back to article Elon Musk's rocket booked by Google X-Prize moon robot

President Obama and NASA may have abandoned Bush-era plans for a return to the Moon: but it now appears that private companies, motivated by Google money, may yet reap a bonanza of lunar "economic  and scientific treasures". The latest development comes in the form of an announcement at the weekend by would-be Moon- …

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Google moon

Presumably they want to update what they have on google moon. I wonder if the inhabitants there are a little more cautious and encrypt their wifi ?

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Joke

Wouldn't it be funny..

..if that robot got over there, the Tranquility base site, only to find.. nothing?

Either that, or the conspiracy theorists will claim these robot guys are in on the Apollo hoax :)

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Conspiracies

Regardless what they find, nutters will simply say "That doesn't prove anything!".

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I'm more worried

That the Googlerover will come down *on* Tranquility Base and destroy it. Can we have the lunar equiv of a listed building please?

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Black Helicopters

Conspriacy

If the Americans didn't really make it to the moon, I would expect there to be some serious malfunction on route which mysteriously wouldn't have happened if the landing zone was miles away from Tranquility.

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Alien

@ Chris Procter

Right! All it would prove is that they're using the same soundstage on Mars that the original lunar landings were filmed at!

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Oh, yeah, absolutely

The rover would get to Tranquillity Site, transmit back images of all the old artifacts still in place, and the wingnuts would claim that the rover was never launched. Nothing will ever convince those dumbasses.

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You read my mind, man

I was just wondering myself... just how close to Tranquillity Site do they plan on landing this thing, and how close do they plan on approaching? What if it fucks up and crashes right on it or, if it doesn't, it accidentally messes the place up? Who sues who?

Any of my fellow Americans here please feel free to stop me if I'm wrong, but aren't all the old Apollo sites listed as historic sites of some kind, on the National Register Of Historic Places or something?

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"Satisfaction"

" For fans of the internet, there may be some satisfaction in reflecting that the money behind the mission comes from the rise of Google and PayPal "

Yup, I'm sure fans of the internet will be glad to see their wrongly-seized PayPal accounts, interest on withheld payments etc burning off into the atmosphere.

And I for one am proud that my eyeballs have been assaulted by stalkerish ads in order to fund this nonsense.

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FAIL

National Park

The Apollo 11 moon landing site should have a 500 foot radius exclusion zone around it to preserve it exactly how it was left on July 21, 1969.

The greatest achievement of the human race should be preserved in perpetuity before advertisers start slinging Coke banners from the LEM remaining descent stage or the Facebook logo in the lunar dust. There is no way anyone can make that site better, so leave it alone.

Having that area mucked up by 'space tourists' with cameras will accomplish nothing. There are lots of unexplored lunar sites that can be accessed. Go there.

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Go

There's almost a reason for this one

For a start, it'd be the first privately owned lunar rover- so it's pretty historic in its own right. After that, there's interest in how materials withstand 40 years on the moon- vacuum, extreme heat and cold, hard radiation, etc will have battered it. We need to know how materials cope if we're to build safe, long-lasting structures on other planets. Given that it doesn't appear to have any sensors aside from the cameras and some basic sensors to help the landing system, any inspection will be totally non-contact, so the worst you'll get it a couple of tracks. Avoid the Apollo 11 crew's tracks and there's not a problem.

After that, however, it should be absolutely off limits. At least until man starts landing on the moon again and we can start inspecting it in more detail. Even then, absolutely no advertising should be allowed (even having a nike swoosh on your space-trainers wouldn't be allowed!) and anything destructive should be kept to an absolute minimum.

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Alien

Doesn't have to be Apollo 11 though

It might well be useful to inpect how the kit has been getting along, but that isn't to say it has to be Apollo 11. Apollo 15 had much more science kit on board and even a car, so that would make a better site if that was the goal.

No, I fear that Apollo 11 will be picked as it has the most marketing bang for your buck. <Sigh>

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Stop

No. Just No.

