Monday, June 30, 2008

LaserMotive Sound of Speed

So far, so good… - Space Elevator Blog - This one features an impressive (although edited) video from LaserMotive. If they can do that vertically ...

The LaserMotive post has more details.

Lunar Rovers Discover Water?

Briefs: Space water for regolith excavators; Tech prizes - RLV News - Part of this post is on Space2O offering and promoting their bottled water at the Regolith Excavation Challenge. The press release also gives some information about media and sponsors:

Co-hosted by CSEWI, its sister organization CSA, and California Polytechnic State University, College of Engineering San Luis Obispo, the Regolith Excavation Challenge is drawing attention from notable media such as Canadian GalaFilm, Inc., LAUNCH Magazine in New York, Lars Larson Talk Show based in Portland, Planetary Society Radio based in Los Angeles, and The Space Show based in Seattle. Major sponsors of the event include California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency (BTH), Diani Construction, and Empirical Systems Aerospace. The two-day event is open to the public.

CanSat Trip

Exploring the West Texas Desert: Maps and Photos - Kirk Kittell maps his trip to and from the CanSat 2008 competition on Google Earth.

Lunar Lander Promotion

Lunar Lander competition returning to Holloman - Aerotech News (linked by X PRIZE Foundation) - Andrew Petro from NASA Centennial Challenges is featured. The author's call is that Masten will probably be in the competition. We'll have to wait and see if that's right.

Smoking Cessation Prize

Continuing my browse of the XPF help wanted postings (no, I'm not looking for a job at the moment, just a post), I see that the Life Sciences area has 2 help wanted postings for the Smoking Cessation Prize. This prize is described in their Cancer Strategic Plan I discussed a while ago. However, I don't recall anything about the prize amount they're thinking about:

X PRIZE Foundation is developing a prize around smoking cessation. A $35M prize purse will be given to the team(s) that gets the greatest number of people to stop smoking for at least one year. By awarding such a large prize, we believe we will motivate talented entrepreneurs to compete for the prize and bring innovative new methods to solving this important public health problem. In order to validate the winning team, we will adopt methods from clinical trial research.

Aviation Fuel Prize Investigation

You can sometimes get more details on what an organization is doing by looking at their help wanted ads. Here's one from the X PRIZE Foundation: Senior Advisor/Project Manager, Energy and Environment:

The team leader will supervise another full-time contractor (Technical Advisor), who will research and analyze domain specific issues related to alternative aviation fuels and technologies. ... The team leader is responsible for delivering a fully vetted and refined proposal to Volpe that will contain one or more detailed prize proposals ...

Here's more on Volpe. The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center is part of DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration and is an innovative, federal, fee-for service organization.

DOT Seeking Better Ways to Drive Development of Alternative Aviation Fuel Technology - Green Car Congress - A couple excerpts from this news release (which is, by the way, not new - it's from from Feb 1):

The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center), part of the US Department of Transportation (DOT), has issued a Broad Agency Announcement seeking research that would help it determine the best methods to drive the development of alternative aviation fuel technology. Options could include a technology prize along the lines of the Ansari X Prize. ... The studies must present a detailed investigation of the option, culminating in a research roadmap that brings the best minds in the aviation and science communities together to solve this technical problem and how to speed up, to the greatest extent possible, the process of finding a viable technology that will provide a non-fossil alternative aviation fuel. ...

Each Proposed study is to consider only one of the following three options:

2. Prize Incentives. The format of a prize competition such as the Ansari X Prize for space travel offers opportunities to generate huge technological breakthroughs by attracting diverse competitors and rewarding real outcomes, according to the Volpe Center. ... Contractors exploring this route will need to assess its viability to the development of alternative aviation fuel technology.

Contract No. DTRT57-08-C-10036 - Volpe contract on NEXTGEN Alternative Fuel Development Roadmap awarded to X PRIZE Foundation on April 15

June 30 GLXP

Here are a couple more Teams posts:

Rejecting Heat - Astrobotic - This is another with the students showing us what they do.

So, what's happening? - FredNet - Heidi Nielsen explains their plan for the rover, launcher, and so on. The "Fred" of FredNet also introduces himself.

Other stuff:

Who is your favorite animal space traveler? - GLXP Poll

Update (evening):

Astrobotic posts 3 more:

Satisfying the Self-Viewing Requirement - Two more students on the rover team discuss ways to gain perspective using rover imagery.

Remote Operations - The students discuss field testing using a separated operator console simulating communication delays and bandwidth they'd experience in the actual mission.

Video Footage of a Test Ride - Now you know what it's like to be a busy rover.

GLXP Communications LICENSING Requirements - Micro-Space - Communications spectrum issues are discussed. Is there a lawyer in the house?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New York Times on Innovation Prizes

Eureka! Where Do I Cash the Check? - The New York Times - Following John McCain's $300M electric car battery prize proposal, and Barack Obama's rejection of that method in favor of an Apollo-like energy effort, this article gives an overview of past and present prize efforts. The most relevant, in the context of Obama's citing the Apollo program approach, is probably the Ansari X PRIZE:

Considering the bureaucratic bog the space program has waded into — the exhilaration of Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind giving way to plumbing problems on the International Space Station — Mr. Obama might not have picked the best example. The latest pictures from Mars are stunning, but the most exciting thing to happen recently in manned space flight came in 2004 when Burt Rutan won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for the first privately backed suborbital excursion.

This point hits home even more if you only consider manned spaceflight, and thus discount the pictures from Mars as being a different discussion altogether. Alternately, if you include robotic spaceflight, it's important to note that the University of Arizona, which led the Phoenix Mars lander, is now part of the Astrobotic Google Lunar X PRIZE team.

Apollo did a lot of useful things, but one has to wonder whether or not its legacy would have been greater if private industry had developed affordable space transportation systems during that effort, through incentives like prizes. When considering big all-or-nothing government efforts, you can't ignore the fact that the Apollo rockets, capsules, and lunar landers were developed and briefly used at a huge cost, were later abandoned in favor of the Space Shuttle which was developed and operated at a huge cost, and now that the Shuttle is being abandoned Apollo-like systems are again being developed from the ground up at a huge cost. Space (and energy) prizes may be able to improve upon this kind of result, whether instead of or in parallel with Apollo-like efforts.

That's why it's disappointing that Obama considers the prize proposal to be a gimmick (even though his campaign documents include biofuel prizes). It would have been better if he'd picked apart any flaws in McCain's prize proposal, and suggested better ones, or if he'd suggested that McCain's type of prize proposal isn't enough and, because of the importance of energy efficiency and security, prizes need to be done as a complement to an Apollo-like effort.

I have one minor complaint about the article, which generally is quite good. It cites the Heinlein Prize as one of the X PRIZE Foundation efforts. Peter Diamandis of the X PRIZE Foundation won the first Heinlein Prize, but that prize is run by the Heinlein Trust. It might have been better, in the context of the discussion on energy prizes and electric cars, to have mentioned the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE run by the X PRIZE Foundation.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Epsilon Vee Interview

Epsilon Vee is one of the teams trying to win the N-Prize. Here's an interview of the founder of Epsilon Vee at the Space Fellowship.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Regolith Challenge Team Discussion

Approaching T-5 weeks and counting... - Tech Ranch (leading 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenger) - Jim lets us know at a general level how the work is going this year, and what he anticipates at the challenge. The comments include a discussion with other Regolith Excavators, including Todd Mendenhall, another one from last year.

June 27 (and 28) GLXP Teams Posts: Stern and Sunset

The GLXP Teams posts continue:

Former NASA Chief Alan Stern joins Odyssey Moon, the first registered competitor in the Google Lunar X PRIZE - Odyssey Moon

Planning for Lunar Sunset - Micro-Space discusses designing batteries and electronics to survive the lunar night for the bonus prize.

