Apr 26, 2010

Greatest Space Ads - SONY and INTEL Launch the Rocket Project

Linking the themes of space and education, SONY and INTEL are sponsoring The Rocket Project. The basic recipe of the project is to take a bunch of smart secondary school kids and put them together in a team to design, analyze and build a high altitude sounding rocket capable of reaching an altitude of 160km (528,000 feet). A YouTube video about the project is embedded at the end of this post.

Of course the students are assisted in their work by SONY VIAO notebooks powered by INTEL processors.

The leader of the project, also acting as teacher/mentor for the students is Thomas Atchison, a high-power rocketeer and founder of the Association of Rocket Mavericks. Tom also has strong links with the technology industry from his 25+ years of experience as an executive and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

It's interesting that these major global brands are recognizing the public interest in challenging space-related projects. Our team of space professionals plans to harness similar types of public interest to held us achieve our Google Lunar X PRIZE mission.

The ad agency behind the project is 180 LA.


Apr 22, 2010

Mobility? We've Got it!

In this video our partner the Tohoku University Space Robotics Lab demonstrates the mobility of the El Dorado II rover on the test course at the 2009 IEEE ICRA Planetary Rover Challenge.

The El Dorado II rover was developed at the Space Robotics Lab under the leadership of professor Kazuya Yoshida and forms a fully functioning prototype of the mobility subsystem for the lunar rover in our Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) mission.

The test begins with a simulated egress from a platform representing a lander. First the rover rotates on the spot (using the wheel pointing motors). Then it descends the egress ramp, which is at the same angle as on our GLXP lander.

The rest of the video shows the rover driving autonomously across the obstacle course to the far corner. Then it returns to the starting point, up the ramp once again. As it proceeds, the rover generates its own digital map of the environment.

Apr 18, 2010

Greatest Space Ads - Yava Gold Strikes Back for Russia

After the fall of the communist system in the Soviet Union, Russian consumers were suffering an 'invasion' of higher quality western products marketed with slick modern advertising, a new phenomenon in Russia. Local brands were in rapid decline and profits were rapidly disappearing to the West. Then in 1998 the newly launched Yava Gold cigarette brand decided to 'strike back' by launching an ad campaign that brought back national pride to Russian consumers.

The ad pictured was part of the campaign. It shows a patriotic Russian cosmonaut painting the Yava Gold logo on the US Space Shuttle. The text at the bottom of the image reads "retaliatory strike".

In the 1990s Russian space missions were frequently being used as advertising platform for western brands (many of which are reported in earlier posts on this blog). Having cashed-up foreign brands using your nation's space hardware and cosmonauts as advertising billboards must have been quite humiliating to Russia's national psyche - a nation's space program is major symbol of pride after all!

"Yava" was the oldest cigarette brand in Russia and the "Yava Gold" brand was built upon that strong heritage. Ironically however, the financing for the development of the new brand actually came from British American Tobacco. In that era tobacco companies were finding it harder and harder to make profits in the west due to the heavy restrictions being placed on advertising as well as high taxes. Russia, the world's fourth largest tobacco market, was an ideal region of growth, and British American was quick to seize the opportunity in this formerly closed market.

This video is a documentary about the Yava Gold campaign.


Apr 10, 2010

Supersonic Parachuting: Red Bull Stratos vs Le Grand Saut

Two teams are currently competing in an unofficial race for the first human parachute jump to reach supersonic speeds in the descent.

The current record height for a high altitude jump is 31.09 km (102,800ft), achieved on August 16, 1960 by Joe Kittinger, a retired United States Air Force Colonel. During his drop he reached a top speed of 988km/h (614mph), just below the speed of sound. But it looks like we are soon going to see the first parachute jump that breaks the sound barrier 1083km/hr (690mph).

Red Bull Stratos

In the Red Bull Stratos effort Felix Baumgartner (pictured left) plans to jump from a balloon at 36.58km (120,000ft). The team boasts a very nice website and an all-star project team. Oh, and don't forget the sponsorship of Red Bull, a brand well-known for associating itself with high-profile sports, extreme sports and record-breaking efforts. Another well-known brand, Nokia, is also providing a special application for its handsets that will enable the public to watch the event in real-time, even showing Baumgartner's pulse rate!

Le Grand Saut

In parrallel, another effort by a team consisting of French and Canadian members is preparing for Le Grand Saut (The Big Jump). In this effort, Michel Fournier (pictured right), a former colonel and paratroops instructor in the French army reserve will attempt to jump from a balloon at 40km (~130,000 feet). Le Grand Saut doesn't appear to have any major sponsors but it also has some quite impressive members from the medical sciences.

Le Grand Saut is planned for May this year whereas Red Bull Stratos has not announced the date of its attempt.

Parachute jumping from extreme altitudes is not just a publicity stunt. It also has important benefits for many other fields including medicine, science and technology. These types of extreme altitude parachute jumps can also simulate the ejections of astronauts from a high altitude rockets, quite important in this age of human sub-orbital spaceflight.

Scroll down this post to see a promotional video of the Red Bull Stratos effort as well as a nice picture and two CNN news pieces about a previous attempts at Le Grand Saut.

Apr 3, 2010

Lunar Numbat Progress on the Throttle Valve Controller

Our open source partner Lunar Numbat is working on the throttle valve controller for our lunar lander. See this blog post for their latest progress on the motor that will control the valve. The post also includes two videos of testing of the controller.

Lunar Numbat is currently working on three projects for our Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) mission.


Apr 1, 2010

Greatest Space Ads - ArcelorMittal Boldness Changes Everything

This 2007 advertising campaign by the world's biggest steel manufacturer, ArcelorMittal, used the theme of lunar exploration to convey a powerful brand message. The ad shown below consists of two images, one with a man observing the Moon from Earth, and another with an astronaut observing the Earth from the Moon.

The advertising campaign's central theme was "boldness", which like the company's main product steel, has the capability to change everything. The advertising agency behind the campaign was TBWA.

Similar brand assocations are available for our mission in the Google Lunar X PRIZE.