"For a start, it'd be the first privately owned lunar rover- so it's pretty historic in its own right. "

So? There's plenty of Moon to land on without fucking up the Apollo 11 site.

" there's interest in how materials withstand 40 years on the moon- vacuum, extreme heat and cold, hard radiation, etc will have battered it."

So? There's plenty of other instrumentation on the Moon, some even older than the Apollo landers, which woudl provide the same infirmation. So, again, no need to fuck up the Apollo 11 site.

"Given that it doesn't appear to have any sensors aside from the cameras and some basic sensors to help the landing system, any inspection will be totally non-contact, so the worst you'll get it a couple of tracks. Avoid the Apollo 11 crew's tracks and there's not a problem."

No. Stay the fuck away from the Apollo 11 site.

That site represents THE most important journey in teh history of mankind to date, the first time man EVER set foot outside of his homeworld.

It shoudl be protected for all eternity(*), not trashed by tyretracks etc from some wannabe commercial fucktards who want to drive all over the site Just Because They Can.

There is NO reason for them to go anywhere NEAR the Apollo 11 site (other than, at most, a long-range peek at it from a long way off).

(*) Not valid for all values of eternity, of course, but for values of eternity relative to mankind's remaining existance at least.

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

"No, I fear that Apollo 11 will be picked as it has the most marketing bang for your buck. <Sigh>"

Get with the times! XHTML's been a W3C recommendation for over 10 years. <Sigh />

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Quite agree!

An "exclusion zone" in order to preserve those historic sites is a helluvan idea, even though (iirc) according to the UN Space Treaty, no one nation can claim territory on the Moon?

Still, given the state of current technology, wouldn't this rover be equipped with high-res cameras with telephoto lenses able to image the site without getting so close that it messes up the place?

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Good points...

Adam Foxton sez on 02.09.11 at 00:54gmt:

"Avoid the Apollo 11 crew's tracks and there's not a problem."

Sounds easier said than done. As I recall from the fotos taken during EVA, Armstrong and Aldrin left a huge, chaotic mass of footprints all over the area around the LM. The 500-foot "exclusion zone" suggested by another commenter would seem to be the way to go.

"After that, however, it should be absolutely off limits. At least until man starts landing on the moon again and we can start inspecting it in more detail..."

Hear, hear. I think the only missions allowed to go anywhere near the artifacts at the Apollo sites should be manned missions specifically designed to sample the materials to evaluate how they withstood four decades of unfiltered sunlight and radiation, in the same manner that the Apollo 12 crew examined the old Surveyor III probe near their landing site, photographing it and bringing back its sampling arm to study the effects of sunlight, vacuum and radiation exposure.

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/apollo/apollo12/html/as12-48-7110.html

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/apollo/apollo12/html/as12-48-7121.html

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/apollo/apollo12/html/as12-48-7099.html

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/apollo/apollo12/html/as12-48-7121.html

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/apollo/apollo12/html/as12-48-7133.html

I especially like the third and fifth images in this set, as they show just how close Apollo 12 landed to Surveyor III -- and what a shit-hot pilot ol' Pete Conrad was.

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Yag
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manned missions...

"manned missions specifically designed to sample the materials to evaluate how they withstood four decades of unfiltered sunlight and radiation"

You should replace four decades by seven or ten decades at this rate...

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Paris Hilton

Send Vulture 1!

A lot of people would probably pay good money to see PARIS mooning!

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Fantastic

This all sounds pretty great, but I'm pretty doubtfull they'll be able to develop this in three years.

I like the idea of continually lapping the moon to avoid sitting in the lunar shade though. According to a quick back of an envelope calculation, it would only need to go a shade under 10 mph to do this. Tricky, but possible I should think. Perhaps easier than trying to insulate something in near absolute zero conditions for 14 days at least.

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Circumlunar roads

That would also require finding a continuous and not too wiggly route around the moon that does not have steep mountains or canyons in the way. (And you might still drop into a small "skylight"). The Soviet approach of using a radioactive heater seems far easier by comparison.

