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I, Cringely - The Survival of the Nerdiest with Robert X. Cringely
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The Pulpit
Pulpit Comments
September 27, 2007 -- To the Moon, Alyce!
Status: [CLOSED]


I support you Bob. By support I mean in the same way many of our fellow US citizens support our troops.

In a similar vein, if you offered magnetic ribbons to stick on my car I might even buy one.

In all seriousness You sound like you've gone of the deep end a bit.

With even more seriousness, you new harddrive tech and your new found spaceship plan are starting to make me question your credibility as a tech pundit.

But hey, I still enjoy your column and find your entertaining, if not informative.

Jason | Sep 27, 2007 | 3:44PM

Sounds like the youtube way of doing business.

YOU come up with the ideas, material, and money, and I'll just piggyback along for the ride.

Lame.

Dave | Sep 27, 2007 | 3:56PM

So does this mean we won't see NerdTV S02 for at least another 18 months??

n[ate]vw | Sep 27, 2007 | 4:03PM

Dear Bob, that sounds like a great plan. Allow me to offer my humble assistence. I'm afraid I do not have much experience in pace flight, or even in aeronautics, but I am an experienced CAD draftsman. If you have need of technical 3D drawings (I use AutoDesk Inventor 2008 Pro), give me a holler.

Richard | Sep 27, 2007 | 4:10PM

I actually forgot that your were makig this earth shattering announcement today. Oh! Well.

Jim

Jim | Sep 27, 2007 | 4:10PM

Is is part of the contest rules to explain why it's ethical to use up a staggering amount of time, money, effort and resources playing with boys' toys, instead of, say, building a hospital or digging a well?

Jon.

Jon | Sep 27, 2007 | 4:25PM

Here's my usual response to grandiose plans like this (and I'm experienced in grandiose plans - hell, I planned to overthrow the United States government and most of society back in 1993 - did jail time for that!):

Email me when you succeed.

Richard Steven Hack | Sep 27, 2007 | 4:44PM

I know how to convert between english and metric units. (Sometimes I forget which to use where.)

Jeff

Jeff | Sep 27, 2007 | 4:53PM

Cringley, if I manage to sell my company I'll have some leisure time and I'll call you up and devote my lowly hacker skills completely to your endeavour and swear allegiance to the cult of Cringley the Space Pioneer.

I don't have any space experience, but I'd be happy making coffee for this outfit. Good show, sir. I like your spirit.

Nobody | Sep 27, 2007 | 4:56PM

Just don't be like NASA to send a space probe to another planet only to have it fail since two teams were working on it (one in English units and the other in Metric). Gee I wonder why it failed??? Think I am joking, just google it.

MM

Metric Man | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:10PM

As I have no space experience, I do consider myself an expert in "moon gazing" and "moon adoring." I offer you my support as a citizen of this world who would love nothing more that to see you succeed. As I compose music on the side, I would be happy to write your team a theme song to celebrate in your upcoming victory. :)

Emily | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:11PM

Bob, if you can build an airplane in 20 days, you're plane crazy enough to pull off a stunt like this. I smell another documentary in the making.

In addition, I think you should change the name to the Cringe Team. Own the word. Be the team that makes others cringe. Where does one sign up to help with this project. Put me down as interested.

Wally Glenn | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:18PM

And where were we to direct our PayPal funds too...?
Team Moongley sounds more interesting.

fiddlesmith | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:21PM


Bob on the moon.....I Cringe...ly at the thought.
Guess the rover will be named the "Drone on".

Fastfred | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:22PM


Bob on the moon.....I Cringe...ly at the thought.
Guess the rover will be named the "Drone on".

Fastfred | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:22PM

Um, okay, but I'm still waiting for Bob's Disk Drive.

slimcat | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:24PM

bob to the moon... I support you! go ahead!!! :)

angelo | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:27PM

Bob -
Sign me up! I'm all a-quiver. I considered answering NASA's recent call for astronauts, but figured that being 46 would get in the way of that. This will be the next best thing. I'm ready to go!

Andy Wallace | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:28PM

Name your flyer the RON PAUL EXPRESS and I might get interested otherwise your announcement makes for a slow slow news day.

Nobody U Know | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:28PM

Bob,

If you are looking for teammates, we have a few. Being a rocket company kinda helps. Let me how if you'd like to work together.

Joe

Joe Latrell | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:30PM

Bob, make sure you use Taguchi to design the 20 test rockets! Need some help?

Cheers,
Mario Kodama
(aka Mario Fantoni)

Mario Kodama | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:38PM

I must remember to read the "Tribe Comments" before I comment.
Who writes this stuff? Who has the time to read this stuff?
Their Space experience is mostly between their ears.
Then I realize.....damn .....I read this stuff.
Wonder what version of the iPOD Bob would take to the moon?

Fastfred | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:42PM

You'll do this and you'll win. It' the great American underdog story. The hell with Nova, it'll make a great movie. I'm in your corner all of the way! Go to the moon!

Dutch | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:46PM

weird deja vu; just saw this in today's Sacramento Bee:

http://www.sacbee.com/arden/story/398848.html

one of my son's teamates (water polo) was part of this high school group that beat out MIT, Texas A&M, and others in a recent international robotics contest.... maybe you should give them a ring

may this empire not be accidental!

out


William Viergever | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:50PM

You had me at 'boneheaded courage' - I'm in

Steve Malech | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:55PM

I'll teach!

All good things,

George

George | Sep 27, 2007 | 5:58PM

Hey Bob, how about getting Season 2 of NerdTV launched first?

Chris Herron | Sep 27, 2007 | 6:01PM

So....

How are you going to prevent that failed iron from whacking someone in the head as it falls to earth? Even if you're out over the ocean there's some chance of a boat being in the wrong place at the wrong time.....

elmegil | Sep 27, 2007 | 6:08PM

Cheers!

Good luck! I sincerely hope Cringely and PBS find great success in this venture. I would love NOTHING more than my favorite organization to succeed wildly.

Please feel free to call upon your readers and viewers for resources :)

Doug | Sep 27, 2007 | 6:09PM

Bob,


Instead of wasting a lot of time building working rockets and rovers, you could just fake it like NASA did.


