September 13, 2007

Outline of how to win the Google Lunar robot prize

Some people have said that the Google Lunar Xprize cannot be won

UPDATE: My idea for the low energy orbital transfer would be sufficient to get a very small robot to the moon using Dnepr (for the google lunar prize). However, the ITN transfer is only 18% more efficient than a Holmann. To save most of the fuel we would need electric propulsion or an ion engine powered tug to move things from low earth orbit to the ITN transfer point. My expanded idea is to use a lot of efficient transfer from LEO to the lunar surface for a lunar space program. This would need the ion or electric propulsion tug from LEO to lunar orbit.

I think winning the prize is doable. Note: the people (Spaceshipone) and teams who tried to win the last xprize collectively spent more than the prize amount. The winners alone spent 2.5 times the prize the amount.

$10 million to get to orbit with a Dnepr rocket. The rules do not say that you have to make your own rocket.

550 kg (with ST-1) to Trans Lunar Injection. Not sure how much the ST-1 stage costs. Probably better to just take the basic rocket to ISS level or slightly higher orbit with about 3000kg and then try to use low energy maneuvers from there.

Probably would have to use the Interplanetary transport network for lower power movement between the earth and the moon
A low energy transfer was achieved from the earth to the moon using the Japanese satellite Hiten

The Hiten spacecraft that made it from earth orbit to lunar orbit

Description of the three body method to get to the moon with one tenth the fuel or using ion drive propulsion

The basic look of the low energy solution route

There has been a fair bit of theoretical work on the interplanetary low energy gravitional tube system

Hiten weighed about 197kg fully fueled

A slow 5 month maneuver. You are then in lunar orbit. 500-2000kg.

the old lunar LEM, descent module was 10 tons but it was carrying the 5 ton ascent module.

You make a small descent lander. You can make it smaller than Apollo LM modules.
No need to carry ascent module down. No need to carry two astronauts or life support.

Mars Sojourner weighed about 11kg.

You need to make a lineup the Dnepr ride, orbiter stage, plan out the low energy transfer from earth to lunar orbit, descent module and a rover.

There is already a Nasa challenge on the lunar lander. Armidillo seems likely to win that.

the Armidillo lander, which was developed for the 2 million lunar lander challenge

From the xPrize site: The hover times (for the lunar lander challenge) are calculated so that the Level 2 mission closely simulates the power needed to perform the real lunar mission.

So putting this together rocket to orbit, earth orbit to lunar orbit low energy transfer, lunar lander and rover is just a matter of assembling the pieces. My bet is that Armidillo Aerospace can win the Google challenge. The question is why NASA is not sending a constant stream of larger robot vehicles to the moon now using low energy transfers. There should also be ion drive tugs going between the earth and the moon and back again.

Google's blog discusses the reasons for Google's sponsorship of the prize


Gaetano Marano said...


HOW and WHY the Google Lunar X Prize could become a BOOMERANG for the american pride!

Google has estabilished the INTERNATIONAL Lunar X Prize giving five years of time to win a $20M to $30M prize.

Probably they suppose that, since USA (with NASA) is the world leader in (manned and robotic) spaceflights, ONLY an american team can win the prize!

But, the technology to develop a lunar rover and land it on the moon is (now) known EVERYWHERE in the world, and, especially by three fast growing (and strong political, military, industrial, commercial and technological RIVALS) countries like Russia, India and China!

So, the Google Lunar X Prize could become a BOOMERANG for the american pride (and the prestige of the american space industry) if a team from these RIVAL countries will win the prize (maybe, also in LESS time!) that (worse!) under the eyes of six billions peoples, thanks to Sat-TVs and internet sites like Google and YouTube...

Full analysis here:

YouTube video:

Hey Google, the Moonrovers Prize was MY idea!!!


bw said...

I think it would be great if a team from another country won the prize. It would help shake up the pork barrel US space program.

About the moonrover idea being yours. Irrelevant since the moonrover prize idea is meaningless without the actual prize.

Gaetano Marano said...

"Irrelevant since the moonrover prize idea is meaningless without the actual prize."

so, if a big PRIVATE company will use a VALUABLE idea YOU have developed (a movie, a TV show, a new adverising, etc.) without pay you a CENT, will you be HAPPY of that?

bw said...

I think I have some valuable ideas on how to improve several space systems. However, I would be happy to have those ideas stolen and used to develop space.

Other ideas that I have where I can actually develop them. I do not tell other people but work on developing them.

If you feel you are owed something for a moonrover prize idea, then complain to Google about it..if you think they stole it. I think it was an obvious idea and not innovative. Akin to a movie idea like there should be a Star Wars 7, 8 and 9. The google lunar X prize is a sequel to the original Xprize and the lunar lander prizes.

Gaetano Marano said...

"I would be happy to have those ideas stolen and used to develop space."

please wait and say it again when that will REALLY happen... :)


Gabriel said...

Gaetano, we all know that every advanced country could make a lunar lander/rover (and Russians already done it). The problem is not "the technology known everywhere", it's to do this with a very tiny budget and by a private entity (not a government, be it China or whatever).

And don't forget there is a large chasm between knowing the technology and making it work. I think, some degree of international competing is an excellent idea, but i don't buy the "pride boomerang" thinghy. There is much more to win with a friendly, cooperative international mood...