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I, Cringely - The Survival of the Nerdiest with Robert X. Cringely
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The Pulpit
Pulpit Comments
May 30, 2008 -- Nolo Contendere
Status: [CLOSED]

Coolllll!!!!! Good luck!

ah_one, ah_two | May 30, 2008 | 12:55PM

If you place a micro-dot on one of the rovers with the names of my kids on it ( I have 3) I'm in for a 1000.00. Sell 999 more and you have 20% of your budget! Cheers and good luck. Mike

Mikek | May 30, 2008 | 1:01PM

No wonder you've been venting on bureaucracy support groups lately. Maybe your breaking away will shake up the committee. In any case, sounds like the way-to-go. Onward and upward!

#------------------------------------
Still no sign of 'The Transformation Age' (except your column) on pbs.org or WTTW Chicago.

Did we miss it?

How about Electric Money!?

Neil_M | May 30, 2008 | 1:06PM

Now yur talkin - how do I donate a few bucks to the cause?

Darrin Tooth | May 30, 2008 | 1:10PM

Would be nice if the documentary also included some coverage of how and why you abandoned the "official" X PRIZE competition. That's an interesting story.

Chad | May 30, 2008 | 1:10PM

Give 'em hell, Bob!

Justin | May 30, 2008 | 1:12PM

Would be nice if the documentary also included some coverage of how and why you abandoned the "official" X PRIZE competition. That's an interesting story.

Chad | May 30, 2008 | 1:18PM

Sweet...
Waiting to hear more..

Let the Fun begin SOOOOOON Please

Alvah | May 30, 2008 | 1:20PM

You probably need to pay Gartner for some research info before you start this project. :-)

D. B. | May 30, 2008 | 1:22PM

Mr. X ;)

Do you own competition! Each entrant puts 2 million into a pot and winner takes all!! Competitors sit down and collectively make up the rules. For example, each competitor can sign with anyone/any company they want. Etc.

Harry | May 30, 2008 | 1:27PM

Um...what are you talking about? Can we get back to Apple rumors please?

Esteban Trabajos | May 30, 2008 | 1:37PM

Bob:

Don't be discouraged by the idea that you "have no scientific basis for the mission". Making an economic point is very important, too. Don't forget that the first English colonies in America were businesses. Because it opens the way for so much, it may be that the economic point is even more important than the science. It means that the science no longer belongs only to NASA, ESA, Russia and China (now there's a scary group for humanity to depend on...)

Ed | May 30, 2008 | 1:38PM

Hooray!!! We're back on track!!

Matt | May 30, 2008 | 1:38PM

Um...what are you talking about? Can we get back to Apple, Google and Microsoft rumors please?

Esteban Trabajos | May 30, 2008 | 1:40PM

SkunkWorks projects... That's the way to go! That's where all the great ideas and inventions come from anyway. You don't need no stinkin' bureaucracy!

austin | May 30, 2008 | 1:46PM

Bob, you are an inspiration to me and displaying what I consider to be good old-fashioned American spirit. Keep up the good work!

Dutch

Dutch | May 30, 2008 | 1:47PM

Thanks for the update.

I second Harry's idea of an related, but unaffiliated contest with terms determined by the entrants. I wouldn't even exclude the Cringely Prize teams from also competing for the X Prize, though surely the XPF would quickly amend their rules to preclude that.

I would also like to contribute a little. I think if all the /., Digg, Buzz, etc. readers and the Twit Army got behind you, you could really pull in some prize money.

D

dblanchard | May 30, 2008 | 1:53PM

Will you be maintaining a web page somewhere to detail your status?

I would love to know how your progress is going... This is something I've wanted to see ever since I read Robert A. Heinlein's "The Man Who Sold The Moon"

http://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Sold-Moon/dp/0671578634

Byron | May 30, 2008 | 1:53PM

Yeehaa! You're goin' to the Moon!

Jim | May 30, 2008 | 2:00PM

Thanks for the update.

I second Harry's idea of an related, but unaffiliated contest with terms determined by the entrants. I wouldn't even exclude the Cringely Prize teams from also competing for the X Prize, though surely the XPF would quickly amend their rules to preclude that.

I would also like to contribute a little. I think if all the /., Digg, Buzz, etc. readers and the Twit Army got behind you, you could really pull in some prize money.

D

dblanchard | May 30, 2008 | 2:08PM

"Nor will we make ANY further comment about the contest, any participants, or the X Prize Foundation." Does that mean you will not report your progress as well? Hopefully, if this is to be a 24 month endeavor you will update us every six months or so.

gbsales | May 30, 2008 | 2:09PM

Thanks for the update. A little disappointing to hear you aren't going after the Google Lunar X Prize - that was important for many reasons.

