaysia to carry out such project without any government funding, and will position ourselves on par with Singapore in terms of space technology. This will attract potential investments in high technology in Malaysia.
We also have had some discussions with various public and private institutions in Malaysia. Currently, we are collaborating with Taylors University by embedding part of our project in their students’ final year project, focusing mainly on the structure of the robotic spacecraft rather than the subsystems (e.g. deep space communications network and control system). However, during the process, two of the three students decided to drop out because they felt intimidated by the nature of the project which was deemed high risk and ambitious. We hope that students can understand that projects like this makes you think out of the box and prompt you to look for innovative solutions to a problem.

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Mr. Mohd. Izmir Yamin presenting at TEDxKL

12. What are the strategies that can be adopted by the government to better encourage more researchers to be interested in such project?
Actually, the government has been trying really hard since the Angkasawan project by doing various roadshows. This is a good motivation but unfortunately, the impact is just too short-lived and students participating in these roadshows tend to forget. Thus, a good motivation will be a new invention that you can create or build a value on and the value can be further commercialised and monetised so that it becomes sustainable. When that happens, it trickles down from the Industry to the university as well as to the high school and primary school levels. Creating an invention would inspire students from a young age who might want to be a robotic space engineer when they grow up.

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Rendering of the spacecraft Henry

Website: http://magazine.scientificmalaysian.com ... ar-xprize/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 15 Dec 2016 09:09

NASA Casts Its Gaze Back To The Moon With Commercial Partnerships
by Mark R. Whittington Forbes.com December 12, 2016

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The Washington Monument looms at right, as visitors gather around a full-size mockup of the Orion crew exploration vehicle displayed on the National Mall in Washington, Monday, March 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

For the first time since President Barack Obama canceled the Constellation space exploration program, NASA stuck its toe in the water of lunar exploration with a request for information to organizations interested in flying payloads on commercial moon missions. The idea is that, depending on funding, the space agency would select some of the proposals to be flown to the moon on vehicles being developed by companies such as Moon Express and Astrobotics. Eventually, NASA may pay lunar missions directly as a customer. Moon Express responded by allocating $1.5 million for three payloads to reduce the cost and stimulate a market for private lunar exploration.

NASA has not had any new starts for missions to the moon throughout the Obama presidency. Several missions that did fly in the past seven years, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, LCROSS, Grail and LADEE, were started during the George W. Bush administration. The Obama stance toward going to the moon was expressed during a speech on space exploration the president made at the Kennedy Space Center in April 2010: “Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. Buzz has been there.” “Buzz” was, of course, Apollo moonwalker Buzz Aldrin who was in the audience. Since that day, NASA has had its gaze firmly fixed on that bright, shiny object known as Mars, a goal the president mandated for the 2030s.

What has caused NASA to change?
For the first time since President Barack Obama canceled the Constellation space exploration program, NASA stuck its toe in the water of lunar exploration with a request for information to organizations interested in flying payloads on commercial moon missions. The idea is that, depending on funding, the space agency would select some of the proposals to be flown to the moon on vehicles being developed by companies such as Moon Express and Astrobotics. Eventually, NASA may pay lunar missions directly as a customer. Moon Express responded by allocating $1.5 million for three payloads to reduce the cost and stimulate a market for private lunar exploration.

NASA has not had any new starts for missions to the moon throughout the Obama presidency. Several missions that did fly in the past seven years, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, LCROSS, Grail and LADEE, were started during the George W. Bush administration. The Obama stance toward going to the moon was expressed during a speech on space exploration the president made at the Kennedy Space Center in April 2010: “Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. Buzz has been there.” “Buzz” was, of course, Apollo moonwalker Buzz Aldrin who was in the audience. Since that day, NASA has had its gaze firmly fixed on that bright, shiny object known as Mars, a goal the president mandated for the 2030s.

The next administration will have a golden opportunity to place its stamp on space exploration. NASA is already building two elements of a human return to the moon, the Orion deep spacecraft and the heavy-lift Space Launch System, the modern equivalent of the Apollo space capsule, and the Saturn V. All it needs is a lunar lander to take astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

The commercial crew program, which is creating a privately-run spacecraft, the SpaceX Dragon, and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, provides the model to build a lunar lander. NASA could create a new competition, call it the lunar crew program, for private companies to make a landing craft capable of taking astronauts to and from the lunar surface. Commercial crew has cost just a few billion dollars. No reason exists to suspect that a lunar crew program would cost any more than that amount of money. The commercial sector could provide more launch vehicles, robotic explorers, miners and builders, and lunar surface habitats, to name a few pieces of vital hardware.

The first voyage to another world in decades would take place sometime in the second term of the next president, according to a NASA-funded study by Next Gen Space, a private think tank. The first lunar mission would not be a one-shot deal but the start of a new program of lunar exploration, to further science and to facilitate the commercial development of the moon. The program would attract eager international partners, including the European Space Agency, which is pushing a concept called the moon village as an international lunar base. Thus a lunar program would facilitate American diplomatic needs, just as the International Space Station has.

Such is the opportunity that the change of administrations presents. All it requires is for America to seize that opportunity and run with it.