Here's how:

1) Set up a film set in the desert near Groom Lake

2) Make a run to Toys R Us (for a radio controlled car and model rocket)

3) Watch the movie Capricorn One if you need more detailed instruction.


Nobody caught on the first time it was faked -- why should this time be any different? ;>)

Johnny | Sep 27, 2007 | 6:13PM


NONSENSE Good bye, Bob X

Richard Sherman | Sep 27, 2007 | 6:50PM


NONSENSE Good bye, Bob X

Richard Sherman | Sep 27, 2007 | 6:50PM

Yes, but will it run Linux?

hseldon | Sep 27, 2007 | 6:55PM

Just think - if it does run Linux, Bob'll be the first to put a penguin in space, although the concept has already been taken (http://www.bigideafun.com/penguins/default.htm)

Rick Wightman | Sep 27, 2007 | 7:10PM

Just think - if it does run Linux, Bob'll be the first to put a penguin in space, although the concept has already been taken (http://www.bigideafun.com/penguins/default.htm)

Rick Wightman | Sep 27, 2007 | 7:10PM

Penguins have been in space before! Australia's FedSat spacecraft was running Linux, inside an FPGA no less.

jtc

John Catsoulis | Sep 27, 2007 | 7:40PM

The best fuel to use for your winning ticket will be the fuel of choice for all alt.space vehicles given its proven lift and velocity capability. Choose cherry or grape flavored Kool Aid with real sugar. Sugar has a a his ISP value and Kool and the cherry or grape flavor will keep the various rocket stages happy so they will work correctly. If you do this, you don't need any help and can keep all the Google money for yourself. Consider this a PSA from Kellog and others that know the secret value and importance of Kool Aid. Now for your rover, I suggest one that runs on Energizer batteries because they keep going and going and going and going. This will you will have unlimited power in a small container that does not add much mass to your vehicle. Make sure they are Energizer though, they are the only ones bunny tested for real space travel. Finally, make sure you share none of your advanced technology with anyone other than a US citizen so ITAR does not bust your chops and make you miss out on getting some Google dollars. If you keep it made in America and talked with only Americans, you are ok on this. ITAR should actually be in charge of our border policy but they are too busy protecting our businesses from nasty competition and foreign earnings. But they are more effective than I.C.E. in keeping America for America. We wish you good luck. Now go show us how to do it!

Doc Putz

Dr. Putz | Sep 27, 2007 | 7:58PM

The best fuel to use for your winning ticket will be the fuel of choice for all alt.space vehicles given its proven lift and velocity capability. Choose cherry or grape flavored Kool Aid with real sugar. Sugar has a a his ISP value and Kool and the cherry or grape flavor will keep the various rocket stages happy so they will work correctly. If you do this, you don't need any help and can keep all the Google money for yourself. Consider this a PSA from Kellog and others that know the secret value and importance of Kool Aid. Now for your rover, I suggest one that runs on Energizer batteries because they keep going and going and going and going. This will you will have unlimited power in a small container that does not add much mass to your vehicle. Make sure they are Energizer though, they are the only ones bunny tested for real space travel. Finally, make sure you share none of your advanced technology with anyone other than a US citizen so ITAR does not bust your chops and make you miss out on getting some Google dollars. If you keep it made in America and talked with only Americans, you are ok on this. ITAR should actually be in charge of our border policy but they are too busy protecting our businesses from nasty competition and foreign earnings. But they are more effective than I.C.E. in keeping America for America. We wish you good luck. Now go show us how to do it!

Doc Putz

Dr. Putz | Sep 27, 2007 | 7:58PM

Dude, you just 'jumped the shark'.

E Baker | Sep 27, 2007 | 8:12PM

Your column reminds me of a lecture a professor gave years ago. He started by saying he had a theory that pointed objects are attracted to soft round objects. He then went about giving his reasons and what he called supporting evidence. At the end of the class he said those of you that took notes during this lecture, and there were a few, should think hard about what you just heard. I found out that afternoon that he gave this nonsensical lecture every year when he didn't feel like working up a real column, opps, I mean lecture.

Richard | Sep 27, 2007 | 8:19PM

Your column reminds me of a lecture a professor gave years ago. He started by saying he had a theory that pointed objects are attracted to soft round objects. He then went about giving his reasons and what he called supporting evidence. At the end of the class he said those of you that took notes during this lecture, and there were a few, should think hard about what you just heard. I found out that afternoon that he gave this nonsensical lecture every year when he didn't feel like working up a real column, opps, I mean lecture.

Richard | Sep 27, 2007 | 8:20PM

This announcement reminds me I need to watch "Plane Crazy".

Shannon Sivertsen | Sep 27, 2007 | 8:38PM

If this column had been printed a few years ago, there would have been an overwhelming majority of people cheering you on and wanting to become part of it.

Unfortunately, we are in such a national funk now with the current batch of idiots in Washington (And I mean BOTH sides of the aisle...) that no one believes we can do ANYTHING anymore and find it easier to sit on their fat asses and give up rather than try.

What the hell happened to this country's entrepreneurial spirit?? We put men on the freaking Moon!! Now the best we can offer the world is youtube and Viagra?!?!?

Laugh if you want to, but somewhere in Asia there's a small group of hackers and rocket geeks planning to eat our lunch. This nation better wake up, and fast. We are losing our lead in all technologies and engineering simply because we're too busy bickering amongst ourselves.

It's a damn shame, and you should all be embarrassed for being so negative and condescending.

Robert Anthony Pitera | Sep 27, 2007 | 9:11PM

go at night, it's definitely easier to find it at night

Buzz Armstrong | Sep 27, 2007 | 9:12PM

I could name a few technologists we could strap to the sides of some of those test rockets you're gonna blow up... All in the name of science of course.

And you should get IRobot to make the bot, call it "Lumba", that is of course if RobotFX doesn't steal all your rocket fuel.

