I would be remiss if I didn't mention somewhere that the Charlottesville Podcasting Network was denied the ability to record an event this week featuring top officials from NASA. I'm an avid supporter of the space program, and had looked forward to sharing the talk with the public. Now, yes, the event was private, and the sponsors did invite me to record. And yes, NASA, I guess, had the right to deny the event from being recorded. So, I didn't press the issue.
But, I think people should know that one of our high-profile federal agencies prevented the raw recording of one of their events. They'd like to control the spin, I guess, and have control over how the message of space exploration in the 21st century is put out there.
NASA does great work, but its main challenge is to overcome the appearance that it is bureaucratic, waste-filled, and irrelevant. I do not know enough about NASA to make a judgment on these things, but I also know I did not get the opportunity this week to help them make their case to the greater community, either through the podcast or through a news story on WVTF.
Which leads me to the real point of this article. How cool is it that Google is putting up $30 million for a contest in which participants are asked to land something on the moon? Ten companies have responded to the challenge, and are in the process of trying to put together their entry.
The mission: Get a lander to the moon, safely touch it down, move it 500 meters, and beam back video from the surface. Sounds pretty tough, right? They've got until the end of 2012 to make the attempt. The winner gets the cash.
The team names sound awesome. Odyssey Moon. Astrobiotic. Team Italia. This could be a lot of fun to watch, and to pay attention to. And, in many ways, I think it's a heck of a lot more important and relevant than NASA's Orion program. It feels open-source, relevant and refreshing. We need more stories of human ingenuity. We need to figure out a way to celebrate the accomplishments of smart people who can see past the answer no.