The team that really makes a difference will be the one that can get the job done and win the Google Lunar X Prize, not giving up is key.

nobosh.com | May 30, 2008 | 2:10PM

Sponsors ...

24 rovers -- 24 sponsors.

"The University of Texas Longhorn rover on the Palus Putredinis region"

"The Oklahoma Sooner rover at the Mare Crisium (Sea of Crisis)"

Just a thought -- Lots of sponsorship options.

jjamison | May 30, 2008 | 2:33PM

I say go for it, and I think you will be able to get a big payday out of it. The story now becomes the small team against the big bureaucracy. By demonstrating that you can meet the objectives without their silly rules, you can make the prize irrelevant. In the end people won’t care about the X prize if you succeed. By keeping your independence, you’ll have the marketing and media rights along with the satisfaction of completing a scientific mission too. Perhaps your rovers can have nice big Yahoo or Microsoft logos on them.

Frank | May 30, 2008 | 2:35PM

I voted that Team Cringeley will still get to the moon, but I also think that Cringeley is a crackpot...Is this equivalent to Russell's Paradox?

Daves Nothere | May 30, 2008 | 2:37PM

But, now I think we can guess a little as to what they're going to try to do.

My guess is that they will start from some kind of jet that gets them pretty far off the ground to start with.

Then, they're counting on small.

In space no one cares how big you are. Small means less of everything. Much less of everything.

Plus, the latest computing is much more advanced than anything NASA has been using, and it requires less power.

Might even work.

mark | May 30, 2008 | 2:44PM

RULES of Bureaucracies:

1) Preserve the bureaucracy.

2) See rule (1).

For instance, the Princess Diana Memorial Committee was to have existed for no more than a year, but more than ten years later, it still trundles on.

---------

Really, Bob. You should ignore the X Prize foundation committee etc, and just do it. Make your own media deals, and if you actually get to the moon, you will be able to write your own ticket with Richard Branson or someone similar.

Good Luck !

William Donelson | May 30, 2008 | 2:57PM

Apparently, the official name of the "bowling trophy" is "Lunar Legacy". See http://www.lunarlegacy.org/index.htm

Rduke15 | May 30, 2008 | 3:00PM

I agree with an earlier comment, how about a website with regular updates and blog entries...let the readers be involved too.

jnaylor | May 30, 2008 | 3:09PM

I quit government research after 10 years of struggling with spirit-sapping know-nothing small-minded tiny-balled perfunctories. But, I'm not bitter :)

Colin | May 30, 2008 | 3:13PM


....to the moon...!
under approximately which Timetable....?

Just for real interest. It's xtremely cool

I use to said that if I were not myself, I'd only like to be myself...
If you succeed I shall modify that:
I would really like to be YOU


Rob | May 30, 2008 | 3:15PM

Please tell me you've had a documentary team involved from the start.

Chris | May 30, 2008 | 3:16PM

To the moon! To the moon!

I don't blame you for going it alone, and I think it's possible you just might do it too. Please do tell us about Team Cringely progress though, even if nothing is said 'bout "the other guys".

And like MikeK said, I'm in for a few clams if there is someway to get involved, a microdot, lapel pin, t-shirt, stickers, an entry in the "thanks to our sponsors" credits for the documentary (which I hope is made and published regardless of the project outcome), an earth-bound RC rover for the kids, etc.

mattw | May 30, 2008 | 3:18PM

You might think going the DIY band route: sell t-shirts & stickers over the web. Maybe you've already looked into it, but I've gotta imagine the nerd army would incorporate a Team Cringely Lunar Shot mission shirt into the uniform pretty quickly. Heck, I'd buy a couple.

Billyhank | May 30, 2008 | 3:19PM

I sure hope this isn't one of your jokes, Bob.

Faye Kane, Homeless Brain | May 30, 2008 | 3:19PM


....to the moon...!
under approximately which Timetable....?

Just for real interest. It's xtremely cool.

I use to said that if I were not myself, I'd only like to be myself...
If you succeed I shall modify that:
I would really like to be YOU


Rob | May 30, 2008 | 3:19PM

Google is apparently somewhat left leaning in their politics.

Is anyone really surprised that the first thing the Lunar X Prize organizers would do is emulate a smothering, top down, government bureaucracy?

They know better than the lowly participants (who are spending their own money) how to design a camera, or how to cut a media deal.

This would appear to be one of the one on one battles that Stephen J Gould (I think) mentioned about how evolution works.

Google wants fast innovation but the command economy mentality that leftists seem to naturally fall into takes over. The result is everything slows down, contrary to the original goal.

Sounds just like the old USSR.