Update (June 28):

Shake, bake and radiate - Astrobotic (video) - 2 students talk about solving some of the problems a lunar rover designer encounters

Target Earth

Target Earth: How Prepared Are We? - The Planetary Society - The Planetary Society reminds us of the 100 year anniversary of the Tunguska event the upcoming Monday. They've started an effort called Target Earth to address this risk. The Apophis Mission Design Competition is one part of this effort. Other efforts include the Gene Shoemaker Near-Earth Object Grants and an advocacy effort to save the Aricebo telescope, which among other things tracks NEOs. They're also involved with the show Asteroid Trackers, a Discovery Canada show planned for the 100 anniversary date.

Briefs: Smallsat Conference; NEOSSat - In part of this post RLV News points out a low-cost Canadian smallsat that's designed to track NEOs: Canadian-led space project designed to spot planet-killer asteroids - - An excerpt:

A one-of-a-kind, $12-million satellite mission to be launched by the Canadian Space Agency in 2010 will track at least some of the tens of thousands of large asteroids within striking distance of Earth.


NEOSSat is one of a new generation of "microsatellites" filling a niche in space exploration. It will be the size of a large suitcase, weigh less than 75 kilograms and be designed and built in three years.

Not only will the satellite help detect asteroids, it will also observe other satellites to prevent collisions between them.

UNH WildCatSat Team

UNH Places First in the International CanSat Competition - University of New Hampshire Campus Journal - The UNH WildCatSat CanSat teams gets some recognition in the school paper. It sounds like they may get more recognition in the post-school job search.

Phoenix and Tucson

University of Arizona looks beyond Mars mission - CNNU - This article covers the University of Arizona team, including the Science Operations Center, that's looking beyond the Phoenix mission to more adventures, including the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

Catching Up

Here are a few recent prize-related posts at RLV News:

Briefs: SIS4 review; ISDC & SIS4 resources - Part of this is Ferris Valyn covering the 4th Space Investment Summit: Space Revolution News - Companies at the Space Investment Summit - Daily Kos - Ferris covers a number of space entrepreneurs, including Ecliptic Enterprises, Odyssey Moon, and the Rocket Racing League, with ties to the Ansari X PRIZE, the Lunar X PRIZE, and Peter Diamandis (and perhaps RRL prizes?), respectively.

Unreasonable FAA application and test video - Unreasonable Rocket has a video on "testing on tower", and also shows FAA application paperwork. Hopefully that will help others follow.

BT and the X PRIZE - This includes a link to an article at Cosmic Log with some new material (for me) on the announcement.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Robot Competition List

Robot competition - Training and Tips - This post briefly describes about 20 robot competitions.

BT and the X PRIZE Foundation

BT and the X PRIZE Foundation Team Up to Inspire World-Changing Innovations - This video announcement is on telecom company BT teaming up with the Foundation. Here's more in press release form. An excerpt:

BT Global Services, which employs more than 32,000 people worldwide, is providing $7 million in operating funds to the Foundation over the course of a three-year partnership. These funds will allow the X PRIZE Foundation to focus on developing new prizes to solve some of the greatest challenges of our time.

... With the recent addition of Michael Boustridge, President of BT Americas, to the X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees, BT will have a voice in shaping future X PRIZEs.

Update (evening): The XPF folks point to an article in the Financial Times: Science prize fund wins $7m to take creative drive global.

Under an agreement to be announced today, BT will provide the non-profit foundation with $7m (€4.5m, £3.6m) in operating funds that will cover the costs of developing new X Prizes "to solve some of the greatest challenges of our time", particularly in energy, the environment and life sciences.


The next prizes are likely to focus on cancer, renewable energy and oceanography.

Lunchtime GLXP Posts

Will Pomerantz twitters that yesterday was a good one for GLXP posts:

It's a good day for #GLXP blogs--there were three blog posts while I was at lunch! Not too shabby. Check 'em out @

The Google Lunar X PRIZE... What Is The Value, Besides Prestige For The Winner? - STELLAR - This is from an earlier post by Jeff Krukin. An excerpt: . When it's all said and done, when the winner's limelight fades as it eventually must, keep your eye on the teams that didn't win. The wiser teams will learn a great deal just by competing and will become players in the space economy.

ARCA's Next Launch - ARCA - They explain why they're skipping a step in their planned incremental improvement strategy.

Three-eyed 3D eyes - Astrobotic - The camera system is shown and described.

Work Breakdown Study (WBS) completed to level 3 - LunaTrex - They're even considering a secondary payload. An unnamed big aerospace company seems to approve with their design.

Vacuum Environmental Testing Underway - Micro-Space - Phil Stooke has a comment

RLV News also mentions the new wave of posts, and is a good place to go (in addition to the GLXP Teams site itself) if you want to comment.

Genomics X PRIZE and Personal Genome Services

Marc Hodosh on KTLA - X PRIZE Foundation - This video features Marc discussing the Archon Genomics X PRIZE and 23andMe, a "personal genome service". Apparently this is helping to get the personal genomics legal regime defined ...

Elevator Games Preview

Space Elevator Games and Lunar Lander Contest 2008 Preview - Next Big Future - The preview is actually almost all on the Space Elevator Games.

Space Hardware Club at UAH in CanSat 2008

Spaceref has a press release from the Space Hardware Club at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on their 2nd place finish in the 2008 CanSat competition. The press release shows what various students contributed to, and learned from, the effort. Next up is a CubeSat.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama and McCain on Energy Prizes (and Apollo)

OBAMA'S 'DIFFERENT VISION' FOR U.S. ENERGY - MSNBC - Here's the prize excerpt from the article:

... He said McCain’s offer of a $300 million reward for the developer of a better car battery was too small-scale, suggesting it was another example of Washington’s failed approach to the issue.

“After all those years in Washington, John McCain still doesn’t get it,” he said. “I commend him for his desire to accelerate the search for a battery that can power the cars of the future. I’ve been talking about this myself for the last few years. But I don’t think that a $300 million prize is the way to go. When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn’t put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win – he put the full resources of the United States government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people, not just in the private sector but also in the public sector.”

The X PRIZE Foundation has a statement on McCain's proposal.

NASA Watch links to a funny video from on Obama's response to McCain's proposal. SpaceShipOne is part of the fun.

Curmudgeon's Corner has a few things to say about Barack Obama, Prize Competitions, and Technological Innovation.

To be fair, Curmudgeon's Corner is a consistently conservative poster, but I certainly wouldn't characterize the XPF or NASA Watch as being biased in that direction.

Now here's my opinion. I think Obama's statement, to the extent that it belittles prizes in general compared to big government cost-plus/research grant programs rather than McCain's specific prize proposal (which may not be ideal in current form) is rather strange considering this part of his energy policy:

“Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol: Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013. ”

Instead of trivializing the potential of prizes, I think he should have presented a better set of prize proposals to complement and strengthen his Apollo-like energy program. There is certainly still the opportunity for him to do that, as McCain's proposal is not flawless, comprehensive enough, or a perfect subject for a prize competition, as Climate Progress notes. As it is, he's missed this opportunity, and it seems Obama is looking to the 60's space program or the 70's energy program, and letting McCain be the candidate of change and innovation.

FAA Special Notice to LLC

FAA Special Notice to the Lunar Lander Challenge Competitors - Res Communis - This is a brief post on an FAA letter to the LLC teams on the regulatory regime for that challenge. It seems to be mostly geared towards any new teams that might be out there.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lunar X PRIZE and Lunar Lander for June 24

Students Class & Research Projects! - GLXP Forums - Pierre-Damien Vaujour asks university classes, researchers, competitors, and just about any other person or group at school with Google Lunar X PRIZE material to discuss it on the forum. Carnegie Mellon University responds.

Quick Notes - The Pomerantz Report - Will mentions some articles about the ARCA flight attempt. As announced earlier, ARCA will attempt the first GLXP flight. Will emphasizes that it's not an attempt to get to the Moon yet.

