SAN JOSE, Calif. Four companies and a team from MIT Space Systems Laboratory announced their intention to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize
Wednesday (Dec. 17). The effort is one of many NASA hopes to inspire as part of its drive to promote more commercial exploration and use of space, often using off-the-shelf technologies.
"This is the most exciting time in space since Apollo--maybe ever," said S. Pete Worden, the director of NASA's Ames Research Center.
In a recent video interview with EE Times, Worden gave a brief update on his efforts to promote small satellites and commercial partnerships as a means to lower the costs and raise the amount of activity directed at space electronics.
Responding to the call, the so-called "Mystery Team" pursuing the Google Lunar X prize debuted at a press conference hosted by NASA Ames on Wednesday (Dec. 17.). Team members include MicroSat Systems, Inc., Aurora Flight Services Corp., Busek Company, Inc., Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc. and MIT researchers working under the name of the Next Giant Leap.
Although the team has been working together for about a year, it held off announcing its membership until this week "to make some impact," said Michael Joyce, a former Air Force pilot and chief executive of a small consumer startup who organized the effort.
"Space exploration is my passion and I feel privileged to be able to follow it," Joyce said.
The team has not created a timetable, but it aims to meet the goal set by Google of landing a robotic craft on the moon and sending back video, images and data by end of 2012. "We think we can do this in the next two years," said Joyce.
As many as 16 teams have already registered to take a shot at the prize. Joyce's work is funded in part by the success of his startup B9 Creations which ironically makes toy robots modeled on the one in the TV program "Lost in Space."