Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Moon Robotics Space Science

Private Firm Plots Robotic Lunar Exploration 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the hope-they-have-a-big-enough-movie-studio dept.
DeviceGuru writes "Astrobotic Technology has unveiled plans for a series of robotic expeditions to the Moon. The lunar rovers will explore high-interest areas of the Moon's surface and beam the data back to the Earth. The plan is to accumulate an extensive library of lunar data and sell it to governments and private corporations (PDF), much as Navteq's data forms the backbone of most terrestrial GPS services. Astrobotic's first goal is to win Google's $30 million Lunar X Prize, with a May, 2010 trip to the Apollo 11 landing site at Mare Tranquillitatis."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Private Firm Plots Robotic Lunar Exploration

Comments Filter:
  • ...are rightly over. America got to the Moon first and no-one can take that away from them. All future space exploration should be done by robots because it just isn't worth it to place a human being on another planet.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Translation: "I have a Level 74 Hermaphroditic Fighter/Mage/Sous Chef character in World of Elfcrap, why would I ever go outside?"

    • by Gonoff (88518) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @07:02AM (#25593759)

      it can't be called exploration.

      Machines are used to investigate. Self aware beings explore.

      The human race stopped exploring the moon in 1972. Mars has been investigated, which is good, but never explored, which is not.

      The reason that people with european ancestors can be found on every continent is because those ancestors explored. Minute fragments of culture from Europe are still to be found all over the "New World". Whether those 2 facts are a good thing or not is a separate debate.

      If human culture and DNA is to survive, we need to explore. Finding out what is elsewhere is only a small part of it.

      • The reason that people with european ancestors can be found on every continent is because those ancestors explored.

        If they could have sent robot ships across the Atlantic first, that would have been the clever thing to do.

        If human culture and DNA is to survive, we need to explore. Finding out what is elsewhere is only a small part of it.

        We already know that Earth is our only hope for sustaining the human race inside the solar system. If we want to colonise anywhere outside the solar system, we're not going to achieve it with traditional manned spacecraft (in the sense of having a living crew).

        • by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Saturday November 01, 2008 @09:59AM (#25594475) Homepage Journal

          We already know that Earth is our only hope for sustaining the human race inside the solar system.

          No, we don't.

          We know it's the only one we can go outside with a t-shirt on, but it's hardly our only hope for sustaining the human race.

          If we needed to, we could create self-sustaining bases on Mars, the Moon, some of the Jovian moons, etc. Sure, we wouldn't be able to go outside and breathe fresh air, but humanity could survive.

        • We already know that Earth is our only hope for sustaining the human race inside the solar system. If we want to colonise anywhere outside the solar system, we're not going to achieve it with traditional manned spacecraft (in the sense of having a living crew).
          And yet, every intelligent person in the space program that does not have their entire funding connected to robotics is saying the opposite. Ppl like Carl Sagan (well use to) and Stephen hawkings, but of course, you are SO much brighter than they ar
        • We already know that Earth is our only hope for sustaining the human race inside the solar system.

          Citation needed.
          • by murdocj (543661)

            I think the poster was referring to being able to do things like eat, drink, and breathe.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          We already know that Earth is our only hope for sustaining the human race inside the solar system. If we want to colonise anywhere outside the solar system, we're not going to achieve it with traditional manned spacecraft (in the sense of having a living crew).

          To paraphrase:

          "We already know that the Serengeti plains of Africa is our only hope for sustaining the human race on the Earth. If we want to colonize anywhere outside of Africa, we're not going to achieve it with traditional hunting expedition on fo

      • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@s[ ]hdot.org ['las' in gap]> on Saturday November 01, 2008 @08:02AM (#25593953)

        I call bullshit on your artificial separation of exploration and investigation for space travel.

        Who do you think controls those machines? "Self-aware" beings like us. Even programs are just well planned lists of actions that a human would do, if he were there. This is not that far away from a delayed control.

        It's a sad day when even people here on Slashdot use "but, the computer did it" arguments. You're supposed to know this better. Or you must be new here. ;)

        Oh, and by the way: Self-awareness is no feature that some creatures have, and some don't. Like with the question if something is alive, there are infinite steps in between. And maybe it's even just an artefact of how we see ourselves and justify free will.

        "fragments can be found..." is an irrelevant strawman argument, with no relation to the terms "investigate" and "explore".