Dave Cline | Sep 27, 2007 | 9:46PM

Firstly: Contact the Lego people and acquire ye several Mindstorms NXT sets rated for space...

robertcr5 | Sep 27, 2007 | 9:48PM

You (whoever you are) never never finish to amush me. In fact, every friday I have this silly thought that you will run off of ideas and write something like... going to the moon! Finally you did it. My hope: your moon-racer design by APPLE, your command center build on top of map-reduce, and all the transmission managed by that guys at Burst.com :-)

Saludos desde Chile!

Gabriel Gasparolo | Sep 27, 2007 | 10:08PM

Bob
Let me know what I (and Cistera) can do

Greg Royal

Greg Royal | Sep 27, 2007 | 10:31PM

Wow, I can't believe the number of negative and some downright mean comments.

## (stupid msg wrapping!) Go Bob! You obviously love flying. GO FOR IT!!!!!!!

a one, a two | Sep 27, 2007 | 10:40PM

Sounds exciting Bob.

Don't forget to keep us abreast of the project and your role in it Bob.

As a fund raiser consider including a file somewhere on the unit, which contains the names (maybe even a small message from) anyone who donates to help fund the project. The more donated the longer the message.

Doesn't add any more weight to the payload (maybe minimal), but helps get people motivated, and donating. I'm still a student but I'm more than willing to come up with a few bucks to support the "Team Cringely" effort. My name hurtling through space and ending on the moon just makes it more worthwhile. Being part of the project even in that small a way would be great.

A script that generates a picture with the team's message, and the message sent, for printout would be great. Another project was doing that at one point. (can't remember which, but it was a great idea)

Keep us abreast Bob.


digitalones | Sep 27, 2007 | 10:45PM

Oh those magnificent men and their moon roving machines? I can smell a PBS 3 or 4 part special coming out this one. And as you pointed out the failures may make as much compelling watching as the successes. Lord knows I watched the flying machines series more than once. That was definitely a form of reality television spectacle you don't ever see anywhere except public television. When you tore apart the fiberglass form for your experimental plane fuselage, that was painful.

Eric Likness | Sep 27, 2007 | 10:45PM

OK, for a moment I thought this was April's fool... checked the calendar, and realized it's not.

So I thought you were serious, and then I stumbled on the "I intend to win or fail in 18 months".

OK, at least that's gonna give you something to write about for that long...

Marc Jauvin | Sep 27, 2007 | 10:53PM

Would I want to be a part of this? Are you kidding? But I am in Brooklyn NY, probably not close to you. However, we just got a new vertical machining center at the shop I work at. As soon as I figure out how to use it its at your service. I am also really good at Solid Edge 3D modeling software. And pretty clever, too.

Larry King | Sep 28, 2007 | 12:06AM

Bob, count me IN... search your feelings you know this to be our destiny!

lol

No fooling, I'm all over the communications, programming, sensor arrays, controls.

But... we need someone with experience to provide us assistance for environmental hardening, temps + radiation are at extremes there on the moon.

WebDr | Sep 28, 2007 | 12:48AM

OK, Bob, this is all sounding *way* too familiar. Please tell your partners to keep the chainsaws out of your reach just in case you become frustrated again.

Robert Yoder | Sep 28, 2007 | 1:11AM

So, does this mean you will be one of Kazakhstan's first MIG-31 satellite launch customers?

jayrtfm | Sep 28, 2007 | 1:26AM

Bob, do NOT try to reinvent the wheel. You've had an offer of a free rocket to the moon. How many people have offered you rockets to the moon in your lifetime? You do not pass up such an offer, because it means you can focus on the rover all the more.

Think of it this way - if you were NASA, would a new rocket design be of any significant use? I say no, there are plenty of rockets, and you've been offered the use of one. For 18 months with ROV experts, your best bet is specialization on the Rover. There is plenty of room for innovation with the rover, such as automated exploration, developing new ways to prevent damage by moon dust, etc. If Bill Gates offers to help, then maybe you can think about building your own rocket... but then you can also think about sending the rover to Io, as well.

18 months X Bob's rule of 3 = over four years for a rover and rocket.

Graham | Sep 28, 2007 | 2:31AM

Bob, do NOT try to reinvent the wheel. You've had an offer of a free rocket to the moon. How many people have offered you rockets to the moon in your lifetime? You do not pass up such an offer, because it means you can focus on the rover all the more.

Think of it this way - if you were NASA, would a new rocket design be of any significant use? I say no, there are plenty of rockets, and you've been offered the use of one. For 18 months with ROV experts, your best bet is specialization on the Rover. There is plenty of room for innovation with the rover, such as automated exploration, developing new ways to prevent damage by moon dust, etc. If Bill Gates offers to help, then maybe you can think about building your own rocket... but then you can also think about sending the rover to Io, as well.

18 months X Bob's rule of 3 = over four years for a rover and rocket.

Graham | Sep 28, 2007 | 2:33AM

Thats AWESOME. I am rooting for your team.

Sean Oliver | Sep 28, 2007 | 3:01AM

I think you are right small and cheap and numerous will win the day, the majority will try and build a Cadillac and put all the eggs in one basket any damage is a major set back and full of delays and cost overruns. small cheap and simple each "failure" is a successful experiment it yields results and improvements. I do not have any advanced degrees but I can do electronic assembly piece work? (A.S in electronics)
this will be fun to watch regardless. Go Bob X Go!!

uncle frogy | Sep 28, 2007 | 3:18AM

Why do the words "Plane Crazy" keep coming to mind?

This should be even more fun.

Dave | Sep 28, 2007 | 4:21AM

Team Cringely FTW! :)

Carl H. Blomqvist | Sep 28, 2007 | 4:43AM

This sounds as if its doomed for glorious failure. Or unbelievable success.

Jimbob | Sep 28, 2007 | 5:24AM

Bob, I don't think you've realised that hot air can't get you into space.

This is nuts and will sink as low as the place where your credibility is heading. I think you're having a midlife crisis. Why not get a big bike and go visiting lapdancing bars like everyone else?

John Mac | Sep 28, 2007 | 5:38AM

Where do I sign up to donate? I guess I have to wait for the website...

Dave | Sep 28, 2007 | 5:38AM

Going to the moon? I thought that where you submitted these from. (insert smiley here)

Dempsey | Sep 28, 2007 | 5:50AM

Bob,

This is brilliant.


