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Moon Race Roundup: Oculus Rift and the Moon

Moon Race Roundup: Oculus Rift and the Moon

By Nick Azer  on October 24, 2014

This week, on the road to the Moon...

"It's like a GoPro on steroids. It's an experience that you just can't match." -Daniel Shafrir, Carnegie Mellon, on Oculus Rift (which is heading to the Moon on a #GLXP mission; pictured below, Oculus image).

Oculus Rift (the popular 3D virtual reality headset) is going to the Moon! On board Google Lunar XPRIZE team Astrobotic's lunar mission:

Astrobotic, as part of their effort to win the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, will have their privately-funded Moon rover (nicknamed "Andy", after legendary philanthropist Andrew Carnegie) loaded up with Oculus Rift---to not only take 3D virtual-reality views of the Moon, but send them back here to Earth, so that classrooms and other Oculus Rift users can experience what it's like to be on the Moon and have a look around!

"The vision was simple - let anyone on Earth experience the Moon live through the eyes of a robot... We weren't just going to go to the Moon. We are going to bring the Moon back." -Daniel Shafrir, Carnegie Mellon, pictured below with Andy the Moon rover

Astrobotic is set to launch Andy and its mission to the Moon in late 2015, where Andy will also race other Google Lunar XPRIZE teams on board the mission, NASCAR-style! Exciting times ahead on the surface on the Moon.

But, in the meantime, Andy the robot and its creators have millions of dollars to win---on Earth, now! That would be the Google Lunar XPRIZE Milestone Prizes, $6 million available in 2014 to Google Lunar XPRIZE teams that can complete bonus challenges on Earth, in order to prove the current progress of their technology.

And with the Milestones, they have some serious competition--including team Moon Express, who revealed this month that they are now planning to fly tests of their cool MX-1 Moon lander---pictured below during its unveiling---at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida within two months!

Another competitior for the Milestone Prizes is Part Time Scientists, who revealed a behind-the-scenes look this week---captured by robot's innovative new camera system (the Moon is difficult to photograph on!):

The team's lunar lander design was also featured this week, in this cool construction timelapse video:

The music-savvy Germans from Berlin have been keeping busy!

Moon Express, meanwhile, were also featured in a great piece by the Toronto Globe and Mail, including this photo of CEO/Co-Founder Bob Richards and his famous bodyguard:

[Image: Kim White for the Toronto Globe & Mail.]  [*Did you know that the SpaceX Falcon 9 is actually named after the Millennium Falcon? Punch it, Chewie!]

The piece also includes a lot of great quotes about the future of the Silicon Valley company, including how they came about to be shooting for the Moon:

"I was interested in, How do we make a viable business out of this? What would we do in space beyond Earth orbit that could be a viable business case? … And I set my sights on the moon." - Bob Richards, Moon Express, to the Toronto Globe & Mail

Inside Moon Express---working towards the Moon, one day at a time. [Image by Kim White, for the Toronto Globe & Mail.],

For more on the inside track on how folks like these ended up shooting for the Moon, take in the ninth Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Hangout (embedded below)----which happened this week as Hungarian team Puli provided an awesome half an hour of insight & inspiration:

These efforts have been proving historic---and team Euroluna captured that feel of past & present beautifully with an update on their Moon mission...from inside the ancient Roman Colosseum!:

Meanwhile, Japanese Moon team (and Milestone Prizes competitor) Hakuto gave their own look at the future as they attended a major conference, bringing their tag-team Moon robots---Moonraker and Tetris---along:

Speaking of the future, the bright students of Penn State Lunar Lion have been continuing to progress at a very quick clip on their PUMA test craft:

They received the shiny new engines this week, and also got their MakerBot 3D printers going for key parts!:

Big progress from the university effort in Pennsylvania!

And, last but not least for this week, SpaceMETA's Sergio Cabral Cavalcanti answered three questions about his own inspirations, while Synergy Moon's Randa Milliron penned a great in-depth piece in SatMagazine about their approach to marketing, rockets, and the arts---including having former Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante's new album launch, literally, on one of their rockets this past March:

As you can see, the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams are really on a roll, as competition for the Milestone Prizes---and for the Moon---intensifies!

Stay tuned here for all the latest developments, awesome technology, and great stories, every week.


I'll be rounding these up every week---as the teams make 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

[October 17th-October 23rd, 2014.]

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