Jul 27, 2008

GLXP War over the Moon


Well, it's not something that we at White Label Space would like to include in our GLXP mission but this ScoopOrbit post raises an interesting question for the GLXP - What position does GLXP have regarding the military use of space and the development of dual-use technologies?

Can GLXP teams sell their designs to a military contractor?
Can a military payload be flown on a GLXP lander or rover?

ScoopOrbit also included the above picture of a new space suit development for lunar operations. Maybe some people are already thinking along these lines :-)


Jul 26, 2008

As yet no German Google Lunar X PRIZE teams - Die Zeit Wissen


There was an article in the Die Zeit Wissen about the lack of German participation in the Google Lunar X PRIZE. This was first noted on The Launch Pad
You can download the full article in PDF format here. See translation below.

DYI Lunar Landers
Those who manage to build and land a robot on the moon by the end of 2012 will win the 20 Million Dollar Google Lunar X PRIZE. Ten teams have signed up so far.
Among them are the amateur engineers who designed the lander [pictured on the left] as well as university andindustrial participants.
There haven't been any German applications to enter the contest so far. Please apply at www.googlelunarxprize.org.
[Source: Die Zeit Wissen, 2008 (4), page 8]

The question is why has no German team stepped forward?
If there are German citizens that wish to join our upcoming European GLXP team please email us

Jul 24, 2008

First Art Exhibition in Outer Space

Call for Space Art;

Tohoku University, Japan, is now developing a small satellite, named SPRITE-SAT, with launch planned for January 2009. The main mission of the satellite is a scientific study of lightening phenomena above the cloud layers but using this opportunity, they are also organizing the first art exhibition in outer space!

To take part in this exhibition you should submit monochrome digital pictures, which will be shrunk to a size of 1mm squares arranged as a mosaic on a silicon wafer fabricated using photolithography technology. The photolithography and etching process will be done on a standard silicon wafer, cut into a 3 cm by 3 cm piece, which will be exhibited in orbit attached on the top of an antenna boom on the top of the satellite. The artworks will also be exhibited on a special web page.

Submitting your artwork:
Please submit a digital drawing in 500×500 pixels, or a line drawing 500×500 pixels resolution. Black and white, no halftones. Submit as a digital file which can be displayed in 10 cm square on a computer screen.

Deadline of submission: August 10, 2008

Please send your submission or any questions to Prof. Kazuya Yoshida:
yoshida@astro.mech.tohoku.ac.jp

Jul 23, 2008

Japanese Lunar Exploration and the Google Lunar X PRIZE

How timely that I came across this Hyperbola blog post just after writing our own post on future government support for lunar exploration. It looks like the Japanese space agency JAXA shares many of the Google Lunar X PRIZE's visions for future use of the Moon.
But what a pity that the GLXP website has such a poor Japanese page. It appears that the site has little more than a translation of the main press releases and some information about the teams and key people. Furthermore, after exhaustive seraching we were unable to find a Japanese version of the GLXP promotional video - "Moon 2.0, Join the Revolution".
If the X PRIZE foundation and Google want to engage the large and affluent Japanese appetite for space-related issues they should really invest a bit more money in providing their content in the Japanese language.

Jul 22, 2008

The Moon in 3D

The concept of 3D video and television has been around for quite a while now, but it is slowly becoming a reality. Viewers in Japan can already receive an hour a day of 3D broadcasts, which can be viewed on special LCD TVs with polarized glasses.

Philips is even working on a system (WOWvx)to do away with the glasses, allowing the whole family to enjoy 3D images just the way we enjoy normal TV now!

But regardless of the way we view 3D images and movies, they have to be recorded first! And that generally means 2 cameras, with a spacing similar to the human eye, recording in sync. From this, 3D scenes can be rendered and, on the Moon, scientific data can be obtained (distances, crater depths etc.) opening up a whole new prospect for in-situ geology. Coupled with this, having a 3D image of the scene makes tele-operation of a lunar rover much more manageable.

Remember: this isn't like the Mars rovers with a little training, a human operator can get used to the delay and adapt to real-time operations on the lunar surface. So should we record the Moon in 3D? Definitely! After all, why take one camera, when you could take two!

Jul 21, 2008

Joke: Engineering Hell

(This is an oldy but a goody!)

