From the Earth to the Moon

Well, I’m reporting on this as part of a longer blog post (update: it is here) about an event I attended today at the Los Angeles Convention Center, but since it’ll take me a while to finish, and it will be buried in all the other stuff (including pictures and so forth), I’ll snip out a bit of what I’m saying there to inform you of this interesting development:

google lunar x-prize posterSo what were some of the big ticket items, at least in terms of where all the regular press were? Well, the biggest was of course the X prize There was a long movie with lots of stuff about space, and dreams about our future in space, and animations and things of roving robots on planetary surfaces, and all that good stuff…. very nice, I thought, and began to wander off…. and then there was a round of applause from everyone and I came back as a voice announced “The Google Lunar X Prize”, and various other people showed up on the stage (like one of the founders of Google – forgot his name, and later, good ol’ Buzz Aldrin, who seems to be required at these sorts of events). The Google co-founder guy began his speech by acknowledging all the Google engineers… and announcing that they’d just launched a new version of the moon. Applause. (I’m pretty sure that they mean Google Moon, by the way.)

Anyway, after half-listening to the earnest speechifying (the other half of me was talking with Leighton Woodhouse, of Wired Science Digital, who I’ll tell you more about later – [...]), I gathered this: The Google Lunar X prize will be an award of $20 million to the first team who – pay attention now – launches a spacecraft to the moon, makes a soft landing, ejects a lunar rover that roves around for a bit and sends back pictures. I don’t know about you, but to me this seems like a remarkable raising of the bar (as Leighton put it) as compared to the last X prize. You can read the press release here. (The consolation prize, by the way, is $10 million…. Excellent! So if I break out a spud launcher and a $20 remote-controlled car strapped to an old mobile phone with digital camera, and if I can figure out how to make sure that nobody else enters but me and the actual ultimately winning team of engineers probably sponsored by Richard Branson – I get Ten. Meeellion. Dollars! Cool.)

There was a Q&A session afterwards, but then I had to go with Leighton to find the rest of the team. I was torn. I wanted to ask a question, such as: “So when you say the moon, do you mean the real moon, or… Google moon?”. But I expect that I’d have been stripped of my newfound press credentials and escorted from the room.

-cvj

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