Will also brings up some other GLXP and LLC news. One new items is from Unreasonable Rocket: FAA App is complete enough....

More on $300M Battery Proposal

McCain: $300 million for battery - - link from the X PRIZE Foundation news widget - This article has more details than the ones I skimmed over yesterday. Some excerpts:

The battery will have to deliver the necessary power at 30 percent of current costs. Final details of the plan are not yet available, but Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior McCain economic adviser, told The Detroit News that any company worldwide could qualify for the $300 million as long as they planned to sell in the United States -- meaning U.S. taxpayers could end up paying a battery maker from Asia, where most research is being conducted.

Holtz-Eakin said the winner would have to produce "more than one" battery and demonstrate it could be produced in large quantities. But he acknowledged the campaign hasn't written the technical specifications for the prize.


Andrew Frank, a professor at the University of California-Davis and an expert on plug-in battery technology, said McCain's prize could spur a breakthrough.

"The auto industry is putting a toe in the water," he said. "This could get them over the hump."


"It's a bogus solution to a major problem," Obama economic adviser Jason Furman said of McCain's plan.

GLXP Polls

When will the PRIZE be won? - Google Lunar X PRIZE poll

Favorite Team Poll? - LunaTrex - The comments show how to get to archived polls.

Not Wireless Power Beaming, Strictly Speaking

The Space Elevator Blog has the latest picture-filled post from LaserMotive.

Masten Update on Work, Cleaning, and Interns

RLV News has that promised update from Masten Space Systems, including a number of pictures for vehicle comparison.

Monday, June 23, 2008

McCain Proposes Prize for Improved Car Battery

This is all over the mainstream and blog news sites:

Build a Better Car Battery and a Cash Prize Could Be Yours - The Caucus (The New York Times Political Blog) - John McCain is proposing a $300M prize for a better car battery:

“I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars,’’ Mr. McCain said here at California State University, Fresno.

“That’s one dollar, one dollar, for every man, woman and child in the U.S.,’’ he said. “A small price to pay for helping too break the back of our oil dependency, and should deliver a power source at 30 percent of the current costs.’’

He made the proposal as he spoke about improving enforcement of fuel efficiency standards, hastening the conversion of cars to flex-fuel vehicles, and offering tax credits to people who buy zero-emissions cars – stressing issues that are popular in California. ...

He also spoke about other related issues, like a quicker conversion of cars to flex-fuel support and removing sugar ethanol tariffs:

And he issued a not-too veiled threat in urging automakers to step up the conversion of cars to flex-fuel vehicles. “Whether it takes a meeting with automakers during my first month in office, or my signature on an act of Congress,’’ he said, “we will meet the goal of a swift conversion of American vehicles away from oil.’’

Here's the whole speech, according to the linked blog. Robert Zubrin would be glad to hear that he knows corn ethanol, and ethanol in general, isn't the only alcohol fuel:

At the moment, entrepreneurs and engineers are trying to figure out which among the various alternatives to oil works best. Alcohol-based fuels are the farthest along in both development and commercial use. Some, such as ethanol, are on the market now, and new sources of ethanol are on the horizon that will not require the use of so much cropland.


Instead of playing favorites, our government should level the playing field for all alcohol fuels that break the monopoly of gasoline, lowering both gasoline prices and carbon emissions. And this can be done with a simple federal standard to hasten the conversion of all new vehicles in America to flex-fuel technology — allowing drivers to use alcohol fuels instead of gas in their cars.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

GLXP June 22

LunaTrex asks if the $2M Florida addition to the Lunar X PRIZE value can be earned with a secondary payload.

Astrobotic posts a video demonstrating rover pitfalls when driving over rocky terrain.

Update (June 23 AM, in spite of my title): A Lunar Thanksgiving This Year? - Odyssey Moon - This is about the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launch window, which might result in a holiday launch.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

GLXP June 21

Google launches new space race to the moon - CNN - They discuss the "garage bands of space exploration". In the funding area:

Celestis, a company that launches cremated human remains into Earth's orbit, recently announced that it has reached an agreement with two of the teams, Astrobotic and Odyssey Moon, to carry human ashes to the moon.

That's interesting good news to me. I only recall one of the two deals mentioned.

CNN Press; Thoughts about Heritage sites; Congrats to Phoenix - The Pomerantz Report - Will likes the CNN article, except for the last couple lines. He also discusses some NASA Moon missions in the context of the Apollo (and other) site preservation issue. The Lunar X PRIZE forums discussion on that issue continues today with an interesting proposal by Phil Stooke. Some complicating factors are brought up.

Also on the GLXP forums, Will Pomerantz gets STELLAR to explain their unconventional triwheel wheel design. Who'd expect an old (and not very good, in my opinion) movie based on a somewhat better (but not the best by far) Roger Zelazny story to make it into the GLXP discussions? I guess someone thought the wheels graphic looked like that.

Google Says: Bang, Zoom, Straight To The Moon - Information Week - I wonder if there's anything solid about this part of the article:

As of now, about 13 teams are officially signed up, but Google expects that number to swell to 25.

Micro-Space Comm Links Ready for Spacecraft Use - Micro-Space on GLXP Teams site - There's an interesting discussion about a Micro-space "storm chaser" (as in the movie Twister) rocket. It would be cool to have some way to get a Pixel class of vehicle to drop instruments into a tornado without actually losing the instrument dropping vehicle ... but I guess that adventure will probably have to wait for the sequel to Twister.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Cosmic Log features the 4 year anniversary tomorrow of one of SpaceShipOne's flights: PRIVATE SPACE AGE TURNS 4

It's a good time to look back at how private space has done since then, and of course that's what the bulk of the article is about.

This Looks Like a Useful Resource

The Commercial Space Wiki - It looks like former Centennial Challenges manager Ken Davidian started this project, and several others (including William Pomerantz) are helping put it together. It has *much* more than prize information, but that's what I'll send you to as a starter: prizes folder. In addition to lots of other types of information (which I've barely had a chance to skim over) the prize bookmarks point to lots of technical content that will be of interest to Centennial Challenge teams.

I can barely fathom where this might go, but the site clearly has a lot of potential to be an important resource.

Update (evening): RLV News and Transterrestrial Musings also have posts on this with comments. I'm also changing the name in the link per Ken's comment in the RLV News post.

More GLXP Teams in Formation Stages

I don't know which ones will make it to fully registered status, let alone to the Moon, but it's fun to see new teams in the formation process. Some of them do it publicly with web sites to help gather team members.

In the GLXP Forum, someone with an advertising background (probably just as important to GLXP teams as engineering) is looking for a French team. Here's the one they found:

I also noticed a couple others:

Googlokhod - Google Lunar X PRIZE Team From Russia - I mentioned them before, but hadn't noticed them on the GLXP Forum until now.


Popular Mechanics - South Africa edition - LunaTrex - They had some corrections to the "regular" edition earlier, so it will be interesting to see what they think of this one. Their comments are still TBD.

Former NASA Science Chief Alan Stern joins Odyssey Moon, the first registered competitor in the Google Lunar X PRIZE - Spaceref posts the press release on the Alan Stern news. Of course this begs the question of whether or not some other prominent planetary scientists, especially those known for lunar work, will get involved in some way with the GLXP.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Software Development and Aerospace Engineering

It's time to learn from the principles of spacecraft software development, says David Fearon. - PC Pro - The article points out that mainstream computer software developers should learn a thing or two from space systems. The DARPA Urban Challenge and Armadillo Aerospace's work in the Lunar Lander Challenge are used as examples of difficult, unforgiving environments.

I agree that some space computing successes can give "mainstream" software developers lessons in fault tolerance, safe and robust programming, making the most of limited hardware, and so on. However, I'd also make the argument that "mainstream" software development has lessons to give to aerospace engineering, too, in terms of satisfying consumers, quick development, mass production, and so on. Armadillo is an example that can be used in both directions of this discussion; I'd make the case that more often than not they're bringing software practices into the aerospace world. In either case, when transferring lessons from one field to another, it's necessary to intelligently apply the right lessons in the right circumstances. Transferring them blindly from one situation to another can be a disaster.

