If all goes according to plan, the moon will soon have its first surface visitor after a three-decade lull. In August 1976, the Soviet unmanned spacecraft, Luna 24, touched down softly on a mission to retrieve some lunar rocks and soil. Since then, humans have only sent spacecraft to orbit or crash into the moon. This is set to change in December 2013, with the anticipated launch of Chang’e 3, China’s first lunar lander. Because of this latest development, those very familiar with the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE have started to ask about an original clause in the competition – the “government landing penalty.”
The last decade has seen XPRIZE build upon the success of its first competition, the Ansari XPRIZE, which awarded $10 million for the first private suborbital spaceflight. Since then we have launched and awarded several competitions, learning a great deal about what makes for optimum prize design. We've learned that success is more likely if we continue to keep our eye on the entire ecosystem surrounding a prize, and stay flexible in addressing significant challenges to that ecosystem that may arise.
Taikonauts and Gymnastronauts
From September 23-27th 2013, I attended IAC 2013 in Beijing to report on progress about the Google Lunar XPRIZE and see what information I could glean on the upcoming Chinese lunar mission.
The Opening Ceremony, like the congress as a whole, was a great chance to see what China’s particular combination of cultural heritage and social model can offer the world in terms of space exploration, space science and space utilization. Most memorable for me was the amazing gymnastics display representing an astronaut literally walking on stars.
A Chinese gymnast performing at the IAC 2013 Opening Ceremony