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Joke

@insulate something in near absolute zero conditions for 14 days

Put an Intel processor in it, that should keep its internals nice and warm through the cold night. (Just put some extra large solar panels on it to recharge the massive batteries in the morning ;)

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Headmaster

Wolfram Alpha

gives just *over* 10mph :

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=lunar+circumference+at+equator+in+miles+/+lunar+rotational+period+in+hours

= 10.349 miles per hour

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Circulunar rover route

MacroRodent sez on 02.09.11 at 00:44gmt:

"That would also require finding a continuous and not too wiggly route around the moon that does not have steep mountains or canyons in the way..."

That might not be so tough, given all the high-resolution fotos being transmitted back from the LRO. Don't forget, LRO's cameras were able to image the LM/AS as well as the ALSEP gear, the shadows of the flags on the surface, and the tracks left by the astronauts' boots and the LRVs.

As you also mention, though, the Russians had the right idea using an RTG heater on Lunakhod.

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Titles are for Geeks⁻¹

Seems such a waste - For all the effort, they should send a craft to continue analysis of the existence and quantity water in deep creators or polar regions.

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Happy

Radioisotope heaters

Not available from most component suppliers.

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Minerals and fuel

So who owns the rights to all these resources up on the moon?

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tpm
(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Minerals and fuel

Halliburton--NEXT!

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Unhappy

Hallabortion?

Oh heck, there'll be leaking toxic waste containers, McDonalds wrappers and broken machinery horizon to horizon by the end of the decade.

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Alien

Does it Matter?

Let's just get on building a Skylon/Vasimr hybrid so we send up a task force to sieze the valuable stuff from those Selenites and their mega-brain ruler!

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Good point, there...

AlgernonFlowers34 sez on 02.09.11 at 11:34gmt:

"Let's just get on building a Skylon/Vasimr hybrid so we send up a task force to sieze the valuable stuff from those Selenites and their mega-brain ruler!"

Good point, there, but let's also not forget the insidious Cat Women:

http://www.archive.org/details/Cat_Women_of_the_Moon

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Boffin

Tricky problem

Aerogel insulation might help but doubtfull the batteries could survive "overnight" for 14 days at sub zero temperatures. Capictors maybe ?

Alternatively could the rover be powered down completey and hope it reboots at sunrise?

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Anonymous Coward

Solved Problems

Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries do not have any water in their electrolyte and have been shown to survive 14 days in liquid nitrogen (which is slightly colder than temperatures reached during lunar night). The problem with insulating with aerogel is that most components produce heat which needs to be radiated away during the day. Insulating parts would prevent this from happening and components would fail from overheating.

Power up can be accomplished by attaching a thermal switch (think thermostat) to critical components, providing them power only when they are warm enough to handle it.

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Happy

Intersting someone had worked out what a Falcon 9 could get to the moon.

Note I think this would need some kind of "lunar transfer stage." I'd expect F9 to be able to push a payload to escape velocity and then separate to save weight but you'd need a stage to fire at the moon to put it into a parking orbit, or at least cancel some of the velocity, otherwise your package will hit *hard*.

AFAIK that stage does not exist yet, but its design could make it an interesting addition to Spacex's product range. The weight of the stage and the Isp it can deliver can make a *critical* difference to the payload such a system can deliver.

I'd expect them to use the Draco hypergolic thruster technology they have developed but I'd like them to have a go at one of the newer ideas in propellant pressurization, either one of the reciprocating pump designs ( a couple exist) or the dissolved pressurant idea pioneered by the French.

A *relatively* cheap rocket system which can put a known sized (if small) package into lunar (or Mars or Venus) orbit at relatively short notice could pick up the market for smaller projects in this area, both from JPL and ESA and JAXA. Giving either many more scientists a shot at getting results (or possibly getting multiple snapshots of the same phenomena or testing more refined versions of their instruments). It might encourage people who'd *never* thought about sending something to another moon or planet some ideas.