Genomics and Automotive X PRIZEs

From the X PRIZE Foundation News Scroller:

X marks the spot in oil crisis - NY Daily News - The article describes the good timing of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE as airlines and auto manufacturers take big painful measures to survive high fuel costs.

Turning personalized medicine into reality - - The BIO International Convention is happening in San Diego, and that's a good time to feature the Archon Genomics X PRIZE, which the article does along with other progress in genomics. Marc Hodosh represented the Genomics prize yesterday at the CA Pavilion.

Can a Car Save You $1,300 a Year? Cars That Get 100 MPGe Can, and They're Being Built Right Now - - So, how would you use $1,300/year if you could save that much on gas?

Beam Power Games as a Robotics Competition

The Space Elevator Blog points out another article that features the Kansas City Space Pirates in the context of robotics. It also mentions several other robotics competitions:

FIRST Robotics Competion
Hitec Robotics Cup

Comment on X PRIZE Blog

Will Pomerantz at the X PRIZE Foundation space area invites you to comment on future XPF blogging at the Pomerantz Report.

Masten Hints

On the Space Fellowship forums, Ben at Masten posted the following a few days ago:

We've been working on fixing the old engine modules and changing the various parts that need changed for this vehicle, as well as fixing the two engines that have issues from the crash. I built casters and caster adapters for it (code name Pollux so we can move it around the shop. We stuck the modules on today so that we can finish up the LOX plumbing, which Wayne (the intern) has been working on.

I expect we'll take a photo and stick it up on the blog later this week. The new 36" tank for 0.2 should be showing up as well, and we'll be doing some more abusing of the new igniters.

Regolith Challenge Up To 25 Teams

It's a short, dense post from the California Space Authority, so I'll just include the whole thing:

Team registration has closed, and there are a total of 25 teams currently registered to compete in the 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge. There was a nice write-up about it in Sat-News Daily yesterday.

Of the 5 new teams, I think it's interesting that one of them is the McGill LunarEx Design Team. In the Team Background page for this team at the Teams area, they say

The decision to be part of this challenge was a direct consequence of McGill’s participation in the NASA centennial Space Elevator Challenge. Being part of that competition and the highly innovative environment it presented only motivated the branching out to other interesting challenges.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Busy GLXP Day

There's usually plenty of news with the Google X PRIZE. Today is no exception:

Alan Stern joins Odyssey Moon - RLV News - I also agree with a lot of the things Stern did with an unfavorable budget in his short tenure at the head of NASA Science, from the absolutely vital decision to encourage suborbital science, to making projects stick to their budgets. I don't agree with everything - for example, although I appreciate how badly Mars scientists want Mars samples returned, I'm skeptical about raising the profile of that goal now because of the difficulty of doing it reliably with current space access costs without busting the Mars science budget. Let it wait for CATS (we can always use more people that want CATS). However, I still think he gets an "A", and he should be a good addition to the Odyssey Moon team as Science Mission Director.

Weapons Tech Maverick Shoots for Moon - Wired Danger Room - Wired mentions a voting contest at the Google Lunar X PRIZE site, and a related appeal from LunaTrex.

You can vote and see the results at the main GLXP site. Go ahead and vote for your favorite team. I don't know which is my favorite - I have different favorites depending on whether I'm thinking about the chances they'll get the money to enable a win, bring together the technologies needed to get there, lower space access costs, win a bonus prize, inspire space and STEM education, and so on.

I think Will Pomerantz suspects why LunaTrex is so much in the lead in the vote ...

Discovering Water/Ice on the Lunar Surface - LunaTrex - They start a conversation on the topic, and Will points out a GLXP forum discussion based on the post. The discussion has started with lunar mapper Phil Stooke.

More Details on 2008 Cansat Competition Results

I wasn't very satisfied with my post this Monday on the 2008 Cansat results because I was only able to find a trickle of the information I expected to find. However, I see from the AAS twitter posts that a lot more result photos and slides were posted a few hours ago (and in fact the twitter posts already showed one thing I wasn't able to find on Monday - the top 5 winners). So ... here's a more thorough set of 2008 Cansat results:

Flickr photos - all merged into 1 album (twitter says more photos from students are expected soon)

slide shows from the 10 teams (they had a presentation as well as a rocket competition)

AAS Cansat page which now has the photos and slide shows organized by team (but it seems the Flickr link there is mixed up at the moment, and is a mixture of AAS and Flickr URLs - I had better luck with the link above)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AXP Updates: Musk's Tesla, Tata, RIP SUVs, and More

The following are all from X PRIZE Cars:

Automotive X Prize News for June 1st, 2008 - This includes an article predicting costs of carbon fibers to be drop (allowing strong lightweight materials to be deployed in vehicles, thus increasing mileage), open source cars (like GLXP's FredNet?), ZAP Motors, Musk's Tesla, Aptera, the Cornell AXP team, and much more.

Automotive X Prize News for June 8th, 2008 - This week's AXP news includes Neil Young's effort, the Tata Nano, the electric Chevy Volt (not in the AXP but related), Progressive Insurance AXP sponsorship marketing value (I say wait for the actual races, which is when I think it will pay off if it does at all), and, of course, much more.

Automotive X Prize News: June 15th, 2008 - There's more about Tesla, and a Wired article with the following quote:

"The SUV as a lifestyle choice, as a personal statement, is dead," Aaron Bragman, an industry analyst at Global Insight, tells "People are downsizing from their big trucks to smaller cars."

What's surprising isn't that SUVs are dead, but how quickly they fell.


The shift has the auto industry reeling. U.S. auto sales plummeted almost across the board last month - among the biggies, only Honda and Nissan posted gains - amid a staggering decline in light truck sales: 37 percent at General Motors, 25 percent at Ford and 12 percent at Toyota. The Japanese automaker saw sales of its Tundra pickup fall 33 percent.

Ouch. Even if gas prices go down 1 or 2 dollars/gallon for a sustained amount of time (it could happen, but counting on it would be a gamble), it could be many years before consumers feel confident they won't go back up. It's time for some serious innovation by auto manufacturers that want cars that are fuel efficient to sell and comfortable enough to sell.

N-Prize on Space Fellowship

N-Prize Founder, Dr. Paul Dear Talks to the Space Fellowship about Starting up a Space Prize (with a Bottle of Pinot Grigio) - Space Fellowship (link thanks to RLV News) - This email interview shows how Dr. Dear wants to put the fun back into space with the tiny prize for a tiny satellite on a tiny budget.

Astronaut Glove Hands in Space

Space for All covers the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival at the National Mall. One of the exhibits demonstrates kid-sized versions of Peter Homer's gloves that won the 2007 Astronaut Glove Challenge. We saw some exhibits being set up for NASA's 50th anniversary there when we went to the ISDC, but unfortunately missed this one.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Anti Matters

I often can't tell how official or real this kind of thing is, so I just pass them along so you can use your own judgement.

Watch This Space -, "The Blogger Presence of Odyssey Moon Limited" - post by James Antifaev. I'm not sure what they'd do differently there than at the GLXP Teams site, but maybe we will find out.

From a table in the Prince Edward Island Room - Anti Matters - James Antifaev, whose profile indicates he's an ISU graduate student and was involved with the ISU's GLXP Student Competition team. From the post:

I'm working at Odyssey Moon. They are awesome. They will win the Google Lunar X Prize.

I am considering competing in another prize competition, albeit a much smaller one. You could say the prize is almost 'negligible'. That might be a clue. Nothing else to say about it currently as we are still doing feasibility studies.

Here are a couple of older posts at Anti Matters:

Things I Like - NIAC and Centennial Challenges - he encourages the CSA to try to implement their version of these small and innovative NASA programs.

