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Moon Race Roundup #117: Hot Starts, Moon Momentum

Moon Race Roundup #117: Hot Starts, Moon Momentum

By Nick Azer  on December 15, 2014

This week, on the road to the Moon…

Rocket engines, hot-firing.

New rovers, rolling out.

Big checks, being signed.

These are the sounds of a busy November, as the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams have been revving up their technology in order to try and win part of the $6 million in Milestone Prizes available this year!

And, prove their mettle on the way to the Moon…

Bringing the Moon Back…To Kennedy

One of those teams vying for the Milestone Prizes---Silicon Valley-based Moon Express----have been busy: moving into new digs at Kennedy Space Center, and establishing themselves as one of the first-ever commercial operations at KSC! Bringing Moon missions back to the place of Apollo legend in the process:

“I want my MTV…” Moon Express’ MTV-1X Moon lander passing big tests in Florida---without any dire straits. [Photo: @Bob_Richards on Twitter.]

The team has been setting up to fly big tests (like that one above) for their MTV-1X Moon lander, which will eventually hop across the lunar surface as part of their Google Lunar XPRIZE mission and future business plans. These tests happening now will help determine whether or not they get awarded some of the millions in Milestone Prizes available---a big boost!

But, in order to make those dreams and Moon millions happen, they first had to complete a successful hot-fire of their engines back at their Huntsville, Alabama facility; which they did!:

The MTV is off to a hot start.

And---according to team President Andy Aldrin---the team has already raised more than $15 million for its lander and needs to “raise more capital, but not much more, to get to the moon”. So, with that and these batches of milestone tests, they look like one of the many teams that are well on their way!

Part Time Scientists, Big-Time Tests

And, speaking of those big-time tests, Berlin-based team and fellow Milestones competitor Part-Time Scientists have been busy building up their own “Hell yeah!”, and putting their Asimov, Jr. rover through some serious rigors---as seen here in a great shot by Alex Adler Eventphotography:

Part Time Scientists kicking the Asimov out of their ‘Asimov, Jr.’ Moon rover as part of their testing for the Milestone Prizes. [Photo: Alex Adler.]

CNET’s Tim Stevens---currently geeking out at Google Lunar XPRIZE field tests like this one across the globe---did a write-up this August about what Part Time Scientists have been looking to accomplish, so check that out for a great read & a peek into the special challenges of lunar technology! (It can be harder than it looks!)

Penn State, Hot Fire

Meanwhile, another team ultimately not entered into the five-team Milestone Prizes field---but still roaring fast towards the Moon, and the $30 million in prizes that await---have completed their own hot-fire test: Penn State Lunar Lion!

The key spacecraft engine-fire inspired what may have been The Greatest Facebook Comment Ever, from an old-school rocket scientist:

“As a rocket scientist and engineer since before Sputnik I, I applaud Lunar Lion's choice of dihydrogen dioxide propellant. I recall that simply determining the molecular structure of H2O2 proved to be very difficult. It took nearly 80 years to simply purify the stuff. Now you're standing tall on the shoulders of Messrs Thénard, Wolffenstein, Lippisch, Oberth, Walter. Ad astra, gentlemen! After you reach the Moon, get your asses to Mars." – Edward Jones, veteran rocket scientist, on Facebook!

Amazing. Read more about that engine firing (and the history of that propellant choice) here in the team’s feature blog!

Meet: Andy

Meanwhile, fellow Pennsylvanians---and one of the five Milestone Prizes entrants---Astrobotic officially unveiled their new Moon rover, Andy!:

Dubbed after the Carnegie Mellon University namesakes Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon, this Andy will be exploring a Moon cave near you (and potentially racing other #GLXP rovers on the Moon, NASCAR-style, in the process) soon!

The Dunes of Japan

Another one of the Milestone Prizes teams, Hakuto of Japan, have also been busy getting their own pair of rovers (Tetris and Moonraker) ready for testing action & Moon caves exploration, with some big field tests on the way!

For a peek at what these kinds of tests are like, here’s the robot tag-team using a tether in order to conquer some sand dunes earlier this year, in preparation for the (rather powdery) Moon:

Indiana Jones would be proud.

Bold Ideas from Brazil

Big Moon missions take big ideas---and Sergio Cabral Cavalcanti of team SpaceMETA shared a lot of great ones in our November Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Hangout (which happens every third Tuesday of the month!):

A lot of inspiration on green technologies for space, the advantages of launching from Brazil, and more.

Magnetic Mystery and the Moon

And speaking of great ideas---and inspiration---Israeli team SpaceIL posted a great op-ed on, discussing the epic science they will be doing on their mission!

A SpaceIL render of their spacecraft, and the magnetic mapping it will do on the Moon.

They’ll be exploring lunar magnetism (which has a heck of a lot of mysteries to it!) during their mission. The SpaceIL mission is pretty unique, as while many Google Lunar XPRIZE teams are looking to create a long-term lunar business and get a Moon industry rolling (reducing the cost of space adventures in general), they are dedicated entirely to putting their winnings toward education and STEM outreach! (Inspiring the youth of our generation to become the ones going on those space adventures.) A noble effort that, like all the teams, should continue to be a lot of fun to follow!

Stay tuned here for lots of big news to come, and many more great #GLXP missions & approaches for getting us back to the Moon---for good…


I'll be rounding these up every week---as the teams march forward towards history----so keep an eye here for the latest developments from your space race! You can also sign up for the XPRIZE newsletter to get exciting innovation news in your inbox, and follow the #GLXP on Google+Twitter, and Facebook (where yours truly is your community manager for all things awesome happening in space today).

-Nick Azer

[November 7th-December 7th, 2014.]

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