An engineer dies and reports to the pearly gates. St. Peter checks his dossier and says, "Ah, you're an engineer -- you're in the wrong place."

So, the engineer reports to the gates of hell and is let in. Pretty soon, the engineer gets dissatisfied with the level of comfort in hell, and starts designing and building improvements. After awhile, they've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and the engineer is a pretty popular guy.

One day, God calls Satan up on the telephone and says with a sneer, "So, how's it going down there in hell?"

Satan replies, "Hey, things are going great. We've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there's no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next."

God replies, "What??? You've got an engineer? That's a mistake -- he should never have gotten down there; send him up here."

Satan says, "No way. I like having an engineer on the staff, and I'm keeping him."

God says, "Send him back up here or I'll sue."

Satan laughs uproariously and answers, "Yeah, right. And just where are YOU going to get a lawyer?"

Goverment Support for Future Lunar Missions

The recent post on the Space Prizes Blog makes an interesting point. Space agencies will probably need to show interest in using the lunar lander systems developed by GLXP teams otherwise investors will just not believe it is worth the effort developing lunar landers for a single mission.

Jul 20, 2008

Robotic Exploration Problem Featured in ICFP Contest

This year's ICFP Contest might help bring space-related AI challenges to the the attention of the programming languages community. The task of the contest is to deploy control software for a Martian lander and steer a rover from its starting position to its home base.

While the details of the task are abstracted from real deployment scenarios or even tongue-in-cheek, the fundamental idea is a point of very much debate and research. Increased autonomy of spacecraft and rovers is very much a multi-dimensional optimisation challenge in terms of science return and safety.

Communication with spacecraft increases in cost the further away the object is from Earth. On the other hand, the science instruments may detect interesting events that require timely action. The event might not be over before decision makers in mission control are able to update the schedule.

This is where increased autonomy might come into play. Of course, the safety of the mission must not be compromised by having the spacecraft issue commands that impact its own functioning. But science return might be increased significantly by identifying simply cases where the vehicle is allowed to deviate from its given schedule and return to normal operation after ad-hoc observation that were triggered by certain events.

Ideally, software tools should be adapted to quantify the benefits, impacts and drawbacks of such ideas. White Label Space hopes that the passionate participants of contests like this year's ICFP Contest help enlarge the pool of technologies from which the space community can draw their technologies.

Jul 17, 2008

The Social Value of Lunar Exploration

We were recently asked about our project's meaning to society. This is a good question that should be asked of any space-related activities beyond the obvious ones that directly serve people on Earth (telecommunications and remote sensing).

Our goal of sending a robotic lander to the Moon's surface has many benefits to society. Firstly, the desire to explore new territories is a theme embedded in all societies since the dawn of humanity. In the beginning exploration was by use of our own legs and then later by the legs of animals. In the last 2 millennia we began to use machines to aid our exploration - ships, cars, aircraft. Only in the last half of the 20th century did we start to explore space, first with machines and the later with humans.

We believe that our exploration of space is only just beginning, and indeed our current generation is sitting on the frontier of that exploration. We can choose to continue the bold visions of space exploration seen during the space race while those vision are still in our consciousness and in the memories of our parents generation. Alternatively, society can choose to turn its back on space exploration and focus its energies on the problems here on Earth. By sending a robotic craft back to the surface of the Moon we are saying that humanity's urge to explore will not end at the atmosphere and space near Earth. We see the return to the Moon as a way to remind society the benefits of space exploration.

Exploration of the Moon done with today's technologies should be cheaper in the sense that it places less burden on society. We would like to prove that by using modern technologies for engineering design, and the internet we can undertake a lunar surface mission at a fraction of the cost of the traditional space missions that are funded by governments. We would like to show that we can develop new technologies to meet these challenges, and that the technologies we develop will have benefits back on Earth as well as in space.

Another important benefit to society of our lunar mission will be the expansion of humanity's consciousness This will take place in many ways, scientifically, sociologically and artistically. When we go to the Moon we will take all of humanity with us. We will show them the stark beauty of the lunar surface in high definition imagery and videos. Also, we will show that small groups of motivated individuals can achieve extraordinary things that everyday life doesn't permit. Our lunar lander mission will pave the way for sending low-cost scientific missions to study the Moon up close, which has profound implications to the formation of the Earth and all life on it.