Website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/20 ... 6762017746

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 16 Dec 2016 08:26

City team preps to put a robot on the Moon
by Prathibha JoynTimes of India December 14, 2016

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Credit: Team Indus

Space and its many mysteries have always intrigued us, which is also why news about a manned or unmanned mission going boldly where no one has gone before has us thrilled to bits. And now, one ambitious team from Bengaluru is attempting something no private enterprise has ever done before. As part of Google's Lunar Xprize contest, Team Indus is looking at landing a robot on the surface of the Moon, travelling 500 metres over lunar surface, and sending images and data back to Earth. In fact, they are one of only four teams that have, so far, qualified for the next phase of the competition after bagging a verified launch contract with ISRO. In a telecon with BT, Team Indus member Sheelika Ravishankar sheds light on what prompted them to attempt such a mission, the road ahead, and more.

What was it about the contest that got you all to consider participation?
We heard about the competition back in 2008 and found it quite amazing that a private enterprise would look at building a space craft and land it on the Moon — something that has never happened before. We waited a couple of years to see if there was another Indian team in contention, and we were all set to help, enable and support them. A competition of this magnitude could not go without Indian representation. And when we realized that no other team was looking at registering, we thought that we needed to be the change we want to see, instead of waiting for someone else to do something. So, we decided to register and make it happen. What is interesting, though, is that we are a group of people with no aerospace background and no deep pockets — both considered prerequisites for a Moon mission — armed with the goal of getting to the Moon and the determination to make it happen.

How did you get ISRO to agree to launch your rover?
It has been a long process. We contacted ISRO nearly five years ago and they've walked with us through the process. They have come in and done their due diligence and conducted technological and financial audits to see if we were for real, and we had to prove that we could build technology that could actually do a Moon mission. What ISRO is providing us is a rocket launcher — a PSLV, which is one of the most successful rocket launchers in the world. For them to give it to us, they would need to know that the entity that is taking it has the capability to see a mission through and not in any way be detrimental to it. I think, we came to a place where they finally thought that we had the competence to see it through. We built our spacecraft from Day 1 to fit into a PSLV. This is an Indian mission. We worked hard to make that happen.

There are only four teams that have qualified so far with confirmed launches. What is the next phase of the competition?
The next phase is the actual build-out. We started building our integration facility, where will make our spacecraft. We have already met most of our technological milestones. The qualification model of our spacecraft will be out by the end of January 2017, which will go through rigorous tests for many months. Based on that, we will build a flight prototype by the end of September, which, after several rounds of tests, will be sent to ISRO's facility, where they will test it. Only by the end of November next year will it be shipped to Sriharikota, where it is tested again before flying out on December 28.

Have you been following the work of the competition, like, for instance, Moon Express, SpaceIL or Synergy Moon?
So far, there are only four teams that have moved on to the next stage; we did hear about a German team, but their launch contract has not been validated yet. It would be nice to have more teams in competition, as it will make the race a lot more exciting. Only two or three teams will make it to the final launch and we believe that we will be one of them. For us, the competition is the catalyst for us getting to this stage, but now it is about getting to the moon. We would like to win, but whether or not we win has become secondary for us. The biggest goal now is to get to the moon. Even if we don't win, it is a win for small teams across the globe as it proves that if you put your mind to anything, you can make it happen.

Why the Moon, when man is looking at colonizing Mars?
There are two aspects to this: one scientific, the other ideological. The Moon has been very close to mankind — the closest celestial body. It is interwoven in all our mythologies and festivals. It has a special place for everyone across the globe. It is going to be a very important hub if you have to go to Mars or to explore the rest of the universe

What's next?
The journey of the next one year is going to be most critical for our team. How do you take a space mission and bring it closer to people? How do you get folks from all walks of life to get excited about space? While we are the vehicle for the mission, it belongs to India. We are on the cusp of a better future, and this is a slight nudge to push India further.

Website: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city ... 948521.cms

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 17 Dec 2016 18:01

Rogue scientists revive lost moon photos inside abandoned McDonald's
by Dave Manoucheri Kcra.com December 16, 2016

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A group of rebellious scientists achieved what NASA thought was impossible inside, of all places, an abandoned McDonald's.

Cobbling together decades-old spy technology and extinct videotape, the scientists of "McMoon" breathed new life into photos that were once hailed as the "pictures of the century." Below is the in-depth tale of how the enlightened rogues inside "McMoon" figured it all out.

What so astounding?
Before NASA could put a man on the moon, scientists had to know what it really looked like. Some theorized that the lunar orbiter would sink into sand, suffocating and killing the astronauts. Another theory posited that the moon was so brittle it might break apart at the landing site and kill the astronauts.

So NASA hired Boeing and used spy technology to create Lunar Orbiter -- a satellite reconnaissance mission so technologically advanced that NASA wouldn't see its true nature for decades. What it found was set aside and nearly lost forever.

In 2007, rogue scientists picked up where NASA left off. They collected all the modulated images, recorded on 1,470 huge two-inch videotapes. Even though the technology to play them back didn't exist anymore, the scientists were able to resurrect pristine images of the moon from the tape.

