Thursday, October 30, 2008

High prices and innovation

One of the more interesting messages in my inbox this morning:

For Immediate Release
Media Contact:

Google Lunar X Prize competitor plans series
of Moon landing missions
Astrobotic Technology expeditions will build lunar
data library

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - October 30, 2008 - At a meeting of worldwide Moon exploration experts, Astrobotic Technology Inc. today unveiled its plans for a series of robotic expeditions to build a lunar data library.

"Astrobotic will robotically explore the Moon's high-interest areas on a commercial basis, collecting information required to design future outposts and to answer scientific questions about the Moon and Earth," said President David Gump. "Our data library also will point the way to utilizing lunar energy and mineral resources to lower the cost of exploration and eventually supply markets on Earth."

The company today released a White Paper on its data library at the annual combined meeting of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group, the Space Resources Roundtable and the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group. The paper is available on the company's Web site, It invites the world's space agencies, aerospace corporations, university researchers and industrial firms to outline which data packages are highest priority for them.

In addition to building a lunar data library, the company will deliver payloads, perform on-the-Moon services and generate interactive, high-definition media content for television, the Web, science centers and theme parks.

Astrobotic's first lunar expedition is the Tranquility TrekTM Mission in May 2010 to the historic Apollo 11 site. As it collects valuable information to build the Astrobotic lunar data library, it also aims to win the Google Lunar X Prize, a $20 million reward for the first commercial robotic Moon expedition that beams high-definition television to Earth on a 500-meter traverse. It also will be the first robotic expedition to demonstrate a precise landing within meters of its intended coordinates.Subsequent missions organized and financed by Astrobotic, will explore and collect valuable data on the Moon's poles, where national space programs plan to exploit the polar regions' resources.

Space agencies planning major lunar initiatives will be able to utilize the low-cost Astrobotic data library to reduce the risks and uncertainties associated with their important projects. Landers and surface infrastructure can be designed in the coming decade based on in-situ measurements of topography, dust conditions, soil mechanics, micrometeorite impact rates, illumination patterns, Earth-views for communications, and the like. Key materials and components for future projects can be delivered to the Moon by Astrobotic to characterize their performance in the actual lunar environment, rather than in simulations.

Aerospace suppliers, for example, will be able to use Astrobotic missions to give their equipment "lunar heritage" - a tremendous advantage when competing for major lunar contracts. Astrobotic customers will avoid the technical and cost risk of mounting their own projects to get this data; they will license information at fixed prices only after Astrobotic has successfully completed each mission.

Mission List

Astrobotic's missions begin with a return to the Apollo 11 site near the Moon's equator, and then shifts to repeated expeditions to the Moon's north and south poles, based upon customer priorities. The company selected Apollo 11 both for its high public interest and for the ability to see how materials left there have weathered from radiation and micrometeorite bombardment. This will be key data for the design of future outposts.

The second and third missions are aimed for crater rims at the poles because NASA and other agencies plan to establish permanent outposts there. The lunar poles offer persistent sunlight for electrical power and moderate temperatures, plus potentially water ice in the permanently dark deep craters. The company expects that by 2013 it will send a robot into one of the deep polar craters to confirm if water ice can be mined to support future crews and refuel future spacecraft.

Additional missions will collect seismic data to chart the Moon's interior, and a prototype Moondozer will test lunar construction technology.

About Astrobotic Technology

The company was formed fall 2007 and has secured lunar contracts from NASA and two commercial firms. Prototype rovers are now being field-tested at Carnegie Mellon University by Dr. William "Red" Whittaker, the firm's Chairman. Prototype landing platforms have been constructed by Raytheon Co., using the company's proven digital terrain matching technologies to achieve precision landings on the Moon.

Mission planning and camera expertise is provided by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at The University of Arizona. More information is available at .

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