Burt Rutan is the Neil Young of Space - Check the pictures and you'll see why in their expressions. Not only that, but they both go after X PRIZEs - Burt won the Ansari X PRIZE and Neil wants to win the Automotive X PRIZE.

Space Review on SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History

Review: SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History - The Space Review - Jeff Foust reviews this book by Dan Linehan about the winner of the Ansari X PRIZE. I was tempted to get this recently while checking out books in the National Air and Space Museum bookstore near the SpaceShipOne display, but wound up getting a different one on the urgent advise of someone who might have already gotten it as a present - ?

Space Review on University Rover Challenge

Every Monday morning I have a decision: read the Space Review or get to work on time. This week I chose work, and didn't get to read a couple prize-related articles until night after class.

University students prove they are up to the challenge - Space Review - Kevin Sloan and Alex Kirk review the Mars Society's recent University Rover Challenge.


The Space Elevator Blog has a post about high-power lasers.

2008 CanSat Competition Results I Can Find

Some 2008 CanSat Competition information has been posted. Right now the information on the AAS CanSat site doesn't seem right - the links for the individual schools at the bottom seem to point to incorrect places. There is some information though:

Flickr - a few photos

Slideshare - slide presentations; currently Tuskegee University presentation is available

Warning: Great Success - UNH apparently wins ... since I don't see the results anywhere else I'll have to go with their blog ... more pictures are promised
Cansat Day 3 - UNH Day 3 - presentations
We are go for launch - UNH Day 2 - rocketry
another flight, another massive DS session - UNH Day 1 - getting there

June 16 GLXP Team Posts

Check their site every day ... there's usually something new there. Today:

Secondary/Tertiary Payloads - LunaTrex - They're thinking about being launched as the title indicates. They also have an idea for a bonus prize.

Launch Vehicle - software integration - Advaeros - Kalman filter software work is happening (if I read it correctly).

Wheel Machining - Astrobotic - A video shows a design in software being turned into reality. Every garage should have one.

Update (evening):

Cringely: The Other Side of the Story - The Pomerantz Report - Will responds to the Cringely post where his team exits the GLXP for several reasons dealing with X PRIZE Foundation management of the prize. Ahhh ... nothing like a bit of controversy to spice things up! I won't take sides - I'll just hope that a bit of frustration inspires the Cringely team to a great GLXP-upstaging, media-sponsored effort in reaching the Moon by, say, 2010.

Baltimore City Public School joins JURBAN Team - Jurban - The team makes some contacts with Baltimore student robotics leaders and their instructors.

Current Rover Testing Platform - Astrobotic - rover test picture

Update (on June 17, in spite of my post's original title): NC State University engineering students show previous work to Team STELLAR - Team STELLAR, of course - this one is a video showing what the title says it does

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Student Innovation Competitions in Different Fields

The University of Southern California Stevens Institute for Innovation lists several student-oriented innovation competitions:

Collegiate Inventors Competition - The Competition promotes exploration in invention, science, engineering, technology, and other creative endeavors and provides a window on the technologies from which society will benefit in the future. ... One Undergraduate and one Graduate winner or team each receive $15,000. One Grand Prize winner or team receives $25,000. Academic advisors of each winning team also receive a cash award.

Medical Engineering Innovation Challenge - The sponsors are announcing a request for innovative ideas from multidisciplinary teams of students that broadly relate to innovative medical research for the wartime soldier or tactical team. Each proposal is to identify a near term medical technology to help today’s modern wartime soldier, surgeon, nurse or other. The prizes total $150,000. The main events were scheduled in May.

Fourth Annual USC Business Plan and Technology Commercialization Plan Competition - There was $50,000 in prizes on the line; winners have already been selected. Will there be a fifth competition?

Update on African Agriculture Prize Proposal

One of the first batch of papers I read when getting interested in the innovation prize area was a William Masters paper on innovation prizes in the area of African agriculture. Here's the latest paper in that effort:

Accelerating innovation with prize rewards: History and typology of technology prizes and a new contest design for innovation in African agriculture - William A. Masters and Benoit Delbecq - As with earlier documents, this one gives a history of some of the major innovation prizes, including the space prizes discussed most often on this blog. These innovation prizes are contrasted with other methods of encouraging innovation. Some disadvantages of typical innovation prizes are discussed, and a new type of prize design is suggested for overcoming these disadvantages. This design is contrasted with the X PRIZE style of innovation prize, where "the new technology's characteristics are pre-specified" and "payment is a fixed sum". In the case of the proposed design the technology characteristics are unknown at prize design time, and prize payment is based on the level of success achieved and measured.

This method is described in the context of a prize for innovations in African agriculture, an area that is described as being particularly suitable for such a prize design. Other fields suggested as appropriate for this class of design include education and energy efficiency.


This is the first of 3 posts I plan to make in quick succession on some of those "other" innovation prizes. These aren't space prizes, and not all of them are technical in nature - but then again some of the barriers the space prizes attempt to break down are more legal, regulatory, market, social, and financial than technical, too. They all involve prizes and competition featuring innovation of one sort or another. I think it's a good idea for people interested in space prizes to see what's going on in innovation competitions for other industries, and vice versa.

The first set are from Changemakers, which I mentioned in a recent post. They have several prize competitions running and planned:

The Geotourism Challenge - From the overview: National Geographic is committed to protecting the world's distinctive places. To further our mission, we welcome you to the global Geotourism Challenge: Celebrating Places/Changing Lives, the first of three annual collaborative competitions in partnership with Ashoka's Changemakers.

The goal of the Geotourism Challenge is to identify and showcase innovators-individuals and organizations- that support the approach known as geotourism: tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place-its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.

Ending Global Slavery: Everyday Heroes Leading the Way - Again, from the overview: Humanity United and Changemakers are launching a global online competition to identify innovative approaches to exposing, confronting and ending modern-day slavery. We hope you will join us. Between April 2nd and June 18th, 2008, we invite you to propose ways to end this worldwide crisis and create a universal standard of human dignity.

Banking on Social Change – Seeking Financial Solutions for All - They don't present the details yet: Citi and Changemakers are parterning to launch a global search for innovations around financial transactions for social change. Learn more about the competition beginning in July 2008.

Unreasonably Long Day Testing

Got home at 2:25 am - Unreasonable Rocket - Getting home late isn't all that bad ... unless you started really early. Paul gives a review of a very long day of testing. He didn't report any major problems.

2008 Student UAS Competition

2008 Student UAS Competition - This is one of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International student competitions. This one is for Unmanned Aerial Systems. In this case the concept of the mission in the challenge is a flying unmanned system that supports the U.S. Marines. Its job is to fly on a predefined route, but with changes due to emerging enemy threats, and to quickly locate and identify targets. Prizes have been in the >$20,000 range in past years.

The other competitions are for Arial Robotics (in this case not remotely controlled by humans), Intelligent Ground Vehicles, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, and Autonomous Surface Vehicles.

I did notice 1 theater of operations that isn't represented (yet) in that list. This is one that's fairly expensive to get to at the moment, but I'm sure a student competition based on a simulation of that environment, or the ground-based parts of it, would be possible.

Part 3 of Selenian Orbital Access Methodologies

As part of a series on orbital space access, Jon from Selenian Boondocks and Masten Space Systems describes the Pop-up TSTO (Two Stage to Orbit) concept. The concept is applicable at least generally to the Lunar Lander Challenge for the first of the two stages:

The first stage reenters and lands vertically like the suborbital vehicles that we at MSS, as well as our friends at Armadillo Aerospace, TGV, and Blue Origin are trying to do.

As Jon mentions, the types of suborbital vehicles the LLC is encouraging can, when operational, also help develop technology for the second of the two stages, for example by allowing cheaper testing of thermal protection systems with a small scale second stage launched from an operational LLC-derived (or similar) vehicle.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Another Unreasonable Milestone

Unreasonable Rocket is up early and ready for some testing on a vehicle with all hardware (but not software) complete.