Many people will think you're crazy and wasting everyone's time of course...


... but this is Planet Earth and we need to keep pushing the boundaries as well as fixing the world's problems in my view. I think there is a place for the underdogs to do what only multi-nationals have budget to achieve otherwise.


You've got a large following of like-minded people, and enormous entheusiasm so why not have a go?


(I'm happy for those against to go do something else...)


Count me in.

Gary | Sep 28, 2007 | 6:01AM

Robert Anthony Pitera you are right.
This corner of the blog-o-sphere has been eroded to a festering hive of negativity.
Least Bob retains optimism which is something rare for you lot these days.
I come here to read Bob's opinion and get a weekly dose of hair-brainededness... and it's great. This is what Bob does and does well.
If you don't like what Bob says... remove it from your Bookmarks or Newsreader and go away... don't come back. We won't miss you.
Go For It Team... Prove the negative losers wrong.

AdamS | Sep 28, 2007 | 6:56AM

You had enough trouble with that aeroplane!

Good luck though....you'll need it :-)

Rob | Sep 28, 2007 | 7:49AM

Bob,

Keep it up! Remember that the most important requirement for success is not money but commonsense (the ultimate oxymoron!).

During the heat of the space race in the 1960's, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided it needed a ball point pen to write in the zero gravity confines of its space capsules. After considerable research and development, the Astronaut Pen was developed at a cost of about $241 million. The pen worked and also enjoyed some modest success as a novelty item back here on Earth.

The Soviet Union, faced with the same problem, used a pencil.

Big Bob | Sep 28, 2007 | 8:08AM

Bob,

Are you serious? You sound serious!

Wow, I feel compeled to say something but am at a loss for words.

I'd love to be part of this but... its just so BIG!

At the very least this project will make for a great story. Best of luck!

Eric | Sep 28, 2007 | 8:11AM

I was going to be an astronaut when I went to college. Somehow I ended up a Librarian and have enjoyed it. I did not have a brother working on the Sky Lab but I had insider copies of some of their manuals. My brother-n-law developed mouse de-headers for Shuttle missions. Anyway, I read you blog all the time. I actually introduced you to a packed audience in Houston Texas Library Association Conference in 2003. If you are really serious, I would like to contribute monetarily. I canít give much, my daughterís college and my gasoline bills come first, but I can give some and I suspect others will to. Tell us how.

Thanks and good luck,
Barry

Barry Bishop | Sep 28, 2007 | 8:16AM

Hey Bob - it might not be necessary to do an air-launched booster (but I must admit, it would be more fun). You can contract with ISC Kosmotras and use their Dnepr booster. Unlike the SpaceX Falcon (which is 0 for 2 in successful launches), it's been moderately successful. While it's never sent a payload outside of Earth orbit, it can theoretically send 550 Kg to a Trans Lunar Injection (TLI).

Keith Erskine | Sep 28, 2007 | 8:27AM

WOW! Awesome announcement Bob, I'm very excited for you and Team Cringely.

I can't offer much in the way of support other than my shared enthusiasm for your adventure and our prayers that someone we've heard of actually wins!

Good luck to you, my family and I will be watching.

Daniel M. Hoyt | Sep 28, 2007 | 8:57AM

Hi Bob,

Great idea! I don't know how many programmers you need but I would be interested in helping.

One recommendation I would have is to change the name to "Team PBS"! Seems more in the spirit of both "public" and your major supporter/chronicler of the event.

Best wishes,

- Mike

Michael Daconta | Sep 28, 2007 | 8:58AM

Count me in. I don't have any engineering experience or technical ability, but I have a mac, and the will to conquer the impossible. Oh yeah, and this sounds pretty fun. Let's rock.

Dave

Dave Morris | Sep 28, 2007 | 8:59AM

Bob:

We can't lose on this one. If it is a spectacular failure, we get a spectacular story and tons of fun. If we succeed, we will probably only make 67 cents on the deal, but we still get the fun and story.

Don't get me wrong - I want my share of the 67 cents. Let me know when you are ready.

Andy Cowenhoven | Sep 28, 2007 | 9:00AM

Huzzah!! What a completely fantastic plan!

I seem to remember that in 199-something Netscape earned more more by selling T-shirts and mugs than it did by ever selling software.

And I for one would be be happy to buy a "Team Cringely" T-shirt to support this worthy cause. $25 would seem like a reasonable fee. Start the official licensing Bob, you'll be a rich man!

Some inspiration here: http://www.stomptokyo.com/badmoviereport/pics/D/DMposter.jpg

adam | Sep 28, 2007 | 9:02AM

Luck is a lady! Older comment but relevant. Dreams are what stars are made for. Good Luck! I will be watching and here's to success...never stop reaching. You may stumble but, dust off, laugh long and focus. focus . focus. Let us know if you have fund needs cause we'll purchase. Anything to help the underdogs? Diane

Diane | Sep 28, 2007 | 10:05AM

Luck is a lady! Older comment but relevant. Dreams are what stars are made for. Good Luck! I will be watching and here's to success...never stop reaching. You may stumble but, dust off, laugh long and focus. focus . focus. Let us know if you have fund needs cause we'll purchase. Anything to help the underdogs? Diane

Diane | Sep 28, 2007 | 10:05AM

I see a lot of negative comments in response, but I think you have a good chance. PBS, space buddies, and a medium to report your progress. This without really doing anything yet.

Best of luck, Bob!

Lareman | Sep 28, 2007 | 10:40AM

To Big Bob, who posted on Sep 28, 2007 | 8:08AM:

NASA did not develop the space pen; Fisher did.

http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp

Cmdr Oberon | Sep 28, 2007 | 10:43AM

I have some artists who can assist with drawing up the plans (of course the Wallace and Grommet style may not meet this need.) Even though you may not need Project management skills I will be able to provide a captive audience and a loud cheering section. To the moon :)

Wayne | Sep 28, 2007 | 10:51AM

"The Cringe unhinged singe-binge to the fringe".

Paul Brogger | Sep 28, 2007 | 10:53AM

"The Cringe unhinged singe-binge to the fringe".

