NASA Tells Lunar X-Prize Contestants to Stay Away from ApolloIn news that feel like it belongs to another future, NASA wants contestants in Google's Lunar X-Prize to keep some distance between themselves and NASA's previous efforts.
They don't want the young upstarts to damage their historical legacy by, well, crashing into them at orbital speeds.
Google's Lunar X-Prize is a $20 million contest to see which private team can land a haeavy rover onto the moon first. It is an attempt to revitalize celestial travel, and reinvigorate the dreams of everyone who thinks microgravity sounds like fun. So far, 26 teams have signed up to compete, and one even has a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on the books.
As NASA's sites stand, almost nothing has changed. The low gravity, lack of an atmosphere and general stickiness of the moon has ensured that the first footprint on the moon still stands. But the sand is also incredibly fine: when the Apollo astronauts were on the moon, they constantly had to fight a fine powder of dust inside their sealed craft. It got everywhere.
NASA is terrified that a lander landing near one of their sites would kick up so much dust that the sites would be destroyed.
So they have introduced a series of guidelines. Any landers must stay at least 1.2 kilometers from any Apollo craft, at least 1,600 feet from the Ranger series. Though NASA is sending mixed signals by asking the teams to send their rovers to the edges of these zones and snap pictures of the site. NASA claimes that they want to know how their craft have aged over the last 60 years, but there might be another reason, like vanity, too. Perhaps it is a push to finally put those moon conspiracies to bed.