Google Lunar Race Teams Discuss Next Steps, House on the Moon
A Swedish artist is ready to make humans at home on the moon.
Illustration: The Moonhouse Project

The 18 teams still running for the Google Lunar X Prize are gathered today and tomorrow in Budapest, Hungary, for the competition's annual summit, where they'll describe their progress, trade notes, and get updates on the next stages of the race. Some also served hors d'oeuvres via rover (photos 14 and 15 in the slideshow)

Time is getting short for the main course, though. Google and X Prize Foundation announced the Lunar X Prize in 2007, and the competition is set to expire at the end of 2015, though the organizers have already extended the original 2012 deadline once.

No teams have announced firm launch dates, but of the 18 participants, a group of five teams has demonstrated good progress. These teams have been named finalists for $6 million in additional milestone prizes if they are able to perform a series of imaging, mobility, and landing tasks. While the results won't be announced until September, the teams are already showing off rover technology.

The full prize consists of US $30 million, most of which is for landing on the moon, traveling 500 meters, and sending various types of data back to the Earth, with some bonus prizes available for add-ons such as precision landings and visiting existing human artifacts.

One highlight of this year's summit is the variety of additional projects the teams have taken on, in part to fund their expensive missions. In fact, some teams decided to cut costs by sharing rockets to the moon, or even landing systems, so they can focus on completing the surface tasks and winning those awards. But at the same time, at least one team has found an innovative way of raising sponsor money.

Astrobotic, the Carnegie Mellon spin-off, announced this week that its lunar vehicle will carry a capsule provided by a Japanese beverage maker. The capsule will contain titanium plates with notes written by children, and it will also include a powder package of Pocari Sweat, a sports drink. Astrobotic says this is the first marketing campaign to be delivered on the moon.

But that wasn't the only lunar stunt discussed at the summit. Swedish artist Mikael Genberg saw the moon race as the perfect opportunity for an art project. His idea: building a traditional Swedish house on the moon. If it sounds like a crazy idea, that's because it is; but even crazier is that he might be able to pull it off. 

He's designing a self-unfolding structure, which will piggyback on the rocket of one of the teams. If it works, he will not win any part of the prize, but it might help future astronauts feel a bit more at home on the moon. (At least if they're Swedish.)

"The house will be red with white gables, it will be three by two meters in the base, and it will look like a typical Swedish red cottage," Genberg says in a project video (below).

The Conversation (0)
Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}