2008 CanSat Competition Under Way

As RLV News posted yesterday, the big U.S. 2008 CanSat Competition (there are big ones in other countries, and there are small ones too) is being held this weekend in the Amarillo Texas region. The location is the launch site of POTROCS (Panhandle of Texas Rocketry Society), a Tripoli high power rocketry chapter.

The main mission of launching, landing, monitoring, and possibly uprighting the CanSat within specified parameters isn't the only challenge. The bonus points for the mission remind me of the Mars Phoenix lander for some reason. They include a 360 panaramic image, digging at least 5 grams of soil, measuring ground and subsurface temperature, meteorological measurements, and precise landing. There are 5 cash prizes; the largest is $2500.

Kirk Kittell has mapped out a trip to Amarillo to broadcast the competition for the AAS. You can see the AAS media plans and schedule for the competition at their CanSat site. They include live blogging, Flickr photos, Slideshare slide presentations, YouTube videos, Facebook results, and more. See their site for links to all of these - but although the links work there's not much to see at the time I'm posting this since the main event hasn't happened yet. Be patient ...

Twenty university teams are listed for the competition. Here are links to a couple that I found web pages for:

UNH WildCats - new team from the University of New Hampshire with an entry called WildCatSat

Michigan Tech CanSat - SNOES project - Self Navigating Optics Emplacement System - any reference to excessive snow in their acronym is purely coincidental, I'm sure. (I don't think that 35 foot snow "thermometer" I linked to would be good for CanSat bonus point measurements anyway). On my browser I had to scroll down to see the actual content.

Update (Sunday Jun 15) - From the AAS site:

We have a spotty internet connection this morning, making it quite difficult to upload photos and presentations. We’ll still post to Twitter, but the rest may have to wait until Monday. Sorry about that — we thought we were going to do something cool for you from the site…

Friday, June 13, 2008

EuroNews GLXP Video

Crater Expectations – privateers chase lunar prize - EuroNews - linked by RLV News - This 8 minute video report features a few of the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams and their diverse approaches at the recent Team Summit. Hopefully this will inspire more European teams to join the competition.

NSS Space Elevator Team in Ad Astra

National Space Society (NSS) - Going Up - Space Elevator Blog - This post features an Ad Astra article on the NSS Space Elevator Team. I haven't gotten my copy in the mail yet, but I'll be sure to read it when I get it. The post also shows the NSS team's brochures.

By the way, the NSS team is having a quilt raffle.

Prize Charity

Charity Prize Fight - Conde Nast - linked by the X PRIZE Foundation news ticker - This article gives an overview of prize philanthropy and business. It features a number of prizes and prize organizations I've mentioned here, like Changemakers, Innocentive, the Virgin Earth Challenge, and the X PRIZEs. There are a couple of items that are news to me:

On the Virgin Earth Challenge: a spokeswoman for Virgin U.S.A. says "hundreds" of entries have been submitted already, but a winner has not yet been chosen

On Progressive Insurance's sponsorship of the Automotive X PRIZE: the company plans to spend millions more on promoting the event, says Progressive's director of special projects, Brian Silva.

NG LLC Full Steam (or Methane, or ...) Ahead

NGLLC 2008 Up and Running! - The Pomerantz Report - Registrations for the 2008 competition are starting to come in, and from where Will sits it looks like the teams are better prepared than ever.

Preserving Lunar History

RLV News points out a Smithsonian Magazine article that discusses the historical value of the Apollo and other early lunar sites: Space Race II -
Scientists worry that a contest to send robotic rovers to the moon will threaten lunar landmarks

This discussion is in the context of the Google Lunar X PRIZE bonus prize for taking images of such sites.

Obviously a balance needs to be found between preserving historical space sites and encouraging those sites to have long-term meaning by following them up with additional space efforts. The balance is complicated by the fact that the GLXP visitors would be historical in their own right.

There's been a discussion about this subject in the GLXP Forums: Apollo Site Preservation. Some excerpts:

Will Pomerantz: This is a hot issue of discussion nowadays, evidently. Stay tuned for upcoming articles on this issue in a few major publications! This will also be a topic of discussion at the upcoming Team Summit.

Phil Stooke: I will be preparing maps of all Apollo sites to illustrate potential landing areas and access routes, as I did for Apollo 17. I will present them at the Lunar Science Conference at Ames in July, and make them available afterwards.

Phil Stooke: Check out the June issue of Smithsonian magazine for an article on this topic. Quotes from Will, map by yours truly, and an update on efforts by various groups to preserve these sites or regulate activities. I should mention there is a forthcoming book on this topic as well.

Cumbrain Sky recently had a post on this subject, which mentioned another discussion about site preservation during the GLXP at Unmanned Spaceflight.

Mew Mexico State Lunar Legacy Project - This is linked in the Smithsonian article.

GLXP Spacecraft Subsystem Design Tour

The latest from the Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams site includes a burst of posts from Micro-Space:

Communications - The GLXP requires significant amounts of data to be returned from the Moon. This post discusses engineering tradeoffs balancing communication signal and noise based on different Earth-based antenna types and lunar transmitter power. Now just imagine how hard the problem gets at Mars and beyond ...

Thermal Lander Challenges - Micro-Space moves on to another necessary spacecraft subsystem.

Google Lunar Communications Summary - This continues (and repeats a bit of) the previous discussions, but using the SETI antennas (from that Preferred GLXP Partner) as a case study. I'll leave it to the Electrical Engineers to check the math and engineering ...

Rovers and Lunar Regolith: A Quick Note - This note on the properties of lunar regolith and how rover wheels would work in it may be directed at some rover test posts by one of the other teams.

Testing Four Wheels - Speaking of which, Astrobotic posts a rover wheel picture with some short comments about testing. In the past they've posted several other rover test videos and pictures.

Joseph Gangestad post: "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Pixels"; a primer in understanding lunar digital imagery - LunaTrex posts on the CCD subsystem needed to take those images/videos the GLXP requires.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Terra Engineering Hint: LADAR

I already mentioned this post by Regolith Challenge team Tech Ranch on another challenge - the Beam Power one. I'm mentioning it again because now a comment from Todd Mendenhall gives some hints about another Regolith Team (and former DARPA Challenger) - Terra Engineering (at last year's Regolith Challenge called Mendenhall BFD).

Ratan Tata and Michael Boustridge Join X PRIZE Foundation Board of Directors

Business Icon Ratan Tata and IT Services Leader Michael Boustridge Join X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees - X PRIZE Foundation press release:

Tata is the Chairman of Tata Sons, holding company of the Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate. Michael Boustridge is the President of BT Americas, a high-growth region of BT Global Services.

Tata Motors is the first major automobile manufacturer to enter the Automotive X PRIZE competition for non-concept cars that can get 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). It seems like every week makes it more and more numbingly obvious (if it wasn't already plenty obvious 5 years ago when gas was cheap) that manufacturers are missing a big opportunity when they neglect the efficient car market and marketing opportunities like the AXP.

It's a similar story with commercial space opportunities and some (not all, and not every division) of the big aerospace contractor companies. Cost plus government contracts seem nice now and probably will play some long-term role, just like SUV sales, but is the writing already on the wall for them as the centerpiece of a healthy business?

2008 Baen Memorial Writing Contest

Some time ago Jim Baen's Universe announced the 2008 winners of the James Patrick Baen Memorial Writing Contest.

SFWA describes the prizes (in addition to the winner getting the story in the online magazine, and paid professional rates for it):

Each of the three winners will receive a subscription to Jim Baen's Universe, a membership in the National Space Society, and assorted Baen and NSS merchandise.

The awards will be presented by contest administrator and fellow science fiction writer, William Ledbetter at the 27th
International Space Development Conference, in Washington D.C. on Saturday May 31st, 2008.

I had some family visits during my ISDC trip, so I missed the awards, which I assume were at the ISDC gala.