The pictures are so clear that they rival images taken by a multi-billion dollar satellite currently orbiting the moon.

See the amazing photos
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What was the Lunar Orbitor?
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Remember the old instant cameras? Where the picture was developed before your eyes? Here's an ad from that same era, just to remind you.
That technology was actually created for spy satellites in the 1950s. The Lunar Orbiter used that same technology. It just made negatives, not full photos. But those negatives were on 70mm film, which is the same size as IMAX movies.

The satellite had a light beam installed to "scan" the negatives and then they would beam them back to the earth from space, one little strip at a time. It took 98 of those strips for a high-resolution image; 29 of them for medium resolution.

The image was scrambled, or modulated, and beamed to one of three places: the US, Australia or Spain, depending on which country was facing the moon at the time. The modulated data was recorded on huge two-inch videotapes.

But NASA couldn't tap into that raw data. They could unscramble it, put it on a monitor, then take a picture of the monitor. Then they'd put all those little strips together, take another picture. Print that one, piece them together on the floor, then make another picture, blowing it up so they can see the surface better. It's how they figured out where to land Apollo 11. Before Lunar Orbiter, they had no idea what might happen.

Once America did get a man on the moon, Lunar Orbiter was all but forgotten.
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Why were the images set aside?
When America finally put a man on the moon, the astronauts had their own cameras. Equipped with 70mm color film cameras, NASA started using lunar landing photos and quit looking at the Lunar Orbiter photos.

The tapes were cast aside. Since they had to essentially make a copy of a copy of a copy, they were grainy, somewhat blurry, and not near as clean or clear as the fresh negatives taken on the moon's surface. They simply had no way to print the photos from Lunar Orbiter like a regular photo. Eventually the tapes were all stored in a big room at the National Archives.

The room is similar to the one at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," according to McMoon's lead scientist Dennis Wingo.

The machines were set aside, too. To this day, few if any of those two-inch tape machines exist and very few of the engineers who designed and built them are alive to recreate the technology. Once they die, the technology effectively dies with them.

Why use a McDonald's
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Dennis Wingo studied Lunar Orbiter in college. He heard that in the 1980s all 1,470 of those two-inch tapes were saved by a NASA employee. They were stored in Southern California at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Those machines, though, didn't exist anymore. Nobody had used that kind of tape for years. But that same employee who saved the tapes had saved the machines. They were in her barn in Southern California. Wingo knew someone at NASA Ames who was intrigued with the idea of tapping into the tapes.

JPL wasn't convinced. Scientists there told NASA not to let the rogue group do anything. There were no tape machines and to build technology that they said would cost $6 million. Wingo got NASA approval to try at a budget of $120,000. He needed a building to re-solder the machines and start processing. The McDonald's was free and had vent hoods to vent out the heat and the solder fumes.

Plus, being in Silicon Valley, all the retired engineers from AMPEX, the company who made the machines, volunteered to help rebuild them. The de-scrambling technology, known as "modulating" the information, didn't exist. It was spy technology. Nobody had ever written it down, so there were no schematics.

Yet Wingo found an old mathematical formula for the "modulator" signal. The AMPEX engineers used that and hand-built a card. When they fired up the machines inside "McMoon," they heard the voices of the listening stations from 50 years ago come through.

What's with the pirate flag?
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Believe it or not, any "pseudo-sanctioned" or unsanctioned NASA project is stamped with a pirate flag. It seemed particularly appropriate that McMoon have the flag. Their six-figure budget was far lower than JPL's proposed budget, which was near $6 million.

What made this so amazing?
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These were the very first images, from up close, of the moon itself, taken from space. Even telescopes in 1966 couldn't see the full surface features of the moon.

It was also the first time humanity saw the earth from space. When the first photos of the earth, Time and Life magazines each dubbed them the "pictures of the century."

Why do this?
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Beyond the historical value of the photographs themselves, there is also value to studying many of the photographs taken by Lunar Orbiters I-V.Shots of the Earth’s geological features can aid studies in climate change and drought. Views of the moon can also help planetary scientists track its evolution over the past 50 years. On top of that, these photos, which caused a gigantic stir, are creating new interest and discussion of lunar missions, Martian missions and discussions of NASA, science and technology.

Website: http://www.kcra.com/article/rogue-scien ... -1/8470923

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 18 Dec 2016 18:36

Judge: Mistakenly sold Apollo 11 moon mission bag is buyer's
by Roxana Hegeman Phys.org December 14, 2016

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Moon's surface (Photo: Getty Images)

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In this July 30, 1969 file photo, astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. walks on the surface of the moon. A federal judge in Kansas has ruled that a bag used to collect lunar samples during the first manned mission to the moon legally belongs to an Illinois woman who bought it for $995 when it was mistakenly sold during a government auction. (Neil Armstrong, NASA via AP, File)

A bag used to collect lunar samples during the first manned mission to the moon legally belongs to an Illinois woman who bought it for $995 when it was mistakenly sold during a government auction, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge J. Thomas Marten, of the U.S. District Court in Wichita, said he doesn't have the authority to reverse the sale of the bag used during the Apollo 11 moon mission in July 1969, even though it shouldn't have gone up for auction.