Carl Hardwick | May 30, 2008 | 3:23PM

Is this April 1?

CVOS SEO | May 30, 2008 | 3:37PM

Good to read that you're still in it. I didn't think you were after I visited teamcringely.org and found that the twiki hadn't been updated since April and the the member login link was broken. How 'bout updating that twiki or a blog so we can follow along?

Michael Sullivan | May 30, 2008 | 3:39PM

Good for you Bob. Go Team Cringely!!!

Michael Whitehurst | May 30, 2008 | 3:42PM

It can't be too expensive to go to the moon can it? After all, how much can a giant rubber band and a few HotWheel cars cost?

wagdog | May 30, 2008 | 3:45PM

Off-topic: double posts

We get some error on posting saying something about a proxy (I don't use a proxy). Then after retrying, we end up with double posts in these comments. Just thought the webmaster would like to know...

Rduke15 | May 30, 2008 | 3:48PM

The old USSR perhaps, but don't forget they managed to launch Sputnik with that top-down, smothering management style when the United State apparently couldn't.

Clay Bergen | May 30, 2008 | 3:50PM

Off-topic: double posts

We get some error on posting saying something about a proxy (I don't use a proxy). Then after retrying, we end up with double posts in these comments. Just thought the webmaster would like to know...

PS: Happened again. The error is: Proxy Error
The proxy server received an invalid response from an upstream server.
The proxy server could not handle the request POST /mt/cgi/comments.
Reason: Error reading from remote server

Rduke15 | May 30, 2008 | 3:56PM


....to the moon...!
under approximately which Timetable....?

Just for real interest. It's xtremely cool.

I use to said that if I were not myself, I'd only like to be myself...
If you succeed I shall modify that:
I would really like to be YOU


Rob | May 30, 2008 | 4:05PM

So you're essentially doing a TV miniseries with a $5 million budget and 20 month production time. Sounds pretty reasonable. The only difference from normal is that your special effects actually _do_ something.

(Have you approached the Mythbusters guys yet? That's pretty much their Schtick too, isn't it...)

Rob Landley | May 30, 2008 | 4:18PM

One fact that never seems to get any attention in these discussions is that miniturzing the rover is not the hard part. The hard part is GETTING to the moon and LANDING on it.

Getting even a tiny payload out of Earth orbit and 250,000 miles away is a huge undertaking second only to safely landing that payload on the moon. You cannot simply have the payload slam into the lunar surface and creating a "lander" is enormously complicated to say nothing of the fact that a lander module complete with fuel and thrusters would wipe-out any attempt to make the total payload ultra-light.

It seems that Bob's columns on this matter as well, as most of the comments left, focus on everything except for the most important issues. How will the payloads get to the moon and how will they land safely?

Comment | May 30, 2008 | 4:24PM

Wow, so you're having to X-plain to the X-Prize guys that central planning for space missions isn't as good as competitive creative teams without pre-ordained conceptions?

Good thing they even know why they're doing this!

For Pete's sake, if you could get an elephant to the moon by sticking a bottle rocket up its... OK, forget that cruelty-to-animals part, but seriously, the whole point is supposed to be out-of-the-world thinking.

Gawsh. I think you're going to have the best reality TV show ever. Go get 'em, Bob!

Bill McGonigle | May 30, 2008 | 4:30PM

it will make for an even better movie.

Will | May 30, 2008 | 4:33PM

Go Bob, go!!!

Adam | May 30, 2008 | 4:33PM

OK, so when will Team Cringely go formal; website listing members and bios, photos and a blog?

Then the rocket wonks who ask "how will the payloads get there?!?!" have someplace to vent and obsess over the scientific details (with everyone getting smarter in the process) and others can follow the politics and organization and wheeling and dealing that fits so well into an "I, Cringley" sort of mindset.

As for me, I'll be visiting *BOTH*. Go Team C.

Robert Anthony Pitera | May 30, 2008 | 4:44PM

Go Bob!
...that is unless this would somehow delay Season 2 of NerdTV (which, by the way, will feature a super secret guest). Naw...you would not lat that happen ;-)
Actually I calibrate your entire catalog of work so...to the moon it is!
James

James | May 30, 2008 | 4:45PM

Thanks for the update Bob. Can't imagine what the X-prize guys are thinking, they sound like control freaks...or scammers.

RussB | May 30, 2008 | 5:23PM

If you can get to the moon, Taco Bell would probably pay you $20 million to put Taco Bell logos on your 20 rovers.....

Geoff Perlman | May 30, 2008 | 5:32PM

Go Team Cringley and the Rebel Rovers!

Rick Wightman | May 30, 2008 | 6:01PM

Go Bob ! Robert A. Heinlein would approve ! Also get Spider Robertson to write a book about this project. I hope you guys stick a sign up that says "Welcome to the moon. Now please go home.

