Day 202: Astral Ambitions

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July 20, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra

I’m disappointed in us.  Really.  It’s not nice to hear, and it’s not any nicer to say, but we’ve fallen short of our potential.  I’m talking specifically about space and how we seem to have stalled.  When’s the last time mankind took one more giant leap?

We’ve made baby steps, sure.  We’ve learned a lot and continued to play around in space, but never in my lifetime has human activity in space been treated as more than trivial.  I’ve never seen us race toward it; people haven’t looked at the stars as though they’re worth sprinting towards, or even breaking a sweat for.  I think it’s time we declare playtime over.  Let the space race begin again.

Google’s Lunar X Prize is pitting the astro-obsessed against one another for $10,000,000 and momentous glory.  Whosoever wins the challenge will, I hope and pray, serve as a match to light the fuse to an explosion of renewed interest in our off-world future.  Today’s project might be that match.  The Earth Rise team is going to the moon.  With your help, of course.

With the GLXP, a total of $30 million in prize money is available to the first privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, have that robot travel 500 meters over the surface, and send HD video, images and data back to Earth. Bonus prizes are available for surviving the lunar night, visiting lunar heritage sites (including those of the Apollo landings), traveling more than 5 km and detecting water. More details about the competition are available here.

There’s more than $30 million on the line for people willing to start treating space like it matters.  I just hope it’s enough.  The real incentives are beyond what can be written on a check – they emerge when you consider the scope of a race and a mission like this one.  There’s a lot more to win than money, but without money, this race will never leave the ground.  Let’s strike this match and declare together that we do, in fact, have the will to take another giant leap – one to call our own – one to tell our kids about.  Back this team (and every other, while you’re at it) on Kickstarter before July 26.


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