Paul Brogger | Sep 28, 2007 | 10:53AM

Ouch!
I guess it's noon somewhere.

GuyFromOhio | Sep 28, 2007 | 10:57AM

It is entirely possible that Bob's allegory this week is so well metaphored that I can't see it. Are you talking about the persuasiveness of great business leaders? Or maybe he was on holiday and didn't sniff out anything happening on Coruscant this week? Of course it could be that there isn't anything to read between the lines...

Justin | Sep 28, 2007 | 11:13AM

Win or lose I expect PBS to put Bob on the NOVA special - even as the narrator. Sorry Mr. Rowe, we all need to see Bob back on the small screen one more time.

Davin | Sep 28, 2007 | 11:21AM

Bob,

I hope you've read Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon, because his man Harriman really knew how to shake nickels out of the trees to finance his moon trip. America cries out for your success!

Rob Kane

Rob Kane | Sep 28, 2007 | 11:54AM

Bob is the man dammit! :)

Tim Patterson | Sep 28, 2007 | 12:14PM

You have some more reality lessons coming, Bob. Cheapest to-orbit shot I know of is around $1 million. To land something on the moon softly enough for it to remain functional is going to cost at least twice that. If you are looking for the $1 million-a-launch company, I've forgotten the name, and I'm not even sure I correctly remember the price, and I'm not sure they are in business anymore, but I recall that they were based near equatorial Africa...

instructor | Sep 28, 2007 | 1:00PM

You have some more reality lessons coming, Bob. Cheapest to-orbit shot I know of is around $1 million. To land something on the moon softly enough for it to remain functional is going to cost at least twice that. If you are looking for the $1 million-a-launch company, I've forgotten the name, and I'm not even sure I correctly remember the price, and I'm not sure they are in business anymore, but I recall that they were based near equatorial Africa...

instructor | Sep 28, 2007 | 1:01PM

All very well, but what happened to nerdTV??

Mike Carpenter | Sep 28, 2007 | 1:29PM

If you need help with hard steel alloys machined let me know.
I also can have parts CNC machined by a friend with a garage loaded with machines. Let me know.

I do not know how much I can do for free but I will try hard to keep costs down.


Bob Squitieri

Robert Squitieri | Sep 28, 2007 | 1:30PM

Hey, If I can put my name on the rocket too I'll do some of the CNC and automation control programming.

Zeus | Sep 28, 2007 | 1:39PM

Mr. Cringely,

I am concerned about this project and the current state of another one of your projects:

If you cannot get season 2 of Nerd TV to broadcast (and let's face it, you should be starting season 3 at this point), how can we the people be so certain that you and your elite super-team will get one, let alone 20, robotic rockets to the moon?

I understand the excitment of ideas, but I think that you are thinking like the hippies you once wrote about in your book 'Accidental Empires' in that (and I'll quote):

". . .For hippie programmers, the problem is solved when they've figured out how to solve it rather than later, when the work is finished and the problem no longer exists." (Cringely, 23)

Just substitute "The Cringely" where "hippie" appears and substitute the words "television producer" or "rocket scientist" (when appropriate) where the term "programmer" occurs.

i wish it were not true, but it all seems to fit. Please don't be like those dirty hippies Mr. Cringely...it will make your mom cry!

Thank you for your attention,
Chancellor D

Chancellor D | Sep 28, 2007 | 1:49PM

Sadly, I was hoping this was going to be an announcement about the impending availability of metal-foil drives. Remember that announcement? What's up with that?

Tim Keating | Sep 28, 2007 | 1:57PM

Dude! You GO! Yow!!!

But please: Promise us that there'll be no "6+" symbol written in the lunar regolith by your rover... [grin]

Tim Kyger | Sep 28, 2007 | 3:28PM

Cringe you don't have a chance against AIRT© - that is, THE AIRT TEAM. "We" will be on the Moon watching you down on Earth trying ... and trying ;)

Cannuck | Sep 28, 2007 | 4:01PM

I'm actually posting this from the moon. Perhaps I should build a rover ad let it out my front door. I could use an extra $20M.

squeamish | Sep 28, 2007 | 5:30PM


I was really hoping his announcement would be related to the SIDS monitor he said he was working on. Does anyone know how that is coming along?

Juan

Juan | Sep 28, 2007 | 5:54PM

Can I infer that your rover will be the size of a matchbox?

Byron | Sep 28, 2007 | 5:57PM

Bob, don't waste precious fuel escaping the earth's orbit! Use a balloon like this guy:

http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/coolpix/ordinary-guys-send-picture+taking-balloon-2227-miles-high-293245.php

Rob Roy | Sep 28, 2007 | 6:31PM

Unix long hairs are talkin all that linux again. No way. Bob will be using Vista all the way. Vistda would probbly not crash for so short trip. Plus no spy ware on the moon, so security no problem.

Bob, I'm a MCSE. I know VB and .Net so you can count on me!

Top Admin | Sep 28, 2007 | 7:46PM

So this is why we're never ever going to see NerdTV Season 2? Great.

Derek | Sep 28, 2007 | 8:18PM

You need to recruit a top level racing car builder or two. They are experienced in molded composite structures and meeting deadlines on time. (When that green flag drops . . .) They also have a competitive streak a mile wide.

May I suggest Panoz's Elan Motorsports [url]http://www.elanmotorsports.com/[/url] organization or Lola [url]http://www.lolacars.com/[/url] Lola.

(Isn't there a way to catch repeated submissions in this blog?)

Jnny | Sep 28, 2007 | 11:23PM

Umm, I built model rockets, a couple times.

Can I telecommute to the moon? ;)

Sean | Sep 29, 2007 | 12:27AM

I seem to remember when you tried to build an airplane. This project also started with much enthusiasm.

The experience of Russians is only helpful if you do it over the same way. But it won't be the same. Launch is from air not ground. Modern electronics. More software. Smaller budget.

What makes you think you can build a rocket faster and cheaper than Elon Musk? I think he has done an amazing job. Still spent hundreds of millions (if not more). The prize is just not big enough to pay a significant part of your costs.

And even if you win, what is the result? An expensive one-off special. It is not sustainable. Same mistake as nasa and their moon program.

