Friday, February 22, 2008

Moon 2.0

Another X-prize. Yay! For those of you who don't know, I was studying aerospace engineering until a few years ago, and the concept of flight inside and most especially outside the atmosphere has fascinated and intrigued me for a long time.

Several years ago, the X Prize foundation proposed a project to encourage private sector aerospace research. Most aerospace development hitherto has been predominantly government funded--often related to Defense programs. The goal was to build and successfully launch a spaceship--a reusable manned aircraft capable of reaching an altitude of about 62 miles, the "border" of space, so to speak, the edge of the atmosphere. No government funding allowed. The prize was $10 million, and was awarded in 2004 for SpaceShipOne, which some of you may have heard about. It became known as the Ansari X-Prize though, thanks to a donation from the Ansari family. (Recall Anousheh Ansari--the first Muslim woman in space!)

There have been a couple other boring X-prizes... for cleaner automobiles and a human genome project, but now there is another space race--to the moon. The goal is to send a robot to the moon which will go for a drive and send some pictures back home. Developing a space program has to begin a certain way... starting with achieving a particular altitude, then orbit. Launching to the moon has, in the past, been a two-phase trip which goes to orbit and then launches from orbit to the moon. This X-Prize is being funded by... Google! So now it's called the Google Lunar X-Prize.

Anyway, here's hoping that this X-prize sparks new development in the aerospace industry--more than super-maneuverable jets and missiles.

1 comment:

alajnabiya said...

I totally understand your fascination with the space oriented stuff, I have been into it since I was a little kid watching them walk on the moon on tv, but I don't think the idea of cleaner car is boring! I think cleaner cars will be of a much greater benefit to humanity than putting a robot on the moon!