Lunar Roundup: Big NASA News!
This week, in the Google Lunar XPRIZE...
Big news out of both NASA and the U.S. Congress this week! A new bill in Congress could affect where teams land on the moon, and NASA announced that they want to help companies build a lander for NASA moon missions! Here's the historic details:
A brand new congressional mandate, announced July 8th, has members of Congress introducing an alternative funding plan that would return NASA to its larger 2011 levels of funding! (See Space Politics' analysis for more on the significance of that plan.)
But, more importantly for the XPRIZE teams, another bill was introduced alongside the Authorization:
"[Rep. Donna] Edwards also introduced H.R. 2617, the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act.
The Act will ensure that the scientific data and cultural significance of the Apollo artifacts remains unharmed by future lunar landings by endowing the artifacts as a National Historic Park. It will also require the Secretary of the Interior to pursue nominating the Apollo 11 lunar landing site as a UNESCO World Heritage Site."
This would give the Apollo artifact sites the same standing as Abraham Lincoln's birthplace in Kentucky, Lewis and Clark's camp/fort in the Pacific Northwest, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia!
Independence Hall, part of a National Historic Park, which the Apollo sites would become.
This would also make the sites the first historical or national park sites not actually in a U.S. territory. (There is one International Historic Park).
The bill also states that making Apollo 11's landing site into a World Heritage Site would be the duty of the Department of the Interior.
While this doesn't necessarily mean that the Apollo sites are part of the United States (the Department of the Interior also handles territories and "insular areas"), the bill---if passed---would be introducing a whole new can of worms legally!
Essentially---the landing sites on the Moon would now be regarded as U.S. territories? That's a big change!
These developments could affect what teams do at and around the Apollo sites, especially if they are basically protected U.S. territory.
Part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE rewards is the Apollo Heritage Bonus Prize, an up-to-$4-million award for any (first-or-second-place) team that completes a Mooncast showing the Apollo artifacts in HD (including things like bootprints). That could clearly be affected if the rules around the Apollo artifacts change! (And they become more or less part of the United States' federal jurisdiction!)
And for some big news out of NASA, they announced that they want to help Google Lunar XPRIZE teams (or other lunar-lander companies) build lander robots for new NASA Moon missions!
"A commercial lunar lander jointly developed with NASA would capitalize on NASA’s previous investments and expertise in lander technologies. It also would stimulate a commercial capability to deliver payloads to the lunar surface reliably and cost-effectively. Such a capability could enable new services of interest to NASA." -Press Release
This would be a lander that would launch to the Moon, carrying payloads, on a new mission as soon as 2018. There would be no exchange of funds, but the U.S. companies involved would get NASA expertise, technology, and facilities (plus an entire new Moon mission to complete).
NASA experts working on Opportunity at JPL.
The due date for response is August 2nd, 2013, so for the U.S. Google Lunar XPRIZE teams that want their lander on a NASA mission, it's time to get crackin'!
This is a massive opportunity for the United States teams! Perhaps other nations and organizations will follow suit?
And In Other News...
In the midst of those two bombshells, the teams carried on with their own cool activities!
The "SuperNaus" contest, in a collaboration with the major kids' TV network Club Super3, challenges kids to design and build their own Moon rockets and spacecraft. The winning designs will be featured on TV, and the kids will get an awesome trip to see Barcelona Moon's lander test facilities in Madrid!
Here's the Spanish-language promotional clip for the contest:
(Working hard there, Puli Bot! ;) )
While a Fast Company article talked about the space-telescope race going on between Moon Express (and the ILOA, who are collaborating on the ILO-X Moon telescope) and Planetary Resources' ARKYD (plus, Synergy Moon 's Tesla Orbital Telescope, which was omitted from the article but is definitely out there as a competitor!)!
Here's the Synergy Moon IndieGoGo video on their own telescope project:
And last but not least, Penn State Lunar Lion posted a new student vlog on their work:
An exciting week around the XPRIZE, with interesting developments to come...
I’ll be rounding these up every week, so keep an eye here for the best developments from our very own moon race.
And if you have any favorite stories from the week that didn’t make it in here---share them below!
July 2nd-July 8th, 2013.