The white bag, which has lunar material embedded in its fabric and which the government considers "a rare artifact, if not a national treasure," was mistakenly sold as part of a criminal case against Max Ary, the former director of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, a museum in Hutchinson. Ary was convicted in November 2005 of stealing and selling museum artifacts, including some that were on loan from NASA.

Investigators found the Apollo 11 lunar bag in 2003 during a search of Ary's garage. The government contends that due to a mix up in inventory lists and item numbers, the bag was mistakenly thought to be a different bag that the government recovered. Ary had auctioned off that bag, which was used during the 1972 Apollo 17 lunar landing, for $24,150 in 2001.

The U.S. Attorney's Office wanted Marten to set aside the final forfeiture order and rescind the Apollo 11 bag's sale to Nancy Carlson in Inverness, Illinois, saying that NASA hadn't been properly notified of its forfeiture because the bag was misidentified. When she bought the bag, Carlson only knew that it had been used in a space flight, but not which one.

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Max Ary, the former director of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Centre unlawfully sold the bag.Source:Supplied

But Marten ruled that he didn't have the authority to do that. The government obtained title to the bag and sold it to a good faith purchaser in a sale according to law, he noted. NASA learned that the Apollo 11 bag had been sold without notice or permission when Carlson sent it to NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for authentication. Carlson separately sued NASA in June in a federal court in Illinois, seeking the return of the bag.

Marten stopped short of ordering NASA to return the bag, noting that such a motion must be filed in the district where the property was seized.
The judge said NASA was a victim in this case, and that the importance and desirability of the bag stems solely from the efforts of the men and women of NASA whose "amazing technical achievements, skill and courage in landing astronauts on the moon and returning them safely have not been replicated in the almost half a century since the Apollo 11 landing."

"Perhaps that fact, when reconsidered by the parties, will allow them to amicably resolve the dispute in a way that recognizes both of their legitimate interests, including Ms. Carlson's legitimately acquired interest in the bag," the judge wrote. It unclear how much the Apollo 11 bag might fetch if auctioned off again and with the full knowledge of its significance.

Website: http://phys.org/news/2016-12-mistakenly ... ssion.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 20 Dec 2016 13:09

Lunokhod 1: 1st Successful Lunar Rover
By Elizabeth Howell Space.com December 19, 2016

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On November 17, 1970 the Soviet Luna 17 spacecraft landed the first roving remote-controlled robot on the Moon. Known as Lunokhod 1, it weighed just under 2,000 pounds and was designed to operate for 90 days while guided by a 5-person team on planet Earth at the Deep Space Center near Moscow, USSR. Lunokhod 1 actually toured the lunar Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) for 11 months in one of the greatest successes of the Soviet lunar exploration program. Credit: NASA

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Lunar Rover-2 arrived on the Moon on Jan 15, 1973, operational for four and half months, eventually stopped working after lunar dust covered the solar panel and batteries stooped recharging. Credit: RIA Novosti

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Lunar Rover-3 was supposed to travel to the Moon in 1977, but the mission was cancelled. It is now in the NPO Lavochkin Museum. Credit: RIA Novosti

Lunokhod 1 was the first successful rover to explore another world. It arrived on the moon on Nov. 17, 1970, upon the Luna 17 lander. Driven by remote-control operators in the Soviet Union, it travelled more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) in just 10 months. By comparison, it took the Mars Opportunity rover about six years to reach the same milestone.

Part of the space race
In the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a "space race" to send humans to the moon first, in part as a way of showing technological prowess to the world. This resulted in a series of space-related firsts on both sides, such as the first human in space (Soviet Union), first two- and three-person ships in space (Soviet Union), first docking in space (United States) and the ultimate arrival of the first crew on the moon in 1969 (United States).

The Soviet Union had pinned its hopes of a manned moon landing on the Zond rocket. However, following a series of test failures, including a deadly launch pad explosion in 1968, the Soviet Union focused on other moon programs instead. Among them was robotically landing a probe on the moon, and operating a rover remotely.

Soviet successes at the moon included Luna 3 (which took the first pictures of its far side in 1959), Luna 9 (which made the first soft landing on the moon in 1966, three years before Apollo 11's human landing) and Luna 16 (which returned samples from the moon in 1970). The next in the series, Luna 17, carried a rover for remote operations.

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The Soviet Union's remote-controlled Lunokhod 2 moon rover traveled 23 miles (37 kilometers) across the lunar surface in 1973 — still the record for greatest distance traveled on the surface of another world. Credit: NASA

Landing and deployment
Luna 17 launched successfully on Nov. 10, 1970, and made it to lunar orbit five days later. It soft-landed in the Sea of Rains, and Lunokhod 1, the rover it carried onboard, descended a ramp to the lunar surface.

"Lunokhod 1 was a lunar vehicle formed of a tub-like compartment with a large convex lid on eight independently powered wheels," NASA wrote in a summary of the mission. "Lunokhod was equipped with a cone-shaped antenna, a highly directional helical antenna, four television cameras, and special extendable devices to impact the lunar soil for soil density and mechanical property tests."