        Your real point is, that we should spread our DNA.
        Well... on that I agree... it's the point of our existence.
        But don't forget the second level of procreation: The spreading of philosophies, world views, thoughts and knowledge.
        I argue, that if we once create a robot civilization on another planet, that lives like we do, and loves what we love,
        then our fleshy bodies could die, and we would still have survived.
        (Of course, by then, we could be able to read the content of brains and transfer it to that planet via some radio system, to embed it into androids.)

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Mr2cents (323101)

          I totally agree, the gp is mixing exploring and kolonizing.

          All the mars probes have been exploring mars: the athmosphere, minerals, history, water, and subsurface. All by remote control.

          • Exploring is when someone goes somewhere and , ideally, comes back.

            Colonising is when you go somewhere else and make your home there.

        • by mbone (558574)

          we could be able to read the content of brains and transfer it to that planet via some radio system, to embed it into androids.

          I strongly believe that you can't escape your instantiation. You might be able to transfer the content of your brains into a robot, but it will not be you. You (and I) are driven much more by our biology and genetics than we typically like to admit. There will never be a robot civilization on another planet, that lives like we do, and loves what we love,

          If you don't believe this, s

        • by Thing 1 (178996)

          I like the future thinking, but not the "wait wait don't kill me yet!" part at the end.

          My vision is of a very similar future, but instead of duplicating/destroying, it will instead be a process of "change from within", so that your existing body becomes hardened, stronger, faster, more intelligent.

          This will be achieved through nanotechnology, and my best guess (thought up years ago in Florida) is: I'll take a pill, and the nanomachines will work their way up to my brain, converting it into denser thinking m

          • I'll take a pill, and the nanomachines will work their way up to my brain, converting it into denser thinking material so that I am able to think several billion times faster.

            Unfortunately, there's a problem with that: Your brain already is getting hot from all the thinking. If it works several billon times faster, I can guarantee you that it will become extremely hot. You better excange your blood for a super-coolant, and make your hair a giant heat spreader, or else you'll literally burn up after your head explodes on you next math problem. ;)

            It would look fuckin' cool tough. I give you that. :P

      • by H3g3m0n (642800)
        Nope its called exploring, stop making up completely arbitrary definitions of words based on what you 'feel' they mean.

        explore:
        1. To investigate systematically; examine: explore every possibility.

        2. To search into or travel in for the purpose of discovery: exploring outer space.

        http://www.thefreedictionary.com/explore [thefreedictionary.com]
      • Your word meaning pedantry, whether correct or not, is of no importance. Whether the robots explore or not, they do the same thing a human would for the exploration. Only slower and in a less spectacular and satisfying manner. For any practical purposes, what the robots do is still an exploration, only less time effective one.

        However, there are two things that the robots can't do alone. One's the human adaptation to other worlds. You can't create and test extraterrestrial human habitats without the humans,

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mbone (558574)

        Sure it can be. It just tends to be slow. In 5 Earth years, the Mars Exploration Rovers have been superb, but what they have done could have been done by a crew of human geologists in a few weeks or less. We could be doing that, we just chose to put our resources elsewhere.

        There are plenty of other places in the solar system where humans are unlikely to go. The surface of Europa, a very interesting [space.com] place, sits bathed in the Jovian radiation belts, for example, which would be fatal to an unprotected human

      • Webster's

        2. to look into closely; scrutinize; examine: Let us explore the possibilities for improvement.

        Get a damn dictionary.
        • by lgw (121541)

          Nice way to *completely* miss the point. We're doing thing1. We need to be doing thing2, because that's what history shows us that most susccessful cultures did. The words he chose are beside the point.

      • by whopub (1100981)

        it can't be called exploration

        Machines are used to investigate. Self aware beings explore.

        Well, you gotta remember that we came up with that term before we had any machines able to do the dirty work for us.

        But yeah, I agree with you. Most of that spirit is gone. Still, we should employ all means available.

      • by khallow (566160)
        The thing to remember here is that unmanned vehicled are manned from Earth. They just don't have people riding in them.
    • I'm curious... if I wanted to go out and buy a car, could I do that or do I have to ask your permission first? If I want to plant a garden, is that up to me or do I need to pass that by central planning before I go out and hoe some furrows?

      I guess what I'm getting at is, if someone wants to go to the moon and they find like minded individuals and they all pool their resources and off they go, do they have to get ciderVisor's benediction before they can do it?

