Monday, June 02, 2008

ISDC 2008 - Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams

RLV News has already posted notes from this ISDC panel (and numerous other panels and talks, I might add). Here's my version.

MC David Brandt introduces Will Pomerantz, and emphasizes his SEDS chapter experience.

Will: He was at the Washington DC ISDC 3 years ago, and was offered his current job there. He assumes we're all familiar with the Ansari X PRIZE. He gives a history of the GLXP. The GLXP was announced at the same day as the Japanese SELENE mission. These events show the Moon is open. He showed a brief video of the GLXP with Buzz Aldrin, Sergei Brin, Larry Page, James Cameron, Elon Musk, and Peter Diamandis for the Wired NextFest announcement. He gave a background on the teams, and briefly introduced the 5 panelists, each representing 1 of the teams present at the conference.

Bob Richards - Odyssey Moon - Bob saw both of the Ansari X PRIZE winning flights. He was inspired, and heard the GLXP "shot heard around the world". His was the first fully registered team, and they also had a business plan with the registration. Nine other teams were announced at a later event, and then there was the recent GLXP Team Summit. Their goal is to catalyze lunar commerce. They have the advantage that they aren't subject to the U.S. ITAR regime. The GLXP prize is just 1 of their goals. They have an experienced team. MDA is their prime contractor. They helped with the Phoenix Mars mission that just landed. There has been lots of media coverage. They want to prospect for resources. They have a July 2011 goal.

David Gump - Astrobotic - This is a Carnegie Mellon University/University of Arizona/Raytheon team. They are going to the Apollo 11 site. The University of Arizona is on Mars with their Phoenix spacecraft. They have lots of space heritage and optics experience. Raytheon specializes in high precision propulsion, such as the recent disabled satellite shootdown. Carnegie Mellon University has lots of robotics experience in scenarios like volcanoes, the DARPA Urban Challenge they won, desert, Antarctic meteorite searching, and NASA's SCARAB lunar robot prototype to search for ice. David showed graphics of a third generation robot and a view of a first generation robot test held in Pittsburgh (CMU's location). They are doing heavy field testing and testing of parts needed to be able to handle hard packed lunar terrain and soft patches. This is demonstrated in videos.

First mission: GLXP, proof of concept, precision landing, high-bandwidth communication, initial commercial markets, scene matching, imaging.

Phase 2: commercialize scout prospecting, miners, builders, comm infrastructure, education and entertainment.

Phase 3: Support human outposts on the Moon by 2020, expanding demand, lunar propellants, reaching asteroids and Mars.

Three classes (unfortunately when I took my notes I didn't write which of the following fall in which category - Ray): scout robots, worker robots, orbiters, landers, return vehicles. The prize is just 1 piece of their effort in the scout robot category.

Quantum3 - Paul Carlinger - local DC team - former government officials - Paul got familiar with NASA and NOAA during high-level government work. The contest is akin to Lindbergh's flight. It has the potential to change the paradigm of space like the Lindbergh Spirit of St. Louis flight did for aviation. They also want to give kids an interest in science as happened during Apollo. They have a major school outreach effort at all educational levels. They have a late 2009 launch goal. If it works, it can work in other places like asteroids and Mars. They will launch from the U.S. and want to lower space costs.

STELLAR - Jeff Krukin - a North Carolina team. They missed the recent International Space University GLXP Team Summit event. It's almost as tough to go from Raleigh North Carolina to Strasbourg France as it is to go to the Moon. Their registration fee came from the astronautical and mechanical engineering department foundation. They are a project of the Advanced Aerospace Resource Center. Part of the team is the Advanced Vehicle Research Center, which deals with vehicles and has fuel cell and autonomous vehicle expertise. Insight Racing is also part of the team. They were a team in the DARPA Challenge. There are other NC State groups participating in the team. One piece has expertise in sensors, and another has expertise in smallsats.

They don't intend to stay a North Carolina only operation. They are reaching out regionally. University focus is important to them. NC State and the University of North Carolina emphasize students developing commercially viable technologies. They have been meeting for months. Fundraising is in progress. They have an initial design.

Team JURBAN - Dr. Jayfus Doswell - Their team is a 501c3 research organization to improve STEM (science, technology, and math) human performance, especially for underserved populations. He explained their acronym. They started with the DARPA Urban Challenge. They entered to inspire underserved populations and to show STEM skills. This shows the importance of education. He presented a slide of the JOLHT craft. The robot's goal is to survive the conditions of the lunar surface. Their engineers gave a very exact projection of their schedule, down to "12:00 noon" on a certain day in 2012. They are looking at landing site possibilities. He showed the Juxtopia goggles in a slide.

Q&A session (Will Pomerantz asking the questions):

WP: For the newer teams, how did they decide it was for them?

JD: They had experience with advanced software, etc. They saw a decreased interest of youth in the field. Inspiration is more important to them than the prize money.

JK: This was an outgrowth of things already going on. They are interested in economic development in North Carolina. They want NC to be part of the new space industry. They believe we're in an Earth/Moon economic system, and that developing this system is more important than going to Mars.

WP: Two teams have involvement with the Phoenix mission. Were there any lessons learned from Mars Phoenix?

BR: "Space is hard". Hundreds of people were needed for 1 Phoenix instrument. However, small teams can bring economies.

DG: There was an earlier failure - that's why it's called Phoenix. They need to make it all work right before launch.

WP: Some had plans before, some for after the prize. How important it the prize money to them? How big will the market be?

BR: It would be cool to win but they aren't depending on it. They need multiple lunar participants.

JK: Same comments - educational value is equal to the prize alue. Visibility isn the competition is also important. They need many particpants. International participation is needed.

WP: How are they getting a ride to the Moon?

DG: commercial launch - they intend to announce it soon

BR: commercial; they need a good price

The other 3 also said commercial.

WP: Do they have specific plans in outreach, for example, for elementary students?

JD: They have raised significant funds for outreach in the past. For example, the DARPA Urban Challenge involved a lot of this. Often their students have full time jobs and need the funds to be
able to participate. They use a mentoring process.

DG: The University of Arizona gets professors to mentor students, and the students in turn mentor high school students.

BR: The Planetary Society is their educational partner.

JK: NC already has strong education/workforce development efforts.

PC: They have after school programs.

WP: There will be an "Adopt a Team" effort where students can match with teams.

WP: Top 2 management issues?

BR: Experienced, energetic people

DG: Yes

JD: Management techniques include always assessing risks spiral process from CMU, Six Sigma, improve processes, early testing, proven methods

JK: Core management, subteams responsible for components, each subteam owned/operated by a sponsor

WP: Prizes allow parallel methods to be tackled, so they can see by experience what works.