The rover was solar-powered by day and relied on thermal energy from a polonium-210 radioisotope heater to survive the nighttime cold, when temperatures reached minus 150 degrees Celsius (minus 238 Fahrenheit). Because the moon always has one side facing the Earth, this means that daylight on most spots on the surface lasts about two weeks. Night is also two weeks long. The rover was designed to last three lunar days. It exceeded its operational projection, lasting for eleven lunar days; operations ceased on Oct. 4, 1971, which was exactly 14 years after the Soviet Union's first satellite, Sputnik, reached Earth orbit.

By the time the mission ended, Lunokhod 1 travelled roughly 10.54 kilometers (6.5 miles), sending back 20,000 TV pictures and 200 TV panoramas, according to NASA. The rover also did more than 500 lunar soil tests.

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Lunokhod 1 in its final parking spot. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) obtained images of the landing site in 2010. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Lunokhod 1's legacy
The success of Lunokhod 1 was repeated with Lunokhod 2 in 1973, which eventually drove approximately 37 kilometers (22.9 miles) on the lunar surface. It would take the Opportunity rover more than a decade to reach that same milestone on Mars.

The Lunokhod 1 landing site has been imaged by NASA's high-resolution lunar spacecraft, called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. For example, pictures from 2012 clearly show the lander, the rover and its lunar tracks. [Related: Lost Soviet Reflecting Device Rediscovered on the Moon]

The rover's retroreflector registered an especially striking "bounce" in 2010 when scientists tried to send a laser signal to it, showing that it hadn't degraded from lunar dust or the elements. Lasers have been used to measure the exact distance from the Earth to the moon, principally using lasers from the Apollo missions.

After Lunokhod 2, no other mission soft-landed on the surface until the Chinese space program sent Chang'e 3 and its rover, Yutu. The pair landed in December 2013. While Yutu could not move after its second lunar night, the rover remained alive far past its operational lifetime before stopping 31 months into the mission – far surpassing the previous record.

Website: http://www.space.com/35090-lunokhod-1.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 21 Dec 2016 09:41

Google Lunar XPRIZE Team HAKUTO Announces Rideshare Agreement with TeamIndus for a 2017 Lunar Mission
by Press Release Team-hakuto.jp December 20, 2016

Tokyo, Japan – December 20, 2016 — Team HAKUTO, the only Japanese team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, announced today that XPRIZE has officially verified Team HAKUTO’s launch agreement and it has signed a rideshare partnership with the India-based competitor, TeamIndus, to carry its 4-wheeled rover to the Moon.

Both HAKUTO and TeamIndus are competing for the US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, an international lunar robotic competition that challenges privately funded teams to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the competition, a team must successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon’s surface, travel at least 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth, before the end of 2017.

Team HAKUTO, run by the Japanese startup ispace Inc., is comprised of various members including the members of ispace, faculty members and students at Tohoku University, and Pro-Bono experts from various fields. With its official project name as the “au HAKUTO MOON CHALLENGE” after partnering with the Japanese carrier KDDI, HAKUTO aims to be the first ever privately funded team to successfully explore the Moon.

“The Google Lunar XPRIZE has always pushed us beyond our limits” said Takeshi Hakamada, the team leader of HAKUTO. “We will continue to challenge ourselves next year and choose an optimal path to reach the Moon.”

“We’re proud to verify HAKUTO’s launch agreement and are pleased to see two Google Lunar XPRIZE teams collaborating on this mission to the Moon,” said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director, Google Lunar XPRIZE. “The purpose of this prize was, in part, to foster collaboration in the private sector and this is a great demonstration of teams coming together in the next giant leap in space exploration.”

TeamIndus, based in Bangalore, India, is currently developing both a lander and a rover for the competition. TeamIndus has already demonstrated its technical capacity when the team was awarded a Landing Milestone Prize from the Google Lunar XPRIZE in January 2015. Most importantly, TeamIndus is one of the five teams to date that have received official launch verification from XPRIZE. (As a rule, teams must have their launch plans verified by XPRIZE before December 31st 2016).

Details of the TeamIndus launch is as follows:

【Launch Details】
Estimated Launch Time:
December 28th 2017
Launch Vehicle:
PSLV
Launch Site:
Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, India
Lander:
TeamIndus HHK
Landing Site:
Mare Imbrium 35.25°N 29.23°W

【About TeamIndus】 http://www.teamindus.in//
TeamIndus, the only Indian team in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, is building a privately funded Spacecraft capable of soft landing on the Moon by 2017. TeamIndus was one of five teams selected to compete in the Milestone prizes and successfully won $1M as a Milestone prize for our landing technology, last year.
Image

【About HAKUTO】http://team-hakuto.jp/
Team HAKUTO, run by the Japanese startup ispace, Inc., is the only Japanese team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The team is comprised of various members including: the members of ispace, Tohoku University, and Pro-Bono experts from various fields. HAKUTO was awarded a Mobility Milestone Prize from Google Lunar XPRIZE in January 2015.
Image

【About the Google Lunar XPRIZE 】 http://lunar.xprize.org/
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, before the mission deadline of December 31, 2017.
Image

【Contact Information】
Shuhei Akimoto
TEL:+81 3-5565-8483
e-mail:media@team-hakuto.jp

Website: http://team-hakuto.jp/5467/?lang=en

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 21 Dec 2016 18:03

Graduating from the Google Lunar X Prize
by John Thornton Spacenewsmag.com December 19, 2016

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John Thornton, chief executive of Astrobotic.