      I'm a bit confused here. At what point did your v

  • That's my moon! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by astrodoom (1396409) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @05:37AM (#25593477)
    I wonder how governments will attempt to regulate space once it becomes a truly commercial frontier (I mean aside from orbit). On the one hand, I'm against regulations on what is essentially just an un-owned patch of "space". On the other hand though...it'd be scary to have any company that can afford to send things to the moon or into space. I mean, that much equipment just floating around out there and something's bound to go catasrophically wrong.
    • Re:That's my moon! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gregbot9000 (1293772) <mckinleg@csusb.edu> on Saturday November 01, 2008 @06:22AM (#25593641) Journal
      What will happen in space is you'll get a few large companies that get people to sign contracts with them that cover their cost to orbit. The cost will be so high it will put people so far in debt that they have to sign away their freedom, and work for the company as property for several generations.

      A few will be able to earn their freedom. Those that earn their freedom will settle in cities and become merchants and prosper. These merchants power will come to rival the corporations which by that time will have become inefficient and corrupt, but the corps. will control the the law and use it to support their power.

      This control will ultimately be challenged by a revolutions lead by the middling merchant class and made up of the poor contract workers around the year 2775.

      The revolution will be successful and force everyone to follow the same laws, and turn the governing of the land over to the law which will be written in a representitive collective fashion, removing the power of corrupt officials to rule by mandate. Then everything will be peachy utile the wealthy discover that they can just buy the representitives who write the laws and create a system that benefits themselves handsomely, they will even learn that all they need to do to silence any criticism of that system is accuse it's critics of being a straw man called co-prosperitalism.
      • by svzurich (524785)

        I remember the original version of this story. Europe colonizing and exploring North America. :) From the Revolution, to the Constitution, to the Robber Barrons, you did good here.

        • by hawkfish (8978)

          I remember the original version of this story.

          Funny, I was going to say the same thing, but I was thinking of "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" ;-)

          • by sketerpot (454020)
            You weren't thinking "Logic of Empire"? The indentured labor thing sounded familiar, and so did the theme of an oppressive system arising almost spontaneously.
            • It's really just history. From Egypt to Rome to India, Australia, England, Japan, and anyplace that had a class system. I'm sure Heinlein wrote a lot similar to that, he was concerned with the rights of individuals, the origination of power, and the systems created around them.
    • I wonder how governments will attempt to regulate space once it becomes a truly commercial frontier (I mean aside from orbit). On the one hand, I'm against regulations on what is essentially just an un-owned patch of "space". On the other hand though...it'd be scary to have any company that can afford to send things to the moon or into space. I mean, that much equipment just floating around out there and something's bound to go catasrophically wrong.

      I think the current row over who owns the Arctic is pretty indicative of what will happen on the moon. Unless some deal similar to the Antarctic treaty that bans mining and military use can be created and ratified (my quick Google search has turned up the Moon treaty which has not been ratified by any space-going nation).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mbone (558574)

        There is the Moon treaty [wikipedia.org], which we never signed, and the Outer Space [wikipedia.org] treaty, which we did. (Pay careful attention to Article 8 of the OST, which says that terrestrial laws apply unless you start making stuff up there. I am convinced that in the fullness of time this will be an issue.)

        There have been some other, more focused, agreements as well - a complete list is here [unoosa.org].

    • by slew (2918) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @12:23PM (#25595423)

      The Outer Space Treaty [state.gov] which is the first basic attempt to regulate space is pretty much like the concept behind International Waters. The gist of Articles 6 and 7 are that governments are responsible for their citizens and corporate entities operation in outer space. If you need an analogy, this is sort of like how your parents are legally responsible for your actions when you are a child.

      As for the equipment just floating around and something going catestrophically wrong, well, just look at the junk floating around earth's orbit, you don't have to imagine it, it's already real. In many respects it's no different than the great pacific garbage patch [howstuffworks.com].

      These happenings are perhaps one of the best illustrations of the Tragedy of the Commons [wikipedia.org] effect. There are many sides to this argument about the commons. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves ;^)

  • by wjsteele (255130) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @05:38AM (#25593483)

    With Red Whittaker as the CEO, I'm sure this company can do what it says. If you're not familar with Red, his robots have been doing great things for many years. For example, it was Red's robots that helped clean up Three Mile Island after the accident there, as well as Chernobyl. His team at Carnegie Mellen also won the Darpa Grand Challange for developing a vehicle that could navigate autonomously. (The previous year, he took 2nd and 3rd place in the same challenge.)

    So... I guess after he achieves this, we'll have a "Red Moon" after all!

