Achieve your dream in ten years (maybe)
By Alex Hall on October 05, 2011
Planetary scientists can be a cynical bunch, although full of good humor. I suspect it is because they often spend several years of their lives working on mission proposals that will answer big questions, only to have that mission not get selected for funding, or cancelled, or descoped. Yesterday, the European Space Agency announced some of the new missions it will be funding. Reading the press release is sobering. They started thinking about what science to do in 2004, resulting in a call for proposals for missions in 2007, and now, in 2011, they've announced a couple of missions (not planetary science unfortunately) that are scheduled for launch in....2017 and 2019!
It is therefore not surprising that while many of the planetary scientists I've had conversations with here at the European Planetary Science Congress are pretty skeptical about the Google Lunar X PRIZE, they are certainly interested in finding out more. Many have simple payload ideas and the more adventurous may well be willing to investigate further and start to take our Teams more seriously if the alternative is that they might never get to do the research they want to do before they retire!
Two of our European Teams, Team Italia, and Team Barcelona Moon, have provided excellent flyers which I am distributing with pride, along with weblinks to other teams and a more general postcard to hopefully generate interest. Our next steps in raising the awareness in this valuable community are for the Google Lunar X PRIZE (or Teams) to submit to do papers at upcoming gatherings of planetary scientists about either confirmed or pending science payloads.
Thanks to NASA's Lunar Science Institute for letting us squat in their exhibit booth and for making a lot of great introductions.