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Six years ago, Astrobotic made a bold move. We were the first Google Lunar X Prize team to announce a contract with a launch service provider to compete for the $20 million prize in a bid to become the first private company to land on the moon. We believed then that a launch contract would convince customers and investors to book our lunar lander’s remaining payload capacity and invest in our company to finance the rest of the launch payments – but it didn’t work. We lost our launch opportunity and had to rebuild our mission.

As I survey the field of Google Lunar X Prize teams that have announced launch contracts over the last few months, I see many repeating the same mistake. X Prize has announced that any team that does not secure by the end of this year a launch contract to fly in 2017 will no longer be eligible to compete. For many teams, signing a launch contract now is an act of self-preservation. Unfortunately, the premature schedule is forcing teams to take perilous risks. Some teams are promising to launch next year without having cut an ounce of metal. Some have pledged to fly on brand new launch vehicles that haven’t even flown yet. Others are hanging their hat on headline-grabbing policy announcements to suggest big progress is being made toward a mission. Still others are hastily assembling their spacecraft and hoping for the best.

We have learned from our mistake. This time around, we will not be signing a hasty launch contract for a launch in 2017 to satisfy the X Prize requirements. As such, Astrobotic must announce its separation from the Google Lunar X Prize. We do not make this decision lightly. However, when the demands of the X Prize competition are in conflict with the demands of our customers, we must stay true to our customer-first principles. As a Rust Belt space company from Pittsburgh, whose focus from the beginning has been to build a long-term sustainable business, we believe it is more important to wholly focus on performing for our customers than chasing unrealistic prize deadlines. We intend to fly our first mission when our customers and technology are ready in 2019.

Although we’re separating from the X Prize, we acknowledge the important role they’ve played in our development to date. The X Prize, like any technology prize, was meant to be a catalyst for a new market. And to its credit, it did exactly that. It was because of the X Prize that Astrobotic was founded and won $1.75 million in milestone prizes in 2015. For that, we remain forever grateful. But from the beginning, we built Astrobotic as a business first, with the X Prize as a potential bonus. This approach has led to 10 signed payload deals with more than 100 lunar payload customers in our pipeline, and a team of world-class partners including Airbus Defence and Space, NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne. Our reputation as a space company of technical rigor and credibility has enabled us to attract these top-quality partners. Our combined technical excellence maintains those partnerships through numerous technical reviews, including a recent three-day intensive design review of the Peregrine Lunar Lander.

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Illustration of Astrobiotic’s Peregrine lander on the surface of the moon. Astrobiotic announced partnerships with Airbus Defence and Space, and DHL, to support the lander’s development. Credit: Astrobiotics Technology artist’s concept.

The Astrobotic team reflects the seriousness of our approach to the lunar logistics business. We have a former NASA associate administrator and astronaut on our board of directors, a 25-year Lockheed Martin industry veteran responsible for 30 shuttle and space station payloads leading our mission team, and a technical team that brings experience from other space programs like Orbital ATK’s Cygnus. We challenge anyone to survey the field of X Prize teams and stack any team, technology or service against ours. We stand by our work. But don’t take our word for it: ask our customers, who tell us that our development is “years ahead of the competition.”

Today, Astrobotic is closer to the moon than ever before. As the space community prepares for an upcoming presidential transition, decision makers in Washington can now build on the foundations and rapidly mature U.S. commercial lunar delivery services to lead the world back to the moon.

The first steps are already in place, with NASA’s Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) program infusing Astrobotic with invaluable technology, expertise, software and processes. And just recently, NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems division announced a request for information for payloads that could be sent to the moon on commercial providers.

As the worldwide market grows ever larger, bold and timely policy action is needed to secure the U.S. lead in commercial lunar delivery. Astrobotic is uniquely positioned to lead this effort.

Website: http://www.spacenewsmag.com/commentary/ ... r-x-prize/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 22 Dec 2016 13:48

Luna 9: 1st Soft Landing on the Moon
By Elizabeth Howell Space.com December 21, 2016

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The first image from the surface of the moon, taken by the Luna 9 spacecraft.Credit: NASA

Luna 9 was the first soft landing mission on the moon. The Soviet spacecraft arrived three years before the first humans stepped out on the surface. It was part of a long-range Soviet Union program to photograph and learn more about the moon.

Space race
In the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a "space race" that ultimately saw the Americans land the first humans on the moon in 1969. The Soviets were unable to get their Zond rocket program going, even after a series of test flights. One blew up on the launch pad in 1968 and killed several people.