When you do something in a big hurry, it costs a lot more, and is overly specialized for the one specific task.

We are much better off with a program designed for serial production and which is economically sustainable, like Musk/Spacex.

You plans just don't seem to match reality. Orbital Sciences has an airplane-launched rocket. It costs $30 million per launch. It can put 1000 pounds into low earth orbit.

Bert Douglas | Sep 29, 2007 | 12:38AM

All the best in your new project Bob!
Poland is with you! :)

Maciej Michalewski | Sep 29, 2007 | 6:40AM

We can do this. Need a light-weight OS for the comps. Vista is too heavy.

A live rover would be more impressive than some mechanical thingy with wheels. I say we send rabbits (just 2 to start) with web-cams on their heads, a couple carrots, some O2 production facilities, and carrot seeds.

Win $ and populate the moon at the same time = Bonus points!

Let's get er done!

GaryE | Sep 29, 2007 | 9:52AM

Yeah, a mention of this idea in your column, with a link to a web page laying out your idea (check out my "links" page...), but keeping the column itself to the normal PC/web tech analysis would have been a better approach. 99% of us techies have nothing to contribute to this venture.

You have a potentially interesting idea, but it is hardly worthy of being one of the weekly Cringely columns.

Greg Conquest | Sep 29, 2007 | 11:11AM

Maciej Michalewski, you really have to put some thought into your posts to be on this team. How are the bunnies supposed to plant the seeds with their bunny space suits on? Come on.

Now, Bob, I have already begun crafting the Access tables that we'll be using. I also have an advanced reporting module that I'm willing to contribute (it requires Crystal Reports so we'll need an extra gig of RAM). I thought I once saw a .NET Lunar rover OCX control, but I can't seem to locate it now. I'll report back on my progress.

Top Admin | Sep 29, 2007 | 12:46PM

forget linux-- will it run Doom?

petey | Sep 29, 2007 | 1:28PM

Good luck Bob. May you go where no Cringely has gone before!

Space Cat | Sep 29, 2007 | 4:03PM

You're thinking too small, Bob. Why not Mars? Or even Alpha Centauri?

robbie1687 | Sep 29, 2007 | 4:34PM

I once played a primitive arcade game called Lunar Lander. Remember that one? If this qualifies me to be on the team, count me in. I don't think I scored very well but I do remember that there was some kind of fuel vs. altitude and velocity factor. Math may have been involved.

Dang | Sep 29, 2007 | 4:57PM

I would like to offer my assistance. I have a nearly 100% success rate at being able to tell the moon from the stars.

Nigel Charman | Sep 29, 2007 | 5:03PM

I knew a guy who owned a Alpha Centauri once.
It was always in the repair shop.


May the Force be with you Team Cringely

Ed | Sep 29, 2007 | 5:14PM

Go for it Bob!!! I love your enthusiasm and your embrace of the adventure. I think this contest is very exciting. I bet in 20 years we'll have an awesome cheesy movie about the race ala "The Right Stuff." One question though... Who would play you in such a film?

Ezra B. Riner | Sep 29, 2007 | 8:34PM
Ed | Sep 29, 2007 | 10:44PM

Ill get you Red Baron

http://www.scaled.com/

Snoopy | Sep 29, 2007 | 10:55PM

Design and exterior skin (some sort of triple protection) will require a high debris deflection rate, due to all the pea size space junk and astronaut disposable diapers floating around in space.

Ed | Sep 29, 2007 | 11:05PM

What have you been smoking Bob??

mfk | Sep 30, 2007 | 5:50AM

The idea of sending a small B-B size object to the moon using a very high altitude shaped charge detonation was discussed by me in Selenology, Vol. 18 No. 2 (1999) p. 1-6 "A Shoestring Micro-Moon Probe". The project was called "Alice", the title of this piece. Between 10650 and 10970 m/s a B-B fired ahead of the Moon 12 degrees will impact it, this being the widest velocity gap to hit possible. A high altitude neoprene balloon platform with a tantalum pellet made by carefully calibrated shaped charge detonation could be triggered to fire in that velocity band at a precise time precisely vertical, triggered by a computer with a GPS device, as the balloon assembly was set adrift high in the atmosphere near the time and coordinates. A program would constantly read GPS data and ask "Am I in the hit band yet?". When its coordinates matched, bang, it would fire.
If this were done at the right lunar phase NASA's system of automated lunar impact observatories might detect its flash of impact.
It's the cheapest Moon probe ever.

Francis Graham
Kent State University
East Liverpool Ohio
and founder,
Tripoli Rocketry Association.

Francis Graham | Sep 30, 2007 | 10:52AM

Bob,
semi-entertaining to send a robot to the moon, if you're a geek that is.

want to try something a little more fancy? try chatting with dolphins. You could use Leafy Seadragon at http://sourceforge.net/projects/c2h/ or roll your own. If you use Leafy as-is, you could do it in a weekend.

user guide: http://leafyseadragon.blogspot.com/

ask pbs which one they would prefer: the robot to the moon or chatting dolphins?

btw, before trying Leafy with dolphins, make sure that applicable laws are respected.

serge

sm1 | Sep 30, 2007 | 3:16PM

Doesn't sound too crazy. Rocket with proper shielding, engines, couple computers, some guidance and control software (including a module to land the the thing -- without breaking the rover, and so the rover door can still be opened). It's not like the rocket has to make it back.

Oh, Bob, as an aside, liked how you used the word "unquenchable" right after mentioning the Skylab toilet.

Anyhow, I must say though, I'd be more impressed with you doing something to more directly help the world. Reduce suffering somewhere, that sort of thing. Which actually brings up the question: what do you plan on doing with the cool 20 million?

John | Oct 01, 2007 | 3:42AM

Hey Bob,

As an avid reader of your articles which I enjoy tremendously I read this particular week's column with great interest. I would have to say that the idea of you and your team (mad russian scientists)taking up the challenge doesn't sound too crazy, and I will follow your progress with great interest.
As a start, if you get a chance watch the Top Gear episode of 2007-02-18 with the Space Shuttle attampt, and it will become evident that the challlenge is not beyond the means of anyone so inclined. After all, those wacky guys from Top Gear team and their [backyard rocket scientists] boffins certainly did a good job of lifting a couple thousand pounds off the ground, (although they certainly took the appropriate precautions by hiding in a bomb shelter)and if it wasn't for the weakest link in that attempt(a 2 "bob" bolt - no pun intended, of course) they would have probably achieved their task. Maybe...
Good luck

Cris
from down under.

