Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! The X-Prize Foundation just launched a new competition, offering $20 million to the first team to send a rover to the moon and send back high-definition photos. From the Beeb:
To claim the cash, any craft reaching the lunar surface must perform a series of tasks such as shoot video and roam for specific distances.
Firms interested in trying for the prize have until the end of 2012 to mount their Moonshot.
The prize money comes from Google, which is a very good sign. I like this trend of rich technology companies funding space endeavors, because it means a group of really smart and successful folks end up in charge of making this stuff actually happen. Go geeks!
I’ve been catching up on space things in preparation for the Mars Society Convention next week. Today I ran across an exciting summary of the progress that SpaceX has made toward launching their next Falcon 1 rocket as well as their much larger Falcon 9 rocket. According to the “monster progress update“, the next launch is scheduled for January 2008, with a launch of the Falcon 9 (the one big enough to carry people) in late 2008. They’ve also been doing lots of engine testing and other groundwork, plus they’ve been granted access to Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, bringing their total number of launch sites to 3.
Nicely done all around. I can’t wait to hear what SpaceX founder Elon Musk talks about at the convention.
I’m just about running out of awe lately. It’s like awesome things are showering down from the sky, perhaps in an attempt to counteract all the craptacular things that we are usually made aware of.
So you can imagine that I started reading this article about the wonders of aerogel with a depleted awe supply. Yeah, yeah, it’s really light. Great, it was developed by NASA. Sure, it’ll have all sorts of space applications. Fine, it was used as shoe insulation by a mountain climber whose only trouble was that her feet got too hot.
What was that last thing again? Really? And 6mm of it protects against a dynamite blast? Huh. And photos of it look really spooky, like there’s nothing really there. Well, now.
So now I want to get some. You know, just to have. I’m sure I could think of something to do with it…
Looks like Bigelow Aerospace has some new competition. A company called Galactic Suite has plans to build an orbiting hotel by 2012. Details are a bit sparse, but they already have $3 billion in funding to make it happen:
Galactic Suite began as a hobby for former aerospace engineer Claramunt, until a space enthusiast decided to make the science fiction fantasy a reality by fronting most of the $3 billion needed to build the hotel.
An American company intent on colonizing Mars, which sees Galaxy Suite as a first step, has since come on board, and private investors from Japan, the United States and the United Arab Emirates are in talks.
The company’s blog has a few early design ideas, but no details on how they’re actually hoping to get to orbit.
Golden-age sci-fi fans, rejoice! The future is finally here. Your skintight spacesuit has arrived:
Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT… is working on a sleek, advanced suit designed to allow superior mobility when humans eventually reach Mars or return to the moon. Her spandex and nylon BioSuit is not your grandfather’s spacesuit–think more Spiderman, less John Glenn.
Newman’s prototype suit is a revolutionary departure from the traditional model. Instead of using gas pressurization, which exerts a force on the astronaut’s body to protect it from the vacuum of space, the suit relies on mechanical counter-pressure, which involves wrapping tight layers of material around the body. The trick is to make a suit that is skintight but stretches with the body, allowing freedom of movement.
Key to their design is the pattern of lines on the suit, which correspond to lines of non-extension (lines on the skin that don’t extend when you move your leg). Those lines provide a stiff “skeleton” of structural support, while providing maximal mobility.
Let’s see… private spacecraft, check; personal cleaning robots, check; skintight spacesuit, check; wrist computer with videphone, check; bionic limbs, check; OK, who’s working on the jetpacks?