When the Soviets were unable to reach the hurdle of bringing humans to the moon, they instead focused on a series of successful robotic missions, culminating with two rover missions in the 1970s that collectively travelled dozens of miles.

Their earlier robotic missions had already attracted a lot of international attention. Luna 3 flew past the moon in 1959, just two years after the first satellite was sent into space (also by the Soviet Union). What's more, Luna 3 even took pictures of the moon's far side, which had never been glimpsed by humans before.

Flying by was difficult enough, but landing was another thing entirely. The Soviets (and the Americans) had certainly crash-landed probes on to the surface before, in some cases deliberately. Landing successfully, however, requires precision, something to cushion the spacecraft from a hard fall (such as rockets) and a way of transmitting the information reliably back to Earth.

There were also a small number of experts who wondered if the lunar surface could even support a landing. Some thought that any spacecraft that landed on the moon would sink down into a pile of dust, and have difficulty emerging again.

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Airbags mounted on the Luna 9 landing capsule helped cushion the impact.Credit: NASA

Luna 9 mission
The spacecraft launched successfully on Jan. 31, 1966, and got to the moon on Feb. 3. While the entire spacecraft descended to the surface, a landing capsule was ejected just before impact (16 feet, or 5 meters, above) for the soft landing. This "automatic lunar station" that landed on the surface was spherical, about 5 feet (58 centimeters) across and weighed about 218 lbs. (99 kilograms), according to NASA.

"The station consisted of a hermetically sealed container, pressurized to 1.2 atmospheres, which held the radio system, programming device, batteries, thermal control system and scientific apparatus. Four antennas that automatically opened after landing were mounted on the outside of the compartment," NASA wrote, adding that there also were airbags mounted to the lander to cushion the impact.

In addition to the equipment needed to keep the spacecraft healthy, as well as fuel, it carried some scientific equipment. This included a television camera and a radiation detector.

The spacecraft bounced on the lunar surface several times before stopping in the Ocean of Storms, according to NASA. About 250 seconds after landing, four petals stabilized the spacecraft and the television system began sending pictures back to Earth. The early days of space photography were difficult, but over time controllers could get a sense of what the surface looked like.

The first test image, which showed very poor contrast because the Sun was only about 3 degrees above the horizon, was completed 15 minutes [after landing]," NASA stated. "Seven radio sessions, totaling 8 hours and 5 minutes, were transmitted as were three series of TV pictures. When assembled, the photographs provided four panoramic views of the nearby lunar surface."

Luna 9 survived three Earth-days on the surface until its batteries ran down. From the pictures, scientists could tell that the spacecraft had landed near an 82-foot (25-meter) crater. The lander was initially at a 15-degree tilt, but the regolith (soil) on the moon shifted underneath it and placed the lander at a 22.5 degree tilt, according to the pictures.

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After landing, four petals stabilized the spacecraft, and four antennas extended to transmit pictures. Credit: NASA
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February 3, 1966 the Soviet station “Luna-9″ for the first time in the world has carried out a soft landing on the Moon. Credit: Battle Brotherhood

Luna 9 legacy
Several soft landings after Luna 9 happened in quick succession, both by the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States' Surveyor 1 made that country's first landing in May 1966.

Both the Soviet Union and the United States sent several robotic probes to the moon afterward, with the Soviet Union also focusing on aspects such as sample return (Luna 16) and deploying rovers (Lunokhods 1 and 2 on Lunas 17 and 21, respectively). The United States also sent six human missions to the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972.

Soft landings on the moon wouldn't happen again until 2013, when China sent the Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover to the surface that December. Yutu survived more than 31 months on the surface, although it stopped being able to move after only a few weeks.

As of September 2015, scientists have searched in vain to find Luna 9 on the surface of the moon. This is after NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter successfully imaged numerous spacecraft on the surface, including the Soviet Lunokhods 1 and 2.

Website: http://www.space.com/35116-luna-9.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 23 Dec 2016 11:59

Here's who could win the $20 million XPrize for roving on the moon—but will any science get done?
by Daniel Clery Sciencemag.org December 22, 2016

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One Lunar XPrize team wants to study the effect of space weather on the Apollo 17 rover. Credit: NASA

Update: The story below will apear in the 23 December issue of Science, but after the magazine went to press, the Japan-based team Hakuto announced that it had also booked a ride to the moon—along with a rival, Team Indus. The lander of the India-based team can carry 20 kilograms and so, in addition to its own rover, Team Indus will also carry Hakuto’s 4-kilogram rover. It remains to be seen which rover will get out of the lander first and set off on the 500-meter trek required to win the prize.

A few years back, Oded Aharonson, a planetary scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, met three space-mad engineers who were building a cut-price mission to the moon. Backed by a mix of companies, foundations, and universities, the trio was competing for the $20 million jackpot of the Google Lunar XPrize, which challenged privately funded teams to be the first to land on the moon, travel 500 meters, and send back pictures and video. Other than that, the engineers' ambitions didn't extend beyond a triumphant party in the central square of Tel Aviv, Israel.