Keep it up !!

Ted | May 30, 2008 | 6:03PM

When Deborah Castleman and Harold Rosen (the Southern California Selene Group) resigned on Saturday (Bob quoted liberally from Deborah's resignation letter, though he didn't attribute it), I figured that Team Cringely was out too. I expect that there will be other resignations as well and that there are probably a couple of other teams, like Bob's, who hadn't yet ponied up the reg fee that now won't.

Nonetheless, with at least two high-profile resignations, maybe Sergey and Larry will dispatch some adult supervision over to the foundation.

Best of luck, Bob.

\dmc

David Cole | May 30, 2008 | 6:07PM

The x-prize foundation is all about sitting on and investing/managing other peoples money while purporting to be advancing technology. The foundation may be non-profit, but the x-prize CEO does not work for free.



This kind of foundation is a hedge fund managers wet dream. Administrative and fund raising costs are about 25% of expenses for the organization. My guess is that they wont be able to pay out prizes and pay out fat salaries if challenges are completed too quickly.



As badly as I want a 100+mpge car I would rather donate to a foundation that funds active/actual research rather than hand my money over to enrich some pencil pushing hoop creators.

paulwesterberg | May 30, 2008 | 6:49PM

Good luck to you all. Here's hoping you get there, because it's about time someone did!

Mike Owens | May 30, 2008 | 6:56PM

Good for you Bob, I love to hear that Team Cringely is still on track for the moon. I hope that there will be a blog with details about your progess. I would love to follow along. Now that there's no competition you can be even more free to share the details of your endeavor.

Bryan | May 30, 2008 | 7:02PM

Good for you Bob! Please keep us all updated on your progress.

Carl Youngblood | May 30, 2008 | 7:57PM

Personally, I feel these rules were directed to frustrate your team specifically because your team was the most likely to achieve it's goal and at a profit to boot. There are at least a couple of influential somebodies at X Prize that doesn't like you. Why deal with that aggravation? So good for you. I hope you get there and back seven times and do a world of good and actually turn a profit and shove it in those X Prize Committee members' faces. If the X Prize Committee had a contest to find a definite cure for cancer, rest assured, this fellow would probably be disqualified.

Kevin Kunreuther | May 30, 2008 | 8:21PM

What a coincidence! I was going to drop you an email yesterday after receiving an Google X-Prize newsletter yesterday. Did you write this column since then?

Anyway, you must be right about the short attention span Bob. I'm guessing that NerdTV is just not an issue anymore. Loved the first season -- every minute of it! 'Didn't care abut HD or any other refinements you once described as targets for a second season.

I suppose that your role as a technology journalist will continue with this new adventure. Talk to some really interesting tech people along the way and you will no doubt have one hell of a show.

Tokind | May 30, 2008 | 8:30PM

Have you ever written a post that doesn't mention moore's law?

demie | May 30, 2008 | 9:10PM


....to the moon...!
under approximately which Timetable....?

Just for real interest. It's xtremely cool.

I use to said that if I were not myself, I'd only like to be myself... If you succeed I shall modify that: I would really like to be YOU

Rob Salazar | May 30, 2008 | 9:28PM

My money is on team Cringely.

Kyle Lovel | May 30, 2008 | 9:46PM

Dude! Do you know who you are? You're D.D. Harriman! You're also my hero. How can I help?

Kelly Parks | May 30, 2008 | 9:53PM

Re: the old USSR.
Clay is right on the money when he points out that the USSR was successful with the Sputnik mission, while the USA was bogged-down in deep layers of bureaucratic ineptitude.
If only subscribing to a particular brand of politics could save us from bureaucracy and mediocre thinking! Unfortunately, it is much harder to eliminate.
I am sure that Google has been a very very innovative company. But the inevitable penalty for becoming a large company is that they will become more bureaucratic.
Solving the problem of bureaucracy would be orders of magnitude more impressive than solving the problem of flying to the moon.

Damien | May 30, 2008 | 10:23PM

Maybe the X-Prize Foundation already has a winner in mind?

I sure hope you get to the moon. It will be a fantastic exploit and the media events will be awesome.

Good luck!!

Dan Marois | May 30, 2008 | 10:38PM

Bureaucracy + Newton's Second law
A Bureaucracy in motion tends to stay in motion, and desires to be the center of all motion around it, hoping to control motion in its direction - however off course the direction may be.

Team Cringely has sidestepped the mass pulled in the wrong direction like a startup about to eclipse a fossilfying company. I hope you get there and then some, and your rewards will reward all of us indirectly. Your 'go to it' attitude placing good ideas in front of 'policy' are the breath of fresh air we need more of.