Cris Andrei | Oct 01, 2007 | 7:24AM

Mr. Cringley,

Good luck on your grand adventure. It sounds fun and exciting.

Regarding the rocket, what flight safety requirements are you required to meet? Do you have any flight termination system (FTS) requirements levied on your program? Where do you plan to launch the rocket from -- airspace wise? What Operational Security (OPSEC) requirements will be levied, if any (after all how do the "officials" know that your rocket will attain space and not be used to attack a populated area)?

DC

DC | Oct 01, 2007 | 11:33AM

Bob, I think you ought to tip your hat to our own South Carolina ETV brand of PBS. Name the team for Rowland Alston's "Team Making it Grow," but call it "Team Making it Go!" instead. Heck maybe Webbie Debbie will join!

Just kidding, of course. What a great project! Your motives are all terrific.

They said Robert Goddard was boneheaded, too. Then the Nazi scientists stole his ideas and it took us over twenty years to get to the moon. Make it go, Robert! Make it go!

Fellow Charleston Resident

Skip Anderson | Oct 01, 2007 | 4:50PM


So no one else here thinks a generous grant from the Estes Model rocket company will get you into orbit?

ArchGoodwin | Oct 01, 2007 | 5:11PM

Whatever happened to the Chase Cringeley breathing analyzer in the defense of SIDS ?

If/When you do come up with it, it will probably make you a whole lot more than $20M, as well as save the lives of a lot of kids.

Jim | Oct 02, 2007 | 3:00AM

Whatever happened to the Chase Cringeley breathing analyzer in the defense of SIDS ?

If/When you do come up with it, it will probably make you a whole lot more than $20M, as well as save the lives of a lot of kids.

Jim | Oct 02, 2007 | 3:01AM

Bob, I suggest this as a critical admirer: stop for a few days, verify that there has been no change in any medication regime you may have, and watch all of Airplane Insane. Then talk to your wife. If you are still ready to tilt at this windmill, Godspeed to you my friend.

Ryan | Oct 02, 2007 | 12:01PM

That's nice. Good luck to you.

But it would be really great if you applied your skills and your friends skills to something really relevant to humanity: how about a small, safe, easy to build, cheap to build, really energy efficient car? Or ...

Bob | Oct 02, 2007 | 12:52PM

I thought this was going to be the great foil hard drive announcement alluded to last October .... Is that still in play, do we know?

Steve-O | Oct 02, 2007 | 2:55PM

I thought this was going to be the great foil hard drive announcement alluded to last October .... Is that still in play, do we know?

Steve-O | Oct 02, 2007 | 2:55PM

One of your team members better be a good lawyer. Something about civilians firing rockets from airplanes might not sit too well with Homeland Security.

hac | Oct 02, 2007 | 3:17PM

The winning entry will be a vehicle lifted by the force of a multi-gaziggawatt 700MHz RF energy beam.

But whatever gets us there. I want to beat Gallo and be the first winery on the moon. Sign me up.

el jefe | Oct 02, 2007 | 4:01PM

I love to hear the dreams of other people.

I wish you the best Mr. Cringely, and I hope you achieve this dream, which you so kindly chose to share with us.

I'd also love to help, although I don't know anything about rockets or robots... but I know my fair share of technical stuff about Internet development, and I'm sure you'll receive lots of similar offers, but I hope you consider mine.

I'm verrryy passionate about my trade, and astronomy is my second love.

I'm not the kind of guy who sends out boring resumes, but if you feel like trusting a complete stranger, do contact me :-)

Kind regards,
Ivan V.

Ivan Vega | Oct 02, 2007 | 4:42PM

I do not have any experience but I am full of enthusiasm. Count me in.

j thomas | Oct 02, 2007 | 5:33PM

Hey Robert!

I love the idea of going to the moon. I live in VA and would be proud to help you in any way I can. My intense enthusiasm for space travel far outweighs my rocketry experience (Does Estes count?) but it also makes up for a lack of it. Let me know how I can help and I will do it.

Best,
Anders

Anders Carlsson | Oct 02, 2007 | 6:54PM

Eh, it's not that crazy... I think someone will pull it off. Check out these students that sent a camera into space and spent very little money.

pictures

andrew | Oct 02, 2007 | 7:48PM

Count me in! I've wanted to be an astronaut since I saw my first Apollo launch. Being involved in a private enterprise, even if just as a cheerleader and tosser in of a few bucks, is as close as I suspect I'm going to get. Think I'll go buy some Tang and freeze dried ice cream to celebrate.

pat | Oct 03, 2007 | 11:50AM

Spaceplane insane! Get a film crew to monitor your progress! The moon in 18 months! Bang, zoom, Alice!

Wil | Oct 03, 2007 | 1:40PM


More power to you! If you need any small to medium software bits done, or help debugging same, let me know. I can't quit my day job or anything but I'd be happy to make some small contributions.

Marc Mengel | Oct 03, 2007 | 2:43PM

Here's how I would do it: Every ISS astronaut is allowed to take up a small personal item, but a potentially explosive one would not be allowed for safety reasons. That's why you'd have to use a rubber band on the remote manipulator arm. TWAAAANG!

Raskolnikov | Oct 03, 2007 | 4:06PM

Here's how I would do it: Every ISS astronaut is allowed to take up a small personal item, but a potentially explosive one would not be allowed for safety reasons. That's why you'd have to use a rubber band on the remote manipulator arm. TWAAAANG!

Raskolnikov | Oct 03, 2007 | 4:07PM

Sounds like a fascinating if daunting project. Not that I know anything about this, but considering the time and, presumably, budget you have you may want to consider parallel clustering of many very cheap rockets like OTRAG. I always thought that was an interesting concept.

