May 24, 2012

NASA Builds Recommendations To Preserve Lunar Sites

Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com

NASA announced guidelines established to try and protect lunar historic sites as engineers and scientists aim their sites for the moon.

The new guidelines will be taken into account by the X Prize Foundation as it judges mobility plans submitted by 26 teams trying to become the first privately-funded entity to visit the moon.

NASA said it recognizes that both nations and the companies have ambitions to reach the moon, so it wanted to develop the recommendations to preserve areas like man's first lunar steps.

The space agency is cooperating with the X Prize Foundation and the Google Lunar X Prize teams to develop the recommendations.

"NASA and the next generation of lunar explorers share a common interest in preserving humanity's first steps on another celestial body and protecting ongoing science from the potentially damaging effects of nearby landers," the space agency said in a press release.

NASA said it assembled the guidelines using data from previous lunar studies and an analysis of the unmanned lander Surveyor 3's samples after Apollo 12 landed in 1969.

Experts from the historic and scientific communities also helped to contribute to the recommendations.  The guidelines are not mandatory U.S. or international requirements, but are recommended to ensure landmarks created by the Apollo mission remain in place.

During the Google Lunar X Prize, the first place prize will go to the privately-funded team that builds a rover that lands successfully on the moon, and explores it by moving at least one-third of a mile while returning high-definition footage back to Earth.  The winner of this prize will be awarded $30 million.

Other bonus prizes will be awarded to teams that photograph a Lunar Heritage, Apollo or Surveyor spacecraft site.  The contest ends once all the prizes are claimed, or at the end of 2015.

Google said its reason for the prize is to give incentive for scientists and explorers to continue research on the Moon.

"History has shown that incentive prizes stimulate innovation and create revolutions," Google says on its Lunar X Prize site. "At $30 million, the Google Lunar X PRIZE is the largest incentive prize of all time, reflecting the vast technological and funding challenge of achieving a lunar landing."

The company said it is sponsoring the prize to stimulate a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math related research and education in "a generation of potential innovators."

The X Prize Foundation kick-started the idea of awarding prizes to pioneers of space back in 2004 when it launched the Ansari X Prize.  This $10 million prize was awarded to the team that built and launched a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to sub-orbit.

The foundation said the Ansari X Prize was modeled after the Orteig Prize, which was won by Charles Lindbergh in 1927 for being the first to fly non-stop from New York to Paris.


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