September 14, 2007
The commercialization of space
Google seems to be thinking big.
Google is offering $20 million to any company which can land a robotic rover on the moon and beam images of the lunar surface back to earth. To be eligible, the winning craft will have to land on the moon, roam for a minimum of 500m and take a series of panoramic images as well as videos to be streamed on Google's website. Participants have until the end of 2012 to complete the challenge.
I had always thought that commercialization of space, if it ever happened, would involve getting minerals or energy. But I was overlooking what's already well under way with commercial satellites-- maybe the really valuable thing we want to bring down from space is information.
Of course, Google's motives may also have something to do with the more earthly objective of generating publicity for Google Moon, whose new version, I read on The Official Google Blog, just went live.
Still, I hope somebody collects that $20 million.
Posted by James Hamilton at September 14, 2007 03:07 PMdigg this | reddit
....but will it be good to encourage all sorts of people to launch all sorts of CRAP into space & at the Moon? Do we need that?
Think of the failures, not the eventual success...
Posted by: inquiringMind at September 14, 2007 03:35 PM
It sure would be nice for us, as a species, to be exploring new frontiers instead of trying to figure out the consequences of having destabilized the climate of our own planet and how much of its key resources are left.
However, while it may well be that some enterprising private group can get to the moon cheaply enough to make a PR splash and win this prize, it doesn't seem like we'll ever go very often unless someone can come up with a business plan whereby going to the moon regularly brings back something of enough value that the enterprise makes a profit. That doesn't seem to be in prospect at present.
Posted by: Stuart Staniford at September 14, 2007 04:14 PM
Frankly, I'll miss the old version of Google Moon - it had one of the great online easter eggs of all time hidden at the closest zoom-in level.
The neatest thing about the Moon is that perhaps its greatest value is as an R&D testbed for new technologies.
Posted by: Ironman at September 15, 2007 07:27 AM
Free enterprise has always meant socialized costs, privatized profits. The word "privitization" in conjunction with "space" means handing over publicly subsidized resources that formerly went to NASA (a bad agency in my opinion, but at least one that's in some way responsive to the public), and over to private vulture (I mean venture) capital.
It's even more frightening when one considers the lack of information available to the public about private tyrannies claiming the right to put whatever (potentially dangerous) materials they want into Low Earth Orbit.
Posted by: Anonymous at September 15, 2007 08:30 AM
Hmmmmm ...what if they are planning a HUGE billboard? :)
Posted by: NoFate at September 15, 2007 12:32 PM