2008 Shaw Prize

Spaceref has a press release from the European Southern Observatory on this year's winner of the Shaw Prize for Astronomy:

The Shaw Prize in Astronomy for 2008 is awarded to Professor Reinhard Genzel, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), in recognition of his outstanding contribution in demonstrating that the Milky Way contains a supermassive black hole at its centre, a result largely obtained with the help of ESO's telescopes.

The Shaw annual prize for Astronomy carries a monetary award of US$1 million.

There are also Shaw Prizes for Life Sciences and Mathematics.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Armadillo Engine Development and Methane Work

RLV News has the latest every-month-or-so Armadillo status update. Happily, he notes that there's even more going on than he's posting about.

Carbon Nanotube Sheet

Scientists Unveil the World's Largest Sheet of Carbon Nanotubes - Actual Technical Reviews - As you'll see in the picture, it's big enough to be an actual sheet on a (rather small) bed. The article is on Nanocomp, a company working with Tether Challenge team Delta-X. Nanocomp has an article on this (with the picture) dated Feb 19, so it's not breaking news.

Google Founder and Space Adventures

It's not directly related to space prizes, but my news searcher found tons of articles on it with minor references to the Google Lunar X PRIZE:

GOOGLE CO-FOUNDER AIMS FOR SPACE - Cosmic Log - Here I picked one article that happens to cover the subject (Sergei Brin investing in a Space Adventures trip to the ISS) in a lot of detail, and that covers related subjects (some loosely related to the X PRIZE Foundation and the Ansari X PRIZE) as well. I doubt that a lot of the other article have this piece of information:

In a follow-up phone call, Anderson told me that another would-be space traveler - whom he would not name - contacted him just minutes after today's news conference. "I spoke to the person, who just signed up for the No. 2 spot," he said.

In other Google-related news, Google Lunar X PRIZE team Astrobotic posts about a Samsung visit. There are pictures, but the text couldn't have been much shorter. If you check the comments you'll see that Will Pomerantz wants to know more about the visit (and, for what it's worth, I'll second that).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

LunaTrex Trio and More GLXP

Today there are 3 posts from LunaTrex:

Popular Mechanics Article Errors and Edits - setting a few things straight

New X PRIZE - LunaTrex has a couple suggestions.

LunaTrex new Facility - They show some graphics of a new building that AirBuoyant, LLC, plans to build. In addition to other AirBuoyant business, LunaTrex hardware will be built there, and a mission control site will be located there.

There's also a post be STELLAR:

ISU and Team STELLAR press announcements help us build our team - qualified people of several types are joining now that they've heard the news

I'm not sure if there are any permanent links to this, but the main GLXP page has a featured article about the Team Summit. A major part of the article is a review of the loss of SCSG as a competing team.

Monday, June 09, 2008

June 9 MultiPost

I'm pressed for time today (this may happen more and more often as that Lion King Circle of Life thing goes around), so I'm going to compress my posts:

From the X PRIZE Foundation news ticker: Commentary: Moore's vs. Newton's Laws - Mobile Handset Design Line - While considering the Google Lunar X PRIZE, Electrical Engineers marvel at the progress that's been made in electronics while rocketry has more or less stood still. Are the fundamental causes differences in physics and chemistry as the editorial implies, or are they differences in industrial structure, marketing, government policy, media, finance, and regulation?

Latest from the Kansas City Space Pirates - Space Elevator Blog - Progress on several fronts is described, but the familiar problem of finances shows itself again.

Briefs: The Space Show this week; Unreasonable paperwork - RLV News - In the spirit of paving the regulatory path for rocketeers of the future, Unreasonable Rocket will be publishing their Lunar Lander Challenge FAA again when it's complete.

The 16th Annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition happened on May 30 - June 2 in Rochester, Michigan. I haven't found a general summary of the event, but here are some IGVC sites from Chicago EDT (lots of pictures), University of Detroit ("victory is ours") and Princeton. The Princeton site notes:

PAVE is very proud to announce that our participation in the 2008 IGVC competition has been extremely successful. We have won the following awards:

- 6th Place Autonomous Challenge (lane-following / obstacle avoidance)
- Completed JAUS Challenge (ability to communicate over the DoD’s standard message protocol for unmanned systems)
- 4th Place Navigation Challenge (GPS waypoint-following / obstacle avoidance)
- 1st Place Design Challenge (based on technical paper, oral presentation and robot inspection)
- Rookie of the Year
- 3rd Place overall (out of 47 teams)

Google Lunar X PRIZE Twitter - You'll see lots of micro-posts here, including notes about X PRIZE Foundation and Lunar X PRIZE YouTube and Web Site design changes in progress, software gadgets, links to the latest news, etc.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mars Society's 2008 University Rover Challenge Winners Announced

The University Rover Challenge site gives a run-down on what happened at the event. It sounds like there were lots of ups and downs and last-minute victories pulled from the jaws of defeat. Here's the official announcement from the event. An excerpt:

After two days of intense competition and hard work from all involved, Oregon State University captured first place in the 2008 University Rover Challenge tonight at the Mars Desert Research Station. They narrowly beat out the defending champions from the University of Nevada Reno. Following hot on their heels in third place was first-time entrant from the York University of Toronto, Canada.

"This year's Rover Challenge was a real success," said URC Director Kevin Sloan. "Not only did we have more teams than last year, the overall quality of the rovers was considerably higher this year. All of the teams should be very proud of their rovers, and of their skills in controlling them. The level of skill on display was amazing."

N-Prize Interview

The Space Show has an interview of Dr. Paul Dear, who made the N-Prize. This is a small (by orbital space standards) cash prize for an inexpensive system to launch and track a tiny orbiting satellite. You can add "extremely" in front of "small", "inexpensive", and "tiny" in the previous sentence. The sense of humor you see on the N-Prize site (eg: they say "impossibly small", "ludicriously small" and "pitifully small") also comes through in the interview.

On the N-Prize teams site, you can see a list of several teams that have already signed up. With the small prize, Dr. Dear is hoping for the type of innovative thinking that often comes from hobbyist and student teams having fun competing and going after an interesting objective. Anyway, that's all the money he could spare. During the interview, several team members, and potential future team members, called in.

Of the 5 teams on the teams page at the moment, here are the ones with web sites listed:

South African Rocketry Association
Generation Space

Here's the N-Prize Google Discussion Group.

You can get N-Prize merchandise at Cafe Press, where they promise that

50% of all profits from this store will go towards beer. The remainder will be squandered. We felt you should know that.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Lunar Art Winners

NASA Lunar Art Contest winners - Space for All - There are links to the contest, winning art, and press release. A new contest is expected in September 2008.

NASA Essay Competition Winners

NASA 50th Anniversary Essay Competition Winners Announced - NASA press release

Here's the IPP site where you can actually see the prizes and the winning essays: 50th Anniversary Essay Competition Winners

First Dogs, and next the GLXP Manx

In keeping with the spirit of fair and balanced blogging in the competitive world of cats and dogs after my BonNova canine mascot post, here's the Manx:

Odyssey firms help Mars mission -

Things are looking good for the Manx mission to the moon after two of its contractors supplied equipment to NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander.

MacDonald Dettwiler and Optech Incorporated are both based in Canada and built a laser radar system which is used in the spacecraft’s meteorological station.

ODYSSEY MOON PARTNERS REACH MARS - Bob Richards, CEO Odyssey Moon on Google Lunar X PRIZE site - This goes into more detail than the article above, and provides a link to a Mars weather report based on their work.

While I'm posting on the GLXP, I'll send these, too:

Drawbar Testing 2 - Astrobotic - The video explains the drawbar test.

The rules for the diversity bonus prize aren't clear yet (true also for some other areas and bonuses). FredNet gives some ideas on it on the GLXP Forums. There's also a discussion on preserving historical sites while going for the bonus prize that encourages imaging such sites.

