Welcome to the thirdÂ inÂ this series ofÂ Lunar Editions of EVA Interviews: The Business of the new Space Ageâ„¢.Â To start this series, EVA went directly to the source and interviewed the MoonÂ about its expectations for future lunar commercial activities. Coming back down to Earth, the second interview focused on the organization whose actions and incentives are most helping to make business on the Moon a reality and talked to William Pomerantz Senior Director of Space Prizes for the X PRIZE Foundation about the exciting Google Lunar X Prize competition.Â Now we will talk to the teams themselves who are hard at work, taking the first steps necessaryÂ towardsÂ expanding commerce beyond Earth,Â and to the Moon.
The first teamÂ to reply is Next Giant Leap and its founder, Michael Joyce. I met Mike this summer at the Space Frontier Foundation NewSpace Conference and the NLSI (NASA Lunar Science Institute) 2nd Annual Lunar Science Forum, both at NASA Ames in July, and again at the Space Investment Summit 7 in Boston where Mike, along with other impressive members of his team, was one of the Business Plan presenters. I’m delighted to have Next Giant Leap and Michael JoyceÂ as our first Team guest!
EVA: Â Â Thank you so much, Mike,Â for participating in the Lunar Editions of EVA Interviews: The Business of the new Space Ageâ„¢! I am very interested to hear more about the formation of your team. How was your decision made to compete and what do you (and your team) hope to get out of your involvement? How is it going so far?
Mike Joyce:Â Â Â Â Hi Eva! Well, back in October of 2007, while attending the X PRIZE Cup in New Mexico, I learned of the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) competition and began to investigate the formation of a team. In November 2007, I founded LunarTrans, LLC and officially submitted the teamâ€™s Letter of Intent to Compete. While investigating potential team members, I first met with Dr. Todd Mosher of MicroSat Systems, Inc. (MSI)Â that December. Working with Todd, over the next year the team grew to include Draper Labs, MIT and Aurora Flight. As you may know, early in 2008 MSI was purchased by the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and theyâ€™ve continued to strongly support the team. Initially, the team was known only as the â€œMystery Teamâ€. This allowed potential team members to work with us discreetly for a time without public commitment. It also resulted in some additional excitement leading up to our unveiling. In December of 2008, at the NASA Ames Research Facility in Mountain View, the team was officially unveiled as â€œNext Giant Leapâ€ (NGL).Â The team attended several events in 2009 including the MIT â€œGiant Leapsâ€ Apollo 11 40th Anniversary celebration, NewSpace 2009, the 2009 SmallSat conference and Space Investment Summit 7. Weâ€™re very excited by the recent LCROSS lunar water discoveries as well as the success of the NGLLC NASA prize competition. Both of these events have worked to generate renewed interest and support for our team and the GLXP.Â We are more confident than ever that we will be able to capture the prize by the December 2012 deadline.
EVA:Â Â Â Â There are indeed numerous exciting events and announcements happening at the moment! This Friday’s announcement of lunar water from the LCROSS team wasÂ a huge one!Â Wonderful to hear that these positive developments are helping to support you and the GLXP!
Many of my previous guests have pointed out that raising capital is one of the major challenges facing their (or any) company. For Google Lunar X PRIZE contestant companies, I suspect this is especially challenging. Realizing that this is a sensitive topic; that you are involved in a competition; and that fundraising activities are particularly proprietary and secret; are there any lessons you have learned about raising capital that you can share with us? Have you attempted to generate revenue yet through bootstrapping? If so, how?
Mike Joyce:Â Â Â Â Fundraising is certainly a major challenge! Our team partners have been very generous with their IR&D efforts and that has been sufficient to date. Iâ€™m also excited about to say that weâ€™ve recently joined with a new partner and you can expect to see significant changes to our website and marketing efforts in 2010.
EVA:Â Â Â Â Â I’ll look forward to seeing those and hearing more. What have been your biggest technical challenges to date? Have you invented anything new, as a result of your research for the prize that could have a terrestrial application or market?Â
Mike Joyce:Â Â Â Â Â Our current concept is sized to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 1e.Â So, mass management is a huge challenge.Â Additionally, we are planning by flying (“hopping”) our vehicle from location to location.Â This requires exceptional guidance, navigation & control (GN&C) systems which will have a wide range of applications. Future generations of our prototype will be able to provide valuable exploration services to governments and/or other commercial entities. With their ability to enter, and exit, lava tubes they can explore for suitable habitat sites. In permanently sheltered craters (like Cabeus) where ice and other important resources may exist, they will be able to makes sorties that other types of rovers may be incapable of due to the lack of sunlight and the incredibly cold temperatures.
EVA:Â Â Â Â Â Â Mass management is always a huge challenge! Hopping is an unusual and innovative approach. It will be exciting to see it work!Â You’ve posted moreÂ details about your design for those interested inÂ your technology.
If you could put a call out for help Mike, what would you ask for? What do you need at this stage?
Mike Joyce:Â Â Â Â Â Thatâ€™s a challenging question, maybe I can turn that around a bit?Â Iâ€™d like to ask your readers, â€œWhat can you do to help?â€Â Let us know how youâ€™d like to contribute and what youâ€™d like to see us working on.Â If the commercial space industry fails to engage the public then all of our efforts will be short lived.Â
EVA:Â Â Â Dear Readers:Â If you have ideas for what youâ€™d like to see Next Giant Leap working on; problems for them to solve through their services or products; or ways you could contribute to their efforts, please comment below. Mike, is there any other wayÂ you wouldÂ like to be contacted by those with feedback? Â
Mike Joyce: Commenting below here is fine, additionally,Â they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can now interact on the new Space Fellowship GLXP Team Forums.
EVA:Â Â Â Â Â As Will Pomerantz and his colleagues at the GLXP team describe it, Moon 2.0, is a new era of lunar exploration. What transformations do you see occurring as a result of your teamâ€™s actions, and as result of the prize itself? What do you expect the future will bring, for lunar exploration and development, for the world and for your team, assuming the prize is won? And if your team wins? Â
Mike Joyce: The GLXP will first enable many small lunar and NEO exploration missions. These will lead to ISRU missions that begin to produce valuable commodities for lunar and LEO distribution.Â This will pave the way for the eventual human settlement of space.Â There are a thousand â€œGiant Leapsâ€ yet to be made and we plan to be a part of them!
EVA:Â Â Â Â Â Thank you Mike, and Next Giant Leap, for being the first team to reply and especially for sharing your thoughts and plans for this and the next “Giant Leaps” you will be part of onÂ our exodus Out of the Cradle. Best wishes for your success!Â
For those readers who use Twitter,Â you may want to follow the Next Giant Leap teamÂ at @nextgiantleap, Â (and EVA @EVA_interviews and the Google Lunar X PRIZE at @glxp, )Â or read theirÂ updates at their blog.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressedÂ are those of the author and her guest andÂ may not reflect those ofÂ the Next Giant Leap, its team members, the Google Lunar X PRIZE, Out of the Cradle or BMO Nesbitt Burns.Â Copyright belongs to Eva-Jane Lark, please email her at evainterviews (at) gmail (dot) com for permission to use these interviews.Â
Please stay tuned for more GLXP Team interviews!