Despite personnel shifts among member companies, Huntsville’s multi-firm team still hopes to capture Google’s $30 million Lunar X Prize for happy landings on the moon. Seeking to boost commercial space travel, the Google prize will reward whatever team first lands a robot that successfully explores the moon’s surface and sends back high-quality video.
Moon Express Inc. has now taken the lead on the Huntsville team, which includes Dynetics, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Andrews Aerospace, Draper Laboratory, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Moog, Huntsville Center for Technology and Analytical Mechanics Associates.
Tim Pickens, featured in a November Business Alabama story, is the team’s lead propulsion engineer. Pickens led the propulsion design efforts for Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, which captured the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004.
The Huntsville project, regarded as a top contender for the prize, will honor Alabama in its entry, according to a press release from team leader Moon Express. “In honor of the legacy and incalculable contribution that Huntsville and the State of Alabama have made to the U.S. space program, the Moon Express lander will carry to the surface of the Moon the “Spirit of Alabama” insignia, a historic artifact that will be developed in collaboration with the RCSP partners to be attached to the lander or one of its mobility systems.”