Alex Swaim | Oct 04, 2007 | 12:31AM

You can save a lot of money since its an unmanned vehicle.

There will be no need to set up a security station with scanners and xrays and whatnot to keep the riff-raff off the vehicle.

Lee | Oct 04, 2007 | 10:47AM

Missiles
Exiting
Gaia
All
Luddites
Observe
Mankind's
Absolute
Necessity
Is
A
Cringely

Greg Conquest | Oct 05, 2007 | 6:16AM

Off-topic:
Unlocking the iPhone, it's legal, it's not easy and you avoid Apple software updates like the plague

http://www.slate.com/id/2175304

Kevin Kunreuther | Oct 05, 2007 | 6:50AM

Hmm.

Here's one: somehow get your hand on twenty rusting ex-Soviet anti-satellite missiles, stick an easily reproduced crappy rover in each of them them with some form of rapidly expanding foam charger (to help it survive the impact) and then slingshot them all moonward from the underwings of eBay-available MiG-21's. Chances are most will die, but hey, if just one even hits the moon you will be famous beyond your wildest dreams.

Alex | Oct 05, 2007 | 10:58PM

-- Alex's anti-satellite missiles under Mig-21's --
This sounds the simplest of all I've heard.



A large passenger jet could hold larger such launch vehicles -- perhaps even using large anti-satellite missiles as boosters for a less powerhungry final guidance and landing system . . .



What do you put on a rover package to control its entry and descent onto the moon? An altered guided missile? If any of these use vectored thrust or retro-rockets, then an off-the-shelf solution might exist, but it seems ill-suited to this challenge . . .



How about a satellite guidance system? They are just pressurized gas releases, right? They wouldn't be powerful enough.



We need something with lateral guidance rockets. . . All of these have been custom-designed for moon landings, Mars landings, and space dockings, as far as I can think of. So, unless I'm missing something, there are no off-the-shelf moon landing packages . . .



Isn't this the missing component? We have no alternatives for descent vehicles... We have to change course . . .



The next step would be to determine the feasibility of designing and manufacturing final guidance systems ourselves . . .



Perhaps something of a buckyball-esque roll cage. The payload is all inside the ball -- while mounted on the frame of the ball are membranes filled with inflatable landing pads. Protruding through the corners of this soccer ball pattern, we have a network of guidance rocket motors.



Imagine a one-meter diameter metal-framed soccer ball inside another two-meter diameter metal-framed soccer ball. The outside 2m frame holds the final guidance rockets. They slow the vehicle to suborbital speeds over the lunar drop zone. This framework is then detached and dropped from the 2m ball framework itself. We're much lighter now. Now, a second, lighter 2m ball framework is exposed. It has descent guidance rockets. This slows us to impact speed at which point the padding between the 1m and 2m ball is inflated . . . and we crash . . . softly . . .



Out crawls the robot and begins exploring and broadcasting.



Greg

Greg Conquest | Oct 07, 2007 | 3:07AM

Very much the same as Gregs, but less complex than a network of guidance rocket.
I'm assuming of course they don't way WHERE we have to land, as long as its on the light side?
So, lets go less on the accurate and more on the robust design. (less roverlike, more battle bot)

First the process, then the device description

1. Fire to almost miss the moon with mig launched antisat
2. Enter a decaying moon orbit
3. Let it spiral downwards for a while, loosing all that nasty payload destroying altitude
4. Discard stage one and fire it out of the way (with the last of the orbit entry boosters) so that it doest collide with Stage 2
5. Fire stage two (facing the opposite direction) bringing it to an almost zero velocity relative too the moons surface
6. Fire the payload release rocket, bringing the payload to a zero velocity (and letting the husk of stage two fall away from it, so it doensn't land in the same spot, destroying the payload)
7. Let the payload fall towards the moon the remainder of the way (under gravity)
8. Deploy rather large impact absorbing foam buckball carapace
9. Impact, roll around for a bit, come to a halt, climb out and explore

______STAGE1__ _______|___STAGE2___________

>---/\(B)-----/\(B)--> >-----(A)antisat----->++(C)payload++ >---\/(B)-----\/(B)-->

A - AntiSat
B - Guidance Booster
C - Payload (Same as Gregs, Impact Foam Buckyball encased rover)
D - Main slowdown rockets
E - Payload ejection and final slowdown rocket

Sorry if the text drawing doesnt come out

Theron Burger | Oct 07, 2007 | 4:44PM

Ok, got carried away, but here is a better diagram of the text diagram above

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2337/1509197274_97a551dbde_o.jpg

Theron Burger | Oct 07, 2007 | 5:08PM

I expected an answer to Ireland's street urchin problem.

Will | Oct 10, 2007 | 4:43AM

People always think you've got to reach escape velocity (6 miles/second) to get to the moon. This is not true - that's only the speed an unpowered craft would have to be "shot" up from the earth's surface. You could actually get to the moon as slowly as you like in a rocket. If you can just get something to lift itself up off the surface of the earth, however slowly, and then keep going, it'll reach the moon. In fact, the earth's gravity will lessen so the job gets easier, and then the moon's gravity takes over. Maybe try it this way? Sounds easy.

Andrew Thomas | Oct 10, 2007 | 7:50AM

I think air launch vehicle speeds have already been determined by experimental aircraft builders payload, accent, etc... However if you seek a right slower vehickie, this one just might do.

http://www.prewarbuick.com/img/features/jed_clampetts_buick/b472f7e0.jpg

Ed | Oct 10, 2007 | 1:35PM

You did say 'air lunch' in a slow vehicle didn't you? Granny is holding it.

Ed | Oct 10, 2007 | 3:29PM

Is the goal to inhabit the Moon? Is all this space travel ultimate purpose is to find inhabitable planets. Let's do it!

From what I have read in the past the inside core or density of the moon is that of a soaked cork. So the only way to live there is to live in bubble homes with self supporting Eco systems. That's why I'm proposing the creation of a new housing organization for the colonization Moon.


BBBBBBBBBBBBARF - Bringing Bread & Butter Buyers Big Brick & Beam Big Bubble Buildings Bed & Breakfast Amenities Really Far

Ed | Oct 11, 2007 | 1:57PM