But to Aharonson, this was too good an opportunity to miss. "You have to do something more. There must be some intellectual legacy to this mission," he told them. After several such conversations, he says, "they bought it." The party plans are still on. But SpaceIL now has a mission scientist—Aharonson—and its lander will carry a lightweight sensor to map the moon's magnetic field.

Science was never the primary driver for the Lunar XPrize, which reaches a major milestone at the end of this month. Only those teams with a contract to launch their spacecraft before the end of 2017 will be allowed to stay in the competition. Of the 16 industry teams still in the running, the XPrize authorities have confirmed launches for just four, including SpaceIL. A fifth team, Part-Time Scientists, a Germany-based team founded by researchers who initially entered the prize alongside their day jobs, is still awaiting confirmation of its launch booking.

Moonward bound?
Five teams say they have booked launches to compete for the $20 million Google Lunar XPrize, but they have different approaches to roving on the moon and doing science.

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Engineering will determine the ultimate winner of the prize, which is modeled on the Ansari XPrize, awarded in 2004 to give a leg up to cheap human spaceflight. The race to get to the moon, move around, and report back home is meant to foster cheap lunar access so that industry and government agencies can prospect for minerals or build resorts for space tourists. Along the way, though, science will benefit, says Andrew Barton, the prize's director of technical operations in Culver City, California. Movement over the surface and communication with Earth are basic technologies for many future science missions. Also, he notes, the competition offers two bonus prizes that are at least partly scientific. The water discovery bonus ($4 million) requires teams to unambiguously detect water on the surface and publish a peer-reviewed paper to prove it. "Water has been observed from orbit but no one has yet made a physical measurement on the surface," Barton says. For the Apollo Heritage Bonus Prize ($4 million), teams must broadcast video and pictures from one of the Apollo landing sites, and Barton says data on how exposure on the moon has weathered the Apollo artifacts could have scientific value.

None of the potential finalists has declared an intention to look for water. That may be because they're most likely to find it in permanently shady craters at the poles, a difficult place for solar-powered rovers to reach. Nor is it easy to get a look at Apollo relics. Landing on the moon is imprecise, so the nearest Apollo site could lie far beyond the range of the teams' modest rovers. Closer landings risk damage to sites of historical importance, from the blast of a retrorocket or a collision.

Part-Time Scientists, however, is planning to try. The team believes its rovers—developed with the help of the Audi car company—have the necessary range. Karsten Becker, the team's chief technology officer for electronics, says they want to get up close to Apollo 17's lunar rover, which is made of materials including aluminum, fiberglass, nylon, and duct tape. "What's happened to that after 45 years in the space environment? Is it like new or in shreds from micrometeoroids?" he asks. Team Indus from India may go for a smaller, $1 million bonus by visiting the site of an unmanned landing—China's Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover, which operated from 2013 to 2014.

Although the bonus prizes haven't generated a stampede to do science, most of the finalists have taken on one or several experiments. SpaceIL's magnetometer aims to help answer the question of where the moon's magnetic field comes from. Is it the relic of an ancient field, created by a churning iron core like Earth's, that was locked into its surface rocks when the core solidified? Or does it come from iron-rich asteroids that generate magnetic fields from the energy of their impact? As the Israeli craft orbits the moon and moves across the surface, the magnetometer will look for correlations between magnetic field changes and impact sites. "This mission may not settle the question once and for all, but we'll make progress," Aharonson says.

Another finalist, Team Indus, is holding an open competition for young people aged 25 and under to devise experiments that could point a way to sustainable settlements on the moon. The team was overwhelmed by 3000 entries from all over the world, including plant and microbial growth experiments, proposals to build lunar structures and radiation shields, and even an attempt to brew beer on the moon. The team recently narrowed the field to a short list of 25, and those groups are now building prototypes that must be the size of a soda can and weigh less than 250 grams. In March 2017, up to eight (one?) experiments will be chosen to fly.

Moon Express is carrying a couple payloads: laser retroreflectors from a U.S.-Italian university group to precisely measure the Earth-moon distance for gravitational studies, and a 7-centimeter optical telescope for the International Lunar Observatory Association, a nonprofit aiming to show the power of observing in airless, ever-clear skies. The telescope will have open access for "citizen scientists."

Synergy Moon, an international team with offices in San Francisco, California, aims to blend the arts and sciences—perhaps with a holographic projector that will display artworks on the moon. The team claims it will study weathering of the lunar surface and the nature of the thin atmosphere above it using tiny autonomous robots they call lunar spiders and butterflies. These may be more artwork than instrument, according to a team blog post: "They will also be programmed for swarm behavior, to create random geometric and color patterns."

In general, it's best not to expect major payoffs for science, says Mike Ravine, a project manager at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, California, which builds instruments for NASA Mars missions. In 2000, Ravine attempted to get a private moonshot off the ground with BlastOff! Corporation. The effort failed, but it taught him the challenge of trying to do science on a cut-rate mission. If the XPrize teams succeed, he says, "it would be great to wring some scientific value out of it. But it's a pretty high bar."

Posted in: Scientific CommunitySpace
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal0543

Website: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/12/ ... e-get-done


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