Private Lunar Missions Advancing Towards Launch

Source: Google Lunar X-Prize

Source: Google Lunar X-Prize

While the contestants in the Google Lunar X-Prize are far from amateur, some are closer to the spirit than others and all of them try to involve the public.

SpaceIL, Isreal’s only entrant in the Google Lunar X-Prize, has already asked the crowd to pay for rocket fuel and education programs. Now it’s crowdsourcing the navigation data its space probe will use during its voyage.

The space startup ran a coding contest at the annual Games for Change educational gaming conference in New York this past April. The contest sought developers who could gamify the processing of trajectory and landing data for SpaceIL’s lunar probe and lander. The idea is that the number of people willing to play a game is much larger than the number of people willing to crunch numbers. In the process of playing, the gamers solve SpaceIL’s navigation calculations. 

Source: Theorify

Source: Theorify

Theorify won the contest with their proposal for the SpaceIL Academy. Theorify is a group of “award-winning nerds” in Long Beach, California, who use their creative talents for good by producing games that foster education and creativity. SpaceIL Academy will be a massively multiplayer online role playing game that uses puzzles and simulations to teach space-related topics in science and mathematics. Players will enroll in the fictional school where they learn how to fly spacecraft to moons and analyze samples. The training simulations will generate the data SpaceIL needs to navigate its lunar lander. (Via Long Beach Post)

Team Indus, India’s only entrant in the Google Lunar X-Prize, is closer to the professional end of the spectrum, but retains an entrepreneurial and educational spirit. Only one of its founders had any background in the aerospace industry. The rest were entrepreneurs and consultants united by an interest in space. They have assembled a team of young engineers and scientists from India’s tech industry to build India’s first interplanetary lander. The Economic Times ran a detailed article about Team Indus last year. Recommended reading for anyone who wants to learn more about their approach to space exploration. 

In their X-Prize blog’s recent update, Team Indus highlighted their progress bringing India’s space industry on board. Major companies like Heavy Engineering L&T and Tata Communications have agreed to help the team. Negotiations are under way with the Indian Space Research Organization to hitch a ride on a future rocket launch.