Kirk Hutchinson | May 30, 2008 | 11:34PM

Way to go, Bob. I'm sure some jaws dropped with your announcement. Very excited for you!

John Longawa | May 31, 2008 | 1:41AM

Wow, the XPF has really shot itself in the foot, and it did it by asking for ammo from its own contestants. It would be great if you completed your mission while still meeting the other XPF criteria (though I'm sure that's not something you'll worry about). The big news that will sell won't be about an XPF victory, but an XPF failure. (How can that not be in any decent news story that reports on your hopeful success? Even your own media deal should at least touch on it, as it is important regardless of your secret scientific purpose.)

Pudro | May 31, 2008 | 2:28AM

Too bad about the hassle with the X-Prize, but great to hear that you're still pushing through. Did you see this Network World article about NASA awarding grants for small 'Bargain Basement" space technology candidates?


http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/28239


Sounds like right up your alley. My past experience with NASA folks has been that even if your project isn't selected, it's good to have discussions with individual project managers. It's a big place with lots of on-going programs and it never hurts to have multiple contact points. You never know.


Best of luck.

Ramin | May 31, 2008 | 2:40AM

Really too bad about the X-Prize hassles. Way to go guys. Way to go!

JT
http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

John Thomas | May 31, 2008 | 9:43AM

It's a shame that you'll be having the government involved in the project, it would have been cool to have a completely private initiative.

But I wish the best to your project, and hopefully your imminent success will make the XPF realize that the way to encourage private space exploration is not to stifle it with government-like bureaucracy.

dude | May 31, 2008 | 9:54AM

Congratulations on your logical decision. I wish you the best of luck. Show us how the free-market decimates the government attempts.

Edward | May 31, 2008 | 10:16AM

Sounds like the right thing for your team to do. Also, your account of the way the X prize foundation is behaving reminds me of children in a playground squabbing over rules of a game of marbles. They have too much time and money, in my opinion.

Bob Trexler | May 31, 2008 | 10:37AM

Anyone here who hasn't read Robert Heinlein's "The Man Who Sold The Moon" should do so immediately. There are so many ways to make money on the project that the mind reels.

How much would people spend to have their message printed on microfilm and transported to the moon. AHow much would companies spend to have a little tiny corporate logo painted on one of the rovers, NASCAR style? How much would people pay to take control of the steering wheel and/or camera for a few minutes?

John Schulien | May 31, 2008 | 10:43AM

Just goes to show that google is finally becoming corporate. They are breaking into groups and losing the big picture focus. There is apparently a committee now in charge of setting the rules for the contest. This is a different goal than having a 'successful' contest and I doubt anyone on the rules committee could define success of the contest FOR GOOGLE. The committee's focus is ensuring that whoever wins the money gets it by following NASCAR-like requirements because that's how other contests work. The committee's goal is to guarantee the legitimacy of the winner; the goal of the contest is to get folks excited about space.

Google could burn $20 million in cash and never miss it. They should abolish the rules committee and give up on the media rights. Sounds like someone think google needs to make money on this somehow.

Mike Moxcey | May 31, 2008 | 11:58AM

Bureaucracies are part of human nature and have nothing to do with politics. The reason the USSR won the first space race was because they had a dictator instead of a bureaucracy.
Not sure which is better.
Note that in the current US presidential race, everyone keeps asking the contenders for 'their' proposal for fixing this or that even though constitutionally, all those ideas ought to go through Congress. The president is supposed to carry out the wishes of Congress, but the wishes of the people are almost always for someone to cut through the bureaucracy or the time-consuming negotiations. A solution to this dilemma would provide at least much benefit to humanity as going to the moon but I suspect Google's foundation won't be offering one for that ;-)

Mike Moxcey | May 31, 2008 | 12:17PM

Thanks for this update, Bob. Taught provoking, as usual.

I hope that your team becomes the first commercial enterprise to the Moon and beats all XPF-Google-controlled teams. I hope that NASA has finally learned the lessons that Burt Rutan has inflicted on them. And I hope that your team gets to inflict a similar lesson to the XPF and Google. Interesting to see the X Prize Foundation commit similar mistakes as NASA did towards Rutan's work up until years after he won that famous X Prize to space.

It looks like all I can offer is moral support at this time.

God speed!

sm | May 31, 2008 | 12:50PM

Sign me up! I too am a rocket scientist turned blogger/columnist (well, rocket engineer).

I can't understand how a $20 million prize is supposed to be any sort of incentive. The rewards will be much greater than that!

-Richard Stiennon

Stiennon | May 31, 2008 | 12:55PM

Yahoo would give you $5 million in two seconds if you told them you could beat Google to the punch.

