I saw In the Shadow of the Moon, Ron Howard’s new documentary about the Apollo program, yesterday evening and have done some looking into the space program. Turns out, Google has now thrown their checkbook behind the Lunar X Prize, which will award $20 million to the first group to land a robotic rover on the moon by the end of 2012.
Sounds like a great idea–moon landing on the cheap. But government threatens to stand in the way. As Morgan Smith of Slate explains, while world governments have no prohibition against private moon roving, it is a bit tricky to get something into space. So, while it may be perfectly legal to bound over moon dunes with a 21st super-long-distance RC car, it takes some hoop jumping to get there.
While I understand we can’t have just anyone shooting rockets to the moon–safety of those around the launch and preventing rockets from colliding with planes and other flying craft is a good idea–any regulatory structure should be based on guarding the safety and property of others, not creating a one-size-fits all solution for space travel.
Want to do one better than the $20 million prize? Try privatizing the moon!