It's the difference between loading a tent and sleeping bag into your car for a week and buying an RV.

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Alien

In 2 minds

1. Total and pristine preservation of the Apollo site(s)

2. HD video and photos would be super neat-o

Hmmmm

Telephoto lens perhaps..

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re: in 2 minds

See my comment a ways up the scroll.

Digital photography is at a point now where it'd be relatively easy to equip the rover with a multi-megapixel CCD and a mean-assed telephoto lens which could image Tranquillity Site in rich detail without ever having to go close enough to risk ruining a historic area.

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Stop

The poet Lewirate

Some classic LP hyperbolae here - it's not like the Spirit and Opportunity rovers haven't survived months of Martian winters, not as cold but much longer, on just batteries. A lunar night should be easygoing for 21st century batteries.

And before you start refuelling satellites from the moon, I'm not sure how you turn water into the hydrazine typically used for satellites. Not that most satellite operators want to keep them in orbit beyond 20 years - most satellites comfortably pay back their costs and quite a lot more by the time they're retired, and then it's time to replace them with something bigger and better. There's no evidence of a demand for on-orbit refuelling or life extension, except maybe for military sats or megastructures like the ISS.

And before we go poking around in lava tubes, hadn't we better check for Selenites, Clangers and Soup Dragons?

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Streetview

Presumably this google-cart will have a streetview camera on top.

They were only practicing here on Earth.

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Boffin

Mr

I like the idea of a speedy rover driving round and round the moon to stay on the sunny side indefinitely. According to the back of my envelope, it'd only need to average about 17 km/h to stay ahead of sunset on an equatorial route, which sounds reasonable.

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Go

Nothing is certain

Visiting Apollo 11 is by no means certain. It is an idea motivated by the offer of a cash prize for such a visit which would apply to any "heritage site". The use of a prospective Apollo 11 site visit in press releases is to generate buzz, it should not be viewed as a set-in-stone mission plan. From a technical perspective, there are much easier sites to visit than Apollo 11, any of which would stir up less vitriol than Apollo 11.

If a heritage site is selected, the landing site would have to be over 1 lunar day's travel away, requiring the rover to successfully hibernate and revive before any visit could take place. The prospect of high-definition 3D video of objects that haven't been seen in over 40 years is certainly worth some risk.

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Checking the video

The thing I had in mind is what Astobotic refer to as the "decent stage" Potentially a salable component in its own right, depending on weather it borrows the rovers nav hardware to handle the landing.

The landing process itself seem to be planning on using real time imaging of the ground to identify and avoid obstacles IE the way the Apollo astronauts did it.

The rover *will* have telephoto lenses to image the Apollo site without getting too close.

Target speed is 0.36Km/Hr or 10cm/sec. Racing the sun is not an option.

The plan *seems* to be for the rover to go *completely* dark and re-boot on sun rise. presumably by start of current flow from the solar array.

Structurally it looks to be a series of flat honeycomb plates. They might be machined by water jet cutting and use interlocking tabs for load transmission. This method has been used to make a number of US satellites at substantial cost savings relative to more conventional construction.

Note that a *well* insulated electronics package (aerogel or multi-layer insulation) *could* be kept substantially warmer than ambient with a simple circuit feeding a *small* trickle heater.

Not enough to continue operations but it *could* take the edge off the cold and needing mil spec components. The joker is if the insulation is a bit worse than design and the heater needs a bit more power the batteries go *totally* flat before sun up.

Note *some* batteries are essential, at least on the descent stage to power the landing sensors and trigger the engine valves. Making the rover battery-less *might* be possible but raises the question of what happens if the lander orientation to the sun is bad and the rover can't trundle off and point its array. Have an extension lead from the lander?

Impressive plan but as always the devils in the details and 2 years can go by *very* quickly.

It'll be interesting to see how much trouble they have getting funding given there are *actual* prize fund on the table.

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