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Space boffins competing for $20m Moon robot X-Prize are told: Be there by March 31 – or bust

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Unhappy

Keep in mind it took (at its peak) nearly 5% of the US federal budget to do it in 9 years.

So doing it on budgets that would be (literally) accounting errors in NASA's Apollo funding is astonishing.

While it's true that a lot of space rated hardware is now available OTS it's coming from traditional Big Aerospace suppliers, at traditional prices. IE "Hooow much for this? WTF? $500 for a bolt?"

What has changed is the very much more detailed knowledge of the conditions along the whole journey and on the Moon itself. Read AC Clarke's "A Fall of Moondust" to realize how much wasn't known at the time.

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Re: Keep in mind it took (at its peak) nearly 5% of the US federal budget to do it in 9 years.

To be fair, they're also just* dropping a robot.

For certain values of "just" that involve transporting a robot to the moon and landing it intact on the surface. But at least they don't have to worry about a greasy thing wrapped in a t-shirt.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Keep in mind it took (at its peak) nearly 5% of the US federal budget to do it in 9 years.

Don't they also get to leave it there? The greasy things in T-shirts like to come back, which also adds a great deal of cost and complexity.

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Does anybody, currently, have a working launch vehicle capable of reaching Moon orbit?

I can't think of one.

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SpaceX have a vehicle which can put a reasonably sized payload into LEO - much of that payload could be fuel - a third stage - allowing a small lunar rover to be sent to the Mün^Hmoon.

Another 8km/s (bearing in mind that some of that could come from the F9 second stage in a direct ascent launch) is achievable I'd expect. It's only ~doubling the dV of the F9 itself.

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Even with cheap-as-chips launches by SpaceX, I suspect the $20million prize won't quite cover the project costs. But hey, think of the kudos (and commercial possibilities) - I suspect even if the prize was one of those little engraved perspex 'Employee of the Month' things, they'd still get quite a few competing. Good luck to them all.

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LOL at "only ~doubling the dV" :D

Keep the payload small. Really small. Sure, there's nothing in service that can get a crew of 3, with a lander, a car, some shovels and cameras, a computer massing 35kg, a second computer massing 35kg, a ready supply of flags, enough fuel to get home, and some spiffy costumes to the moon; but I'm comfortable that SpaceX (for example) could get a small robot there.

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SpaceX

Their current Falcon 9 (in maximum performance mode - no attempt to reuse the first stage booster) can already get a heavy payload to GTO (flight 38 carried a 6761kg Intelsat payload). This is more than enough lift capability to get a third stage with a payload of a few hundred kg to lunar orbit. (As the third stage would already be at orbital velocity, it would not need a large engine - just large fuel tanks)

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Boffin

For comparison (these are all fully fuelled masses):

Apollo 11 LEM: 15,200 kg

Extended LEM (ie with the lunar rover etc.): 16,400 kg

Lunakhod-1: 5,600kg

Chang'e 3: 3,800 kg

And both the Lunar Xprize craft that I could find details on:

Moon Express MX1: ~600kg*

TeamIndus: ~ 900kg

* Estimated mass which includes enough propellant to reach them moon from geosynchronous transfer orbit

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If we're allowing hypothetical third stages, why not allow Falcon Heavy, due to launch in November this year? That's probably sooner than someone could design and build and fly a third stage.

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Boffin

For comparison (these are all fully fuelled masses): Apollo 11 LEM: 15,200 kg MX1: ~600kg*

Indeed.

When your payload size drops to 1/25 of an early LM the size of rocket also goes down quite a lot.

Even more amazingly they did not increase Saturn's payload with hardware, just improved changes to operations (including on board software).

There's a fascinating paper by Logsdon & Africano about it. 50% of the improvement was due to varying the mixture ratio of the upper stages in flight from high thrust/lowish Isp to lower thrust/high Isp.

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ΔV

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Because a third stage isn't hypothetical - it's what virtually all spacecraft have.

What gets a satellite from GTO to a GO?

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do something that literally has never been done before

what, put a probe on the moon?

I think that has been done before. What makes it unique?

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Re: do something that literally has never been done before

Live streamed HD video from the Lunar surface I think they mean. Annoying as it is.

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Re: do something that literally has never been done before

"what, put a probe on the moon?

I think that has been done before. What makes it unique?"

Being done by a private company and not a government or governmentally backed space apparatus

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Joke

Re: Live streamed HD video from the Lunar surface... Annoying as it is.

could be worse. At least they didn't demand audio capability as well*. I'd hate to irritate the Vl'hurg again.

*yes, I am aware that sound transmission is not possible on the airless surface of the moon.

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Re: do something that literally has never been done before

I think that has been done before. What makes it unique?

Doing it at a price that's not a largish chunk of a major nations GPD?

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Re: do something that literally has never been done before

>Live streamed HD video from the Lunar surface I think they mean.

It would be annoying if they got their rover all the way there, but the best it could transmit was SD.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: do something that literally has never been done before

Put a privately built moving rover on the Moon that streams back HD video (could be live, not sure) and photos. That's not been done before.

C.

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