John | May 31, 2008 | 1:05PM

I'm wondering if the prize insurance model is the reason for making it harder to win in the short term. For the original XPrize I read they were just taking an insurance on the probability of a winner during a year.

So at the start of the competition for the 10 millions the insurance premium was like only 100K. With the passing year the premium augmented, so I'm wondering if delaying the final rules and making it harder to win is not more to keep the premium costs down than any other reason.

This doesn't explain the media coverage part though.

Jean-Francois Noel | May 31, 2008 | 1:11PM

1970-2000: Burt Rutan and XPF against NASA.

2007-2012: Google and XPF against NASA and Team Cringely.

It's still NASA vs. XPF, but aren't the underdogs reversed now? Which side is the underdog?

Moore's law could have something to do with it. Moore's law, coupled with Space Exploration, have strong effects on the human psyche. Didn't Moore's law first come about mainly because of the technological improvements required by space exploration to begin with, back in the 1950's and 60's? Then it was the space race with the Soviets.

sm | May 31, 2008 | 1:14PM

Correction:
1970-2004: Burt Rutan and XPF against NASA.

sm | May 31, 2008 | 2:31PM

For years it has seemed to me that the principle objective of NASA, ESA &c. has been to make space flight seem expensive, exotic and beyond the ken of mere mortals. Superpowers only need apply.

Then Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites proved otherwise.

Now I expect folks at various government agencies (probably NOT including NASA) have been very quietly leaning on the X prize folks to make their prizes less and less achievable.

Can't break the strict government control of space, after all.

hmmm. . . If a real world Delos D. Harriman (protagonist of Heinlein's _The Man Who Sold the Moon_) created a privately funded lunar colony, would the UN treaty socializing all space apply?

John Lowther | May 31, 2008 | 2:36PM

I fear that xprize may have become more about building a business model based on the promotion of their contests than on the results of the contests themselves from the sound of your discussions.

The xprize group needs to be funded and choose a staff load in a way that is separate from the payoff of their contests otherwise they end up competing with the contestants for the attention and revenue that will be generated from the contestants actions.


Geopilot | May 31, 2008 | 3:11PM

Would it be possible for Team Cringely's rovers to meet the incoming Lunar X prize rovers with a sign reading "Ne-Ne-Na-Ne-Boo-Boo" then blow some Lunar dust in their direction?
The added weight should be worth it.

Nelson Garcia | May 31, 2008 | 3:33PM

I tip my hat at you, sir. The advancement of science is a noble cause. You have proven to be not only a gentleman, but a scholar as well.

Max Skinner | May 31, 2008 | 5:37PM

Thank you so much for taking on this amazing endeavor. It's refreshing to see people following their dreams. If you're able to make this whole thing happen, I'm sorry you won't be able to win the $20 million for your kids, but I know they would be so proud to say that their family launched rovers to the moon. =) Best of luck!

DaftStar | May 31, 2008 | 6:09PM

Bob,

I'll give you some of Team Birch's profits. Thanks to your sage advice, I'll invest 10K for the sign up fee and then another 5K in beer and bottle rockets.

Then wait for the media fees to roll in!

Thank you again,
Alex

Alex Birch | May 31, 2008 | 6:28PM

Excellent decision!!! Maybe it is time to sell my Google stock....

Stephen | May 31, 2008 | 6:47PM

Good thinking and good luck!

As a long time reader of your column I would be happy to make a donation to your Moon Mission. Will you set up an online donation system?

Rupert | May 31, 2008 | 8:00PM

Say Bob, what ever happened to "Bob's Disk Drive" (Oct 2006) ?? I've been waiting to hear announcements!

fredex | May 31, 2008 | 9:48PM

Cringely has all you people duped. He's never going to do anything except write stories that get you all excited about nothing. He's hoping for some publicity, nothing else. He writes fairly obvious predictions, then convinces you they were insightful. I'm laughing. We should all go to the moon -- there is no intelligent life around these parts.

Mkkby | Jun 01, 2008 | 2:49AM

while I'd love to see Team Cringely make it, there's been other projects like this that haven't had updates in years. (The SIDS outfit, Bob's Hard Drive, etc). Any of these ever going to get done?

Michael B | Jun 01, 2008 | 3:19AM

fredex writes:Say Bob, what ever happened to "Bob's Disk Drive" (Oct 2006) ?? I've been waiting to hear announcements!

Could it be that potential users/investors are waiting for the patent to run out (five years to go?) so they can employ the technology without paying royalties?

