Sunday, November 23, 2008

Astrobotic Details

Briefs: Red Whitaker and Astrobotic; Space tourism training - RLV News - Here's an excerpt from the 5-page Astrobotic article from Air & Space Magazine:

Manning holds the individual members of Whittaker’s team in high regard. “The good news is that they’ve got incredible talent,” he says. But, he adds, “this is outside the box. It’s not a car, it’s not the DARPA challenge, not a missile. It’s an all new thing—taking the best ideas from very different places and putting them together in a very weird, highly coupled way that’s got to work the first time.”

If Astrobotic can figure out how to test its systems in an integrated way on Earth, Manning thinks the missile-like landing concept can work, even with the ridiculously low (by JPL standards) $100 million budget. “I think they have a shot at it,” he says. When I tell him that Astrobotic hopes to raise enough money for two shots, doubling its chances of success, he is happy to hear it: “That’s wonderful…. I want them to win.”

Whittaker and his financial team are not counting on angels to bankroll them out of kindness. Their business plan is based on the proposition that, before NASA sets up a base on the moon, robots will be making maps and collecting data. If the Astrobotic rover makes it by 2012, or even 2014, when the Google prize expires, it will arrive years ahead of the astronauts.