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Unformatted text preview: 29 FEBRUARY 2008 VOL 319 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org 1170 NEWS OF THE WEEK As a legendary designer of communications satellites, Harold Rosen doesn’t need to spend his ninth decade figuring out how to land a cheap probe that can maneuver and send back pictures from the moon’s surface. But when Google announced last year that it was joining with the nonprofit X Prize Foundation to sponsor the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, the National Medal of Technology winner decided to dust off an idea for a tubular, spin- ning payload that had been “in the back of my head” for decades. “We think we have the team to win it, and we’re raring to go,” says the spry aerospace engineer, who at 82 stays in shape by swinging on metal rings at the beach outside his home in southern California. So far, Rosen’s crew consists of volun- teers—his wife, Deborah Castleman, a for- mer satellite systems engineer; a brother and a grandson; and a handful of col- leagues from the aerospace industry who jointly hold 130 patents. But Rosen hopes that the contest’s publicity will attract com- panies willing to bankroll the entire effort, from design to delivery. And he thinks he can do it for the price of the winner’s pot of $20 million. Nine other teams have also stepped to the starting line in what Google’s Tiffany Montague characterizes as “a new commer- cial moon race” for lunar industries and sci- ence. Competition organizer Peter Diamandis says that the $10 million awarded in 2004 as part of the Ansari X Prize to send a privately built, crewed spacecraft to the edge of the atmosphere leveraged nearly $100 million in related spending. He also hopes that the contest will “inspire a new generation” of students, who then translate their excitement about space into science and technology careers. The Soviet Luna 24 mission in 1976 was the last robotic mission to the moon. The cost of following up on that feat has been prohibi- tively expensive: NASA’s recently announced lunar orbital, called GRAIL, is priced at $375 million. Although the cash prize is far less, Montague says it is “an incentive, not meant to cover development costs.” Some of the contestants are hoping that their lunar missions will lead to deals with the media or with companies hoping to extract minerals or other resources. “For me, it’s a business plan contest,” says space entrepreneur Robert Richards of team Odyssey Moon, which is based in the United Kingdom’s Isle of Man. Richards sees the race as just one step toward selling “small-scale robotic missions to deliver scientific and technology missions.” Even the recognized front-runner in the competition has a long way to go. The princi- pals in Astrobotics, a collaboration between Raytheon (rocketry, navigation), Carnegie Mellon University (robotics), and the Uni- versity of Arizona (space cameras, vehicle testing), have raised $1.5 million toward what the group estimates will be $100 mil- lion that it needs for its four-wheeled,...
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- success rate, Google Lunar X Prize, X Prize Foundation, scientific misconduct cases, new health minister, Chiranjeevi