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The mouse that roared

06/12/2007. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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The tiny Isle of Man rushes to reach the moon in a mad bid to claim the Lunar X-Prize. But does the scientist in charge of the project look like Peter Sellers?

The first team to complete registration for the Google Lunar X PRIZE unveiled its plans today at the Space Investment Summit in San Jose, California. Representatives of Odyssey Moon, based in the Isle of Man (a small isle off the UK) announced their plans to make history with the first private robotic mission to the surface of the Moon and their intent to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition.

Odyssey Moon’s inaugural mission will involve a unique small robotic lander designed to deliver scientific, exploration and commercial payloads to the surface of the Moon. Odyssey Moon, a private commercial lunar enterprise headquartered in the Isle of Man, is the brainchild of Dr. Robert Richards, a founder of the International Space University - and yes, he does look a little like Peter Sellers.

“We applaud the X PRIZE Foundation and Google for creating the first privately funded race to the Moon,” the Peter Sellers-looking bloke told “For Odyssey Moon, the Google Lunar X PRIZE was the right thing at the right time to compel us to unveil our plans. We have a long term vision and now with the Google Lunar X PRIZE we have a short term goal: Odyssey Moon is setting its eyes on the prize.”

Richards went on to say that the company’s goal is to lower the price of getting to the Moon by an order of magnitude and in doing so help catalyze a “MOONRUSH” to Earth’s sister world, which he describes as an eighth continent rich in energy and resources floating just offshore.

“Our business plans have been in development for a series of missions to the Moon during the International Lunar Decade in support of science, exploration and commerce,” Richards giggled. “We believe in competition and we believe in this prize. Future generations will view the Google Lunar X PRIZE as the turning point of the 21st century, when humanity realized the Moon’s critical role for prosperity and survival in space and on Earth.”

Odyssey Moon announced that its prime contractor is MDA of Canada, an experienced company with substantial space heritage in providing robotics on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station, and more recently for satellite servicing and planetary exploration.

The Planetary Society, the world's largest space interest group, has joined the Odyssey Moon team to assist in education and public involvement as well as international and science liaison.

Society Executive Director, Dr. Louis Friedman told SFcrowsnest, "The Moon is a stepping stone into the solar system, for governments and for the private sector. Odyssey Moon's leap forward to this stepping stone could presage a new day of commercial ventures beyond Earth.”

Founded in 1980 by the late astronomer Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman, the Society encourages government, non-government and private and public participation in the exploration of other worlds.

X PRIZE Chairman and CEO Dr. Peter Diamandis congratulated Odyssey Moon for being the first team to complete the registration process and that he is thrilled at the response to the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE. “We applaud all the teams who have been motivated to declare their intentions to compete. We are proud to participate in the announcement of our first fully registered team. We hope the announcement will motivate and inspire even more teams to enter this race; a race that is now truly international."

Hear the mouse roar!

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