Kevin Kunreuther | Jun 01, 2008 | 7:23AM

Bob,
I'd be curios to read a post by a technical member of your team. Specifically -


I still don't understand why you think you have a chance to do the same thing for less money, when many other brilliant people working on this problem have not managed to do this? I'm not saying you need to share hard (and therefore confidential) facts, but is there a real scientific basis for your claims of being to do less for more? Is gravity somehow different for you? Have you found a new type of fuel to launch your rocket? Don't your instruments need to deal with the harsh conditions of outer space?



As for all the conspiracy theories from previous posters - you don't need a conspiracy theory to explain bad bureaucracy :)


If you think about it, NASA/Government have no interest in keeping space travel limited, nor would they be able to since they would have little or no way to influence other countries or organizations outside the US. I'm guessing the X Prize bureaucracy is just a case of a badly managed organization, nothing more.

ok | Jun 01, 2008 | 8:21AM

"If you think about it, NASA/Government have no interest in keeping space travel limited"

That is possibly the most naïve statement ever posted on this forum. In the DC headquarters of NASA, that is the prime directive. Allowing others to launch stuff into space might decrease future budget authority and risks embarrassment, and in any bureaucratic organization both are to be avoided at all costs.

Ed T | Jun 01, 2008 | 9:39AM


Gravity works the same for all spacecraft, and for all things earthly, as well.

If you build a big, strong concrete T-shaped support for an interstate bridge, you find that it cannot support it's own mass, let alone the mass of the bridge. The trick is to make it SMALLER and lighter, and therefore stronger.

Apply the same concept to space vehicles. Bolt a model rocket motor onto the shuttle, ignite it, and you get no movement. Stick it inside a small, light model rocket and you have a significantly different result.

The space shuttle burns through more fuel BEFORE liftoff (before SRB ignition) than we need to get to the moon. Burning through a half-ton of fuel per second allows you to carry an extra bottle of vodka or sake with no noticeable mission impact.

Small space hardware = small fuel = small fuel tank = low mass. No extra junk allowed. Other very brilliant people were not "working on THIS problem", but on different problems.

Regarding the harsh conditions of space - yes, we deal with them, without overkill.

With plans to send a fleet of landers (BOBbers TM), do we stop after the first success, or leave a couple dozen on the moon to phone home, sending videos of Apollo and maybe even the LCROSS landing (heh).


Correction to ok's post - our desire is to do more for less, not "less for more". Yes, there is scientific basis. It's not easy, but it is possible.


Team Cringely is comprised of volunteers of all core competencies, and most importantly, Bob.

Gary | Jun 01, 2008 | 10:36AM

[...]to make money from the Google Lunar X Prize is to pay the $10,000 registration fee then do nothing more, just waiting for that check to arrive for an equal share of the media dollars.

Sounds like a good speculative investment...all you would have to do (probably) is to look like you're doing something, whether or not you actually do. Maybe this is why they are waiting 20 months to finalize the rules?

David | Jun 01, 2008 | 10:42AM

In space, no one can hear you blog...

Darryl | Jun 01, 2008 | 10:50AM

read the DARK SIDE of the """Google""" X Prize:

http://www.ghostnasa.com/posts/008moonprize.html

Gaetano Marano | Jun 01, 2008 | 4:47PM

My heart sank when I read the first paragraph. I was invigorated by the time I got to the last one! I'm happy to see you will still be going to the moon, and I look forward to reading/hearing/watching all about the progress and ideas.

I've sent emails to both the X-Prize group and Google letting them know how ashamed they should be of themselves.

Thanks Robert for seeing the bigger picture. Humankind will thank you for it! :)

Jason G | Jun 01, 2008 | 9:49PM

The fact that you are doing this alone is even better than doing it for the prize money. In addition to the scientific value, it will show the bureaucrats the power of the free market, which they clearly do not understand, as evidenced by all their micro-managing.

I think it would be great if some small part of your project paid an homage to Robert Heinlein, since DIY space travel was the theme to much of his writing.

Mike van Lammeren | Jun 02, 2008 | 12:32PM

The fact that you are doing this alone is even better than doing it for the prize money. In addition to the scientific value, it will show the bureaucrats the power of the free market, which they clearly do not understand, as evidenced by all their micro-managing.

I think it would be great if some small part of your project paid an homage to Robert Heinlein, since DIY space travel was the theme to much of his writing.

Mike van Lammeren | Jun 02, 2008 | 1:06PM

I too am happy to see this change in your mission. I to am building a "anti-GLXP" team for the same reasons you are, and could also have made a profit on $20M, but I think we could do much better in a more commercial environment, with our own media deals, and our own licensing, and our own payload. We will still hit all of their required steps, just because, but we will not do it under their micro-managing.

I wish you the best of luck! Perhaps we will see you where teh skies are black.

Paul Graham
Team Lunar Leap.

