by Staff Writers
Paris (SPX) Apr 30, 2012
The race for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is creating science opportunities for European lunar researchers. Four teams competing for the competition presented their plans at the European Lunar Symposium in Berlin last week. Representatives from Hungary's Team Puli, Italy's AMALIA mission, and European members of Team FREDNET and Synergy Moon have invited the 170 lunar scientists attending the meeting to come up with science payloads that could be carried by their rovers and landers.
The Google Lunar X PRIZE challenges a privately-funded team to successfully place a robot on the Moon's surface, explore at least 500 meters and transmit high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so can claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is one of three active competitions from the X PRIZE Foundation, a non-profit organization that creates and manages global, incentivized competitions.
"The Google Lunar X PRIZE offers real opportunities for science on the Moon," said Alex Hall, Senior Director of the Google Lunar X PRIZE. "High-resolution imaging is a core part of the prize and there's much we can find out from images alone, but there are many possible small experiments that our teams could also potentially carry that would allow lunar scientists to get data that they might otherwise have to wait years to get on a government-funded mission.
"Scientists here at the European Lunar Symposium raised a variety of exciting ideas, from radio antennae to X-ray spectroscopes! We've also had one institute offer to open up its hardware testing facilities to teams in exchange for carrying instrumentation. The level of interest has been very exciting."
The first European Lunar Symposium has been organized under the umbrella of the NASA Lunar Science Institute's European node network in response to a global surge of interest in lunar exploration. The meeting brings together the European scientific community interested in various aspects of exploration of the Moon and lunar resources, as well as lunar experts from around the world.
Dr. Mahesh Anand of The Open University, who leads the UK node of the NASA Lunar Science Institute and is co-organizer of the meeting, said, "When organizing the program for the European Lunar Symposium, I thought that giving a platform for the Google Lunar X PRIZE European teams would be a great way of bringing opportunities outside the state-funded programs to the attention of the European lunar science community.
"The session was really successful and, from the level of interest that I've seen here in Berlin in the Google Lunar X PRIZE activities, I would definitely look to include these sessions in future events. I look forward to seeing what transpires from collaborations initiated at the meeting."
Plans presented at the meeting by the teams highlighted the range and innovation of the teams' approaches to the lunar challenge. Designs for rovers included a mast carrying stereo cameras from Team Italia, a spike-wheeled locomotion system by Team Puli and a spherical rover by FREDNET that propels itself along through displacement of ballast.
"Our proposed design offers significant room - both on the lander and on the surface vehicle - to carry either scientific or technological payloads with a Moon focus. Thanks to a very highly space engineering skilled team, the AMALIA mission has a great chance of succeeding," said Michele Lavagna, who talked on behalf of Team Italia.
Jordi Gutierrez, who presented the spherical rover designs, said, "This kind of rover is simple, robust, cheap, but capable of moving on rather rough terrain. It can become a reliable means of giving mobility to scientific payloads. Several scientists here have shown an interest in the concept."
Marton Deak, whose presentation focused on Team Puli's analysis of potential landing sites said, "It would be truly fascinating to discover deposits of water ice or explore a lava tube on the Moon. I think Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams, like Team Puli, can come up with surprisingly good solutions for these kinds of challenges!"
"This was a truly outstanding symposium," said Greg Schmidt, Deputy Director and Director of International Partnerships for the NASA Lunar Science Institute. "We are proud to be allied with our European partners in furthering the many facets of lunar science. The Google Lunar X PRIZE offers a unique way to return to the lunar surface and in so doing, brings new and exciting opportunities to the science community in the near future."
Eight teams headquartered in Europe have registered for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Three further teams have significant European involvement.
Barcelona Moon Team (HQ: Spain)
Part Time Scientists (HQ: Germany):
Selenokhod (HQ: Moscow):
Team ARCA (HQ: Romania)
Team EuroLuna (HQ: Denmark):
Team Italia (HQ: Italy):
Team Puli (HQ: Hungary):
White Label Space (HQ: Netherlands):
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NASA Contract to Astrobotic Technology Investigates Prospecting for Lunar Resources
Pittsburgh, PA (SPX) Apr 30, 2012
Astrobotic Technology Inc. has announced a NASA contract to determine whether its polar rover can deploy an ice-prospecting payload to the Moon. The ice could yield water, oxygen, methane and rocket propellant to dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration. "Astrobotic seeks the immense resources available on the Moon to both accelerate space exploration and improve life on Earth," s ... read more
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