BonNova Rocket Dog

What's a team without a mascot? It's a short BonNova update, so I'll just include the whole thing:

05/01/2008 - Team BonNova unanimously elected their mascot this week, a gold Chow Chow named "Auroara Sky." She beat out all competition and is now an official rocket dog. Sky is seen in this photo at the latest rocket engine test fire. Her duties include attending meetings, overseeing progress of the Lauryad, barking at the moon, and eating as many treats as the team can give her.

Note the spelling of "Auroara Sky".

Friday, June 06, 2008

2008 University Mars Rover Challenge

The Mars Society's University Rover Challenge is now in progress:

Anticipation Builds for 2008 University Rover Challenge - Mars Society post from a few days ago

Yesterday was for checking out the Mars Society Desert Research Station site. Then:

Competition begins on Friday, June 6, with the Construction, and Soil Characterization Tasks, and runs through Saturday, June 7, with the Emergency Navigation, and Geology Tasks.

Here's the University Rover Challenge site, where you can get updates. There are already some pictures and text updates.

Here's the Teams site. As you can see, SPAM is a proven rover power source.

The Oregon State University team has a YouTube Channel and website. They've also been posting about their progress before and during the competition. They didn't find any signs of intelligent life during the drive to the Mars habitat area, but finally found reptilian life.

Iowa State students engineer rover for Mars challenge - Iowa State University College of Engineering: Decagon Devices, the company that designed the soil probe and environmental sensors that are on NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft, which landed on Mars on May 25, donated a probe to the team and is also serving as a sponsor.

YURT - York University Rover Team

2008 Lunar Lander Challenge Dates and Location

As reported at RLV News and the X PRIZE Foundation press release page, the 2008 Lunar Lander Challenge will be held at New Mexico's Holloman Air Force Base on October 24-25. This matches what I understood was the X PRIZE Foundation goal of having the event near the ISPS (International Symposium on Personal Spaceflight) in space and time.

I guess I have to use the new acronym ISPCS because "Commercial" is now in the name, if not in the URL. ISPCS is on October 22-23. The ISPCS also promises

a veritable “Space Week” in New Mexico developing -- including the free Sugerman Public Forum on Tuesday October 21st, ISPCS 2008 on Wednesday and Thursday and other concentric events to be announced, all in Las Cruces.

The Sugerman Public Forum is

a free event to inform the public about Spaceport America and the emerging space industry.

Back to the XPF LLC press release. The press release doesn't mention the X PRIZE Cup. I thought the XPF would also still want that to be associated with the ISPCS, just like the LLC, but we will have to wait and see ...

You can find updated information on the Lunar Lander Challenge site.

Centennial Challenges Web Update

The Centennial Challenges website has some new (I'm not sure how new, since I haven't checked in a while) content and visuals.

The one that stands out the most to me is the map of U.S. allied organizations, competitors, and competition sites. That's a nice reference to show Congressional interests what the Challenges are already doing for them. Those various locations represent not just the listed participants, but their suppliers, sponsors, and other businesses. California in particular seems to be well-represented.

There are also a number of other visuals for the different Challenges, and there is up-to-date text on each Challenge.

There are also hints about future challenges - if the budget complies.

While you're there check out other IPP programs like FAST (Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology Development and Training):

The current focus is on testing in micro-gravity, reduced-gravity or variable-gravity conditions on parabolic aircraft flights and later on suborbital and orbital flights. ...

A second objective of FAST is to utilize commercially available flight test capabilities. ...

In Summer 2008, we expect to issue a call for proposals from the broad research community for flights to occur in 2009. This call will not be limited to SBIR companies. ...

As commercial suborbital spaceflight capabilities emerge, the FAST program will seek to use those flights for technology testing. ...

NASA awarded a contract to the Zero Gravity Corporation in January 2008 to provide commercial parabolic aircraft flights to simulate variable gravity environments for research and development work. The FAST program will utilize this commercial service.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Beam Power Ideas

Jim from prominent (still 1-person?) Regolith Excavation Challenge team Tech Ranch has some ideas on a different Centennial Challenge he once considered entering - the Beam Power Challenge.

Another XPF Guest Blog

Today there's another guest blogger at the Pomerantz Report: GUEST BLOG: Pierre-Damien Vaujour, French Intern. He worked a lot on the GLXP Student Competition, and plans more guest blogging on subjects like the LLC and GLXP in English and, to help make these the world-wide competitions they're meant to be, French.

Bears Breaking Boundaries

From Cosmic Log: the University of California, Berkeley, just announced the winners of a $179,000 competition called the Bears Breaking Boundaries Contest. This student contest is actually composed of a number of smaller sub-contests, most of which involve technological innovation of one sort or another to address the world's problems. The areas covered don't include space, but space could (and should) be applied in many of them. The areas are

energy and environment, curricular innovation, neglected diseases, improving student life, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, information technology for society and new collaborations with non-profit organizations.

General Aviation Challenge Overlaps Oshkosh Air Show?

EAA AirVenture 2008, the big air show held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has thousands of aircraft, including many homebuilts and other small planes. The spirit of the event is friendly to small space startups. In fact, the Tuesday of the event is "Learn about Space Tourism" day with Sir Richard Branson and homebuilt plane pioneer Burt Rutan, while Friday starts a 2-day Rocket Racing League exhibition race. The AirVenture Museum even has a SpaceShipOne replica. It's not an event, or a community, for entrepreneurial space interests to ignore. Of course there are a lot of diverse aviation displays, workshops, tours, air shows, celebrities, and more.

The Oshkosh show is scheduled for July 28-August 3. However, the General Aviation Challenge all the way in California was scheduled to start registration on August 3, which would surely be a conflict for aviation fans and GAT teams. To enable people to attend both events (perhaps flying their own planes from 1 to the other), the GAT registration start is rescheduled to go until 8 PM August 4.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Pablo de Leon and a Human Spaceflight Course

Pablo de Leon has been involved with several space prize competitions, including the Ansari X PRIZE, the Astronaut Glove Challenge, and ARCA's GLXP effort. He's also involved with an interesting-sounding 1-week summer course on human spaceflight at the University of North Dakota:

The course will consist of a full week of intensive, theoretical classes with an active, hands-on component using the flight and space simulators, flight time in UND airplanes, space suit training and the high altitude chamber at UND. Participants of the workshop can earn a maximum of 3.84 CEUs (Continuing Education Units).

Here's a more graphical overview of the course, and here's the program for the course. It looks like although Pablo is the contact for the course, according to the program there are a number of other instructors during the week.

GLXP Guest and Team Blogging

GUEST BLOG: Mike Fabio, Google Liaison - The Pomerantz Report - Mike is in charge of GLXP new media outreach, and he says the buildup of GLXP new media presence will continue. Here are some things to look forward to:

... we're developing a YouTube video contest, some great educational material for teachers, and maybe - just maybe - a newly designed and easy to use website.

225 years ago... - ARCA looks back to a major milestone in the history of flight

Introducing Odyssey Moon's First Intern: James Antifaev of the International Space University - James posts

Space Elevator Blog on ISDC 2008

Recently, I pointed to a couple posts at the Space Elevator Blog about presentations at the ISDC. Now, the SE Blog has a wrap-up post on the conference. (I should also mention that there are lots of other posts on ISDC there). RLV News has some evidence that the total numbers at the conference were higher than you'd see just counting those present at any 1 time.

I went to some of the ISDCs early in the decade, and I'd hazard a guess that there were 2 or 3 times as many people in attendance at this one. There also seemed to be a more business-like atmosphere about it, as if there might be business deals, hiring, and the like going on, which is interesting since it's the conference of the grass-roots NSS, not an industry group or something like that. These seem to be good trends, although of course more attendees would be better.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I Prize Finalists

Cisco Pays Big for New Ideas - Business Week - This article, care of the X PRIZE Foundation news ticker, describes some of the finalists in Cisco's I-Prize competition.