Paul Graham | Jun 02, 2008 | 3:52PM

cringel "Y Prize"

Why? Because we like you!

C-R-I
N-G.E-L
Y-P-R-I-Z....EEEeeeeeeee

Dave Cline | Jun 02, 2008 | 4:09PM

Maybe you should ask "why does the XPF NOT want the rovers to get there?".

One such idea of mine would be this: maybe US never made it to the moon and cannot afford confirmation on this. Besides crazy conspiracy theories, think on this: if they never went to the moon, then the USSR was able to know htis (no signal coming from the moon to their satellites).

If this is so, what bargain would the US and USSR could strike so the russians would NOT say that the moon landing was fake, in a time when there was a full cold war going?

George Topshink | Jun 02, 2008 | 4:59PM

Bravo Cringe! I looked at the automotive X prize and the ridiculous requirements and "to be determined" rules and it was obvious why no established automakers were interested in participating. I sincerely hope you beat the x prize contestants and send a message to the foundation and its donors.

mac84 | Jun 03, 2008 | 12:38AM

Good decision, Bob! Best of luck. I'm sure you'll recoup the investment, and I agree that the benefit to human knowledge and science is worth it anyway!

If possible, please send a rover to one of the Apollo moon landing sites to video the American flag and other Apollo paraphernalia. Then you can become part of the conspiracy! :)

Steve McKisic | Jun 03, 2008 | 12:40AM

Wow.

A post like that could inspire engineers, software guys, etc., to volunteer their considerable skills and time to a project like that. After spending 8 hours a day fighting BS like that, it'd be a welcome relief to work on a project where there's work to be done, and it can really be done.

Is it too late?

Stephen | Jun 03, 2008 | 12:01PM

Bravo to Bob, and bravo to all the comments people have made. I have never seen more positive feedback anywhere else on the net. You all just made my day.

Shannon S. | Jun 03, 2008 | 1:09PM

The Americans had working rocket hardware a year before sputnik. But it was Nazi tainted, and with the U2 Powers shoot down the Pres didn't want to overfly the USSR. So this is political. Then Sputnik, and we still didn't want to use Nazi hardware. But after two failures, the go ahead was given.

As for conspiracy theories, we've already taken credible shots of the Apollo hardware from lunar orbit. But one could say that the Navy was in on it, and used the Gimp. What we need is an image from the EU, or Japan. The EU might do it from the VLT in Chile with interferometry.

Want your name on the moon? Join the Planetary Society. They've already got a DVD with names and stuff on Phoenix on Mars, and names headed towards Pluto on New Horizons.

Stephen | Jun 03, 2008 | 1:47PM

I totally love the minimalist logo for this project. SCSG. As all the other xprize logos have the circle with "Official TEAM", it's not hard to imagine that this bit was obligatory. "OFFICIAL TEAM" indeed. "Hey, my buddy and i are going to lunch. Wanna join our OFFICIAL TEAM?" That's real value add.

"Yes which is precisely the sort of thing we need to know, I mean do people want fire that can be fitted nasally."

Stephen | Jun 03, 2008 | 2:50PM

Awesome! I wish you guys the best of luck. I hope to see progress updates ala Armadillo Aerospace. I love reading that kind of stuff.

I hope you guys do get a media deal, where we little people can watch the progress with our eyeballs.

Dana O. | Jun 03, 2008 | 6:17PM

I hope the 24 rovers will be programmed to write "Screw You X Prize" large enough in the lumar dust to be seen from Earth. I have now removed Google as my default search engine and I've canceled my G Mail account.

The Tattletale Strangler | Jun 04, 2008 | 11:34AM

so Cringely, how can we, your loyal followers, get involved? Can I buy advertising stickers on roverbot #1 of the 24? Better yet, can I sell your adspace for you, and slice a commission for myself?

Victory Darwin | Jun 04, 2008 | 5:37PM

When can we expect to see NerdTV?

John | Jun 06, 2008 | 1:21PM

Bob, I love the idea of selling space on onboard "vicarious chips." You get money and grass-roots cred (2 million contributors can't be wrong). We all get the thrill of placing something of ours on the moon & becoming a small part of Team Cringely.

Go team!

Martin Votel | Jun 06, 2008 | 9:59PM

Any chance of a NASCAR tie in for the rovers? That would bring in some extra $$$$. Put Jeff Gorden's name and number (24) on the last rover and maybe have a rover race on the moon.

I know it sounds whacked, but those NASCAR fans really put out the dough. You could even have rover models and toys too. Get the Targets, Wal-Marts, and Toys-R-Us folks paying some bills for you too.

Just a thought.

Chip Phelps | Jun 09, 2008 | 11:26AM