by Mark Ollig
The above lede might suitably fit next to a gossip magazine article saying: “Elvis is alive and working in Las Vegas as an Elvis-Impersonator.”
Alright, I suppose this comparison is a bit too much; I have no reason to believe Elvis is currently working in Vegas, or anywhere else, for that matter.
However, my aunt and mother will confirm yours truly does a fantastic Elvis impersonation. (Thank you, thank you very much).
We could discuss this further, but I must digress back to the subject at hand.
It’s true about the $20 million; this is the grand prize for the first team to land their space-faring, mechanical rover onto the surface of the moon.
Who is daring (and rich) enough to come up with this type of challenge?
Why, it’s none other than the folks from the all-powerful and all-knowing Google; the search engine of the Internet.
“The mission of the Google Lunar X PRIZE is to incentivize space entrepreneurs to create a new era of affordable access to the moon and beyond,” states Google’s Lunar X PRIZE webpage.
Receiving a check for $20 million seems to be providing the needed incentive for many resourceful, technical entrepreneurs.
Now, before you start building your robotic moon rover, you should know a few conditions must be met before you begin thinking about cashing the check.
Your rover will need to hitch a ride on a rocket, and travel approximately 239,000 miles from the Earth to the moon.
The rover must be delivered in a workable condition onto the lunar surface.
Once on the moon, it will turn on its camera.
Oh yes; one of Google’s requirements is your moon rover needs to be equipped with a high-definition camera.
The camera must be able to successfully transmit images and video from the moon, and back to the rest of us here on the good Earth.
I guess Google feels: “Seeing is believing.”
While on the moon, your rover will be expected to travel (under its own power) at least 550 yards across the lunar surface.
Just make sure your moon rover doesn’t get too close to any of the six Apollo landing sites.
Accidently bumping into one of the lunar module descent stages, flags, or scientific equipment still there, might cause some ill will with the NASA folks.
It would also be wise to keep a safe distance from the astronaut’s lunar footprints.
Currently, I know of two entrants who have signed up for Google’s Lunar X PRIZE challenge.
Astrobotic Technology, a company based in Pittsburgh, was part of the first-ever White House Demo Day, Aug. 4, in Washington DC.
They are a lunar logistics company delivering payloads to the moon for governments, businesses, colleges, non-profits, and individuals.
“With its partner, Carnegie Mellon University, Astrobotic is pursuing the Google Lunar X PRIZE,” according to a White house press release.
President Obama, knowing of their plans for the moon, said; “And then there are the folks at Astrobotic Technology in Pittsburgh. They are shooting for the moon – literally – with plans to land a rover on the lunar surface in the next couple of years, which is pretty exciting. I wouldn’t mind seeing how that turns out.”
Another team with plans for a rover moon landing is optimistically called: Moon Express.
According to Google’s Lunar X PRIZE website, Moon Express has signed a “launch contract” with launch service provider Rocket Lab, which is based in Los Angeles.
However, Rocket Lab has yet to launch any rockets.
Once Moon Express has verified its launch contract, they will also be included in the official competition.
If you want to be part of this race to the moon, you’ll need to get a verified launch contract to the folks at Google’s Lunar X PRIZE,by Dec. 31, 2016.
You should also get busy building your lunar rover.
Yours truly already has plans for constructing a moon rover from a combination of LEGO blocks and an iPhone.
Chanda Gonzales is the education manager for Google Lunar X PRIZE, and can be followed on Twitter at: @ChandaGo.
So, if you’re interested in winning the $20 million grand prize from Google by being first to get a working, lunar-roving vehicle to the moon, visit: http://lunar.xprize.org for more information.