    Bill

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by gregbot9000 (1293772)
      Why do you hate America?
    • by RustinHWright (1304191) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @06:24AM (#25593655) Homepage Journal
      I agree that this is the right team. But what's just as delightful, and make no mistake, delight is an understated way to describe what I think of this news, is that they're clearly thinking of this not as a "mission" but as a task set to bootstrap a business able to pay its own way. I particularly like that they're not using the oh-so-annoying sop of "space tourism". Afaic, "space tourism" is pretty much like twenties barnstorming. Iow, "we've got this amazing technology that we aren't using seriously at the moment so while we get our act in gear we'll kill time, keep ourselves busy, and make beer money giving people rides on our cool vehicles".

      Personally, I've been pushing the idea of private organizations exploring with clusters of small robotic missions [slashdot.org] for years now, I've even ranted at my friends about it [usatoday.com], so how could I not be pleased?

      I wonder how long it will take for the mainstream media and legislators to claim that they've backed this approach all along
      • by khallow (566160)

        I particularly like that they're not using the oh-so-annoying sop of "space tourism". Afaic, "space tourism" is pretty much like twenties barnstorming. Iow, "we've got this amazing technology that we aren't using seriously at the moment so while we get our act in gear we'll kill time, keep ourselves busy, and make beer money giving people rides on our cool vehicles".

        Space tourism currently pays bills. It is a real market. Private space exploration is not yet a real market. Not much point to trash talking unless you have something to back it up.

  • The problem with beaming data from the Earth to the Moon is that anyone with an antenna can listen to the signal. Unless Astrobotic has a unique way of obfuscating the data stream so that only they know what's being beamed back, what's to stop a government from simply erecting a few antennae and getting all the information for free?
    And another question, if the cost of paying people to decode the obfuscated datastream is cheaper than the cost of buying the information directly from Astrobotic, how can the
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      The cryptographic term of the day is "One-Time Pad," boys and girls. Can you say "One-Time Pad?"

      • by johannesg (664142)

        The cryptographic term of the day is "One-Time Pad," boys and girls. Can you say "One-Time Pad?"

        And the space-term of the day is "weight". Given that you need to bring your one-time pad with you to the moon, and taking into account that it will need to last for the duration of the mission, just how many terabytes of storage do you think you will need on the spacecraft just for this? And all that storage will have to be radiation-hardened as well, so the weight will be significant. Plus, it introduces another point of failure on a communication link that is already suffering from long distances and low

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Whiteox (919863)

      Good point. I saw a documentary recently that detailed the work of 2 Italian brothers who made receiving dishes and captured satellite signals from 1959 onwards and could actually work out wavelengths by the size of the antenna on one if they saw a picture.
      Eventually they flew to NASA in the mid 60s' who confirmed their findings. They were even able to determine if USSR/USA sent up any spy satellites etc just by scanning the RF.
      I just can't find a link about them.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by sFurbo (1361249)
        Achille and Giovanni Judica. skeptoid [skeptoid.com] had a good episode about them resently.
        • by Whiteox (919863)

          That's them. 'Space Hackers' eh? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1F_67UAaG70 [youtube.com]

          Just watching the program, I had the impression that they caught everything, but Skeptoid's Brian Dunning has pointed out some discrepancies between the 'historical records' {grin} and the brothers' recordings.
          I should correct my original post and change 1959 to 1957 as Judicia's starting point.
          All in all you just have to be impressed at the resourcefulness and inventiveness of these brothers who turned out to be the public's third

      • by Agripa (139780)

        and could actually work out wavelengths by the size of the antenna on one if they saw a picture.

        While not diminishing their accomplishments, divining operating frequency from a picture of an antenna is not difficult to do for one who has studied antenna design even informally. World War Two publicity pictures of warships often had mast sections blocked out to prevent giving away the operating frequencies of the various radios and radars.

    • by sketerpot (454020)
      Just encrypt the data. It doesn't have to use a one-time pad. It just has to use encryption good enough that cracking it would be implausible. We can do that.
  • Hmm... I'm just a little concerned about other (commercial) parties landing at Tranquility Base (the name for the Apollo 11 landing site) and desecrating (is that too strong a word?) it. I mean, if the Chinese got there and defaced the lander and removed the footprints there would be a lot of very angry Americans.

    I assume that self-interest will keep any visitors from doing anything to egregious but are there any policies for keeping these sites pristine? Maybe someday they'll be preserved in a bubble jus

    • RTFA, please. (Score:3, Insightful)

      Seriously. I know that this is /., but try. You might enjoy it.
      • Oops, my bad. ;) (But I did say "other" as in other future landings). So my question still stands, I assume there are no policies regarding future visitations? Are there any legal precedents like shipwrecks? (Removing artifacts from the Titanic, for example, I assume is legally "okay" because it is a shipwreck no? The Apollo landing site has not been "abandoned" I presume).

        I have no idea about this arcane part of international law.

        • There are massive legal precedents. It's called 'salvage'. In easy terms, it's finders-keepers for property on non-territorial waters.
          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Umm, not quite.

            For the record, IANALBIAANA (I am not a lawyer, but I am a nautical archaeologist)

            The laws of salvage only apply when a ship, etc. is formally abandoned (usually for insurance purposes). For things like military vessels, governments tend not to formally abandon title and zealously guard it against salvage attempts. Considering that the lunar modules and other equipment are U.S. government property, I highly doubt that they have been legally abandoned.

            Of course, this is all a moot point, since

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Megane (129182)
      If someone can send a little robo-rover that can roll up to the site and take pictures, that in itself would be rather historic. (And probably still wouldn't satsify people who say that the moon landings were a hoax.) But if you want to take that to its illogical conclusion, imagine a train of rovers leading away from the site, each there to take a picture of the previous historic rover.
    • by mbone (558574)

      I agree (and I did RTFA). The Apollo 11 site is a bad target for this. It is quite small and they will mess it up.

      Here is a suggestion : They should aim for the Apollo 12 landing site and specifically for the Surveyor 3 [wikipedia.org] lander investigated by the Apollo 12 astronauts. For that spacecraft there is a 3 year baseline (its landing to the Apollo 12 landing) of observations and comparing that with 40 years in the lunar vacuum would be very interesting.

  • Wow!!!!! (Score:1, Troll)

    by IHC Navistar (967161)

    Wow! A robotic mission to the Moon? Gee whiz! And to think that we only had manned missions 30 years ago!

    • by sketerpot (454020)
      This is meant to be commercially profitable, thus giving some immunity from the whims of Congress. That was what ultimately killed the Apollo program.
  • Why don't they trample over those landing sites first. I mean it's not as if there is any reason to fuck up what is essentially a preserved historical site from any interference. Nothing is going to convince the 'fake moon landing crowd' anyway.

    Future historians anybody? or have we abandoned al hope of ever becoming a space faring race.

  • Lunokhod 1 and 2 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @09:17AM (#25594253)

    Lunkhod [lunarandpl...rovers.com] (or Lunakhod) 1 and 2 roved around on the Moon in the 1970's, with the second rover covering over 40 km (more than the current Mars Rovers combined).

    Here are some pictures [mentallandscape.com] from the mission.

    Lunkhod 2 has a laser retroreflector package that is used for laser laser ranging (LLR) along with 3 Apollo LLR retroreflector packages; these 4 sites together determine the Moon's orbit to the order of centimeters and are thus crucial in a number of scientific investigations [arxiv.org] ranging from pure physics to Lunar dynamics.

    As a PS, I would strongly urge any exploration of the Apollo 11 site to stay well away from its LLR retroreflectors, as moving them by even a mm could cause problems interpreting that data.

  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @09:26AM (#25594301) Homepage

    when they find the moon landing was a hoax and they're the first ones there.

    Of course, maybe they're in bed with NASA, who'll let them use the same sound stage where they filmed the apollo landing, and it'll be a double hoax!

  • IGS (Score:4, Informative)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @09:39AM (#25594361)

    much as Navteq's data forms the backbone of most terrestrial GPS services

    Define "most." I think that the people who run the International GNSS Service [nasa.gov] (IGS [nasa.gov]) would disagree with you.

  • ..and if they crash land ON the Eagle, there's gonna be a lot of pissed of Americans.
  • Astrobotic's first goal is to win Google's $30 million Lunar X Prize, with a May, 2010 trip to the Apollo 11 landing site at Mare Tranquillitatis.

    Forgive me for not RTFA, but why would they target such a historically sensitive location? I can imagine that lunar mapping isn't yet pixel perfect, and it is a known site that is suitable for landing, but why there?

    Does anyone know any good reasons why this must be their target (other than perhaps marketing)?

  • by Diagoras (859063)
    Anyone know what launch vehicle they're planning to lob it to the moon with? SpaceX Falcon? OSC Pegasus?

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

Working...