Frequently Asked Questions
Who is on your team? How many active participants? How many lurkers?
We have participants from nearly 40 countries as of mid-2009. Our mission team consists of nearly two dozen active participants. We also have an Advisory Board who have been quietly working with us from the beginning. We have an internal Business Development team with only a few members participating, and a developing Community Manager team of 7-8 managers and which will be debutting in the next few days. Our forum consists of over 600 participants - including active open source development team members, some previosuly active members currently on hiatus, and naturally quite a few "lurkers". The lurkers are important too: if you don't have lurkers then what you're doing isn't really of any interest to anyone but those doing all the talking. The lurkers prove that what we're doing is important.
January 2010 Update: Our volunteer Team members come from more than 60 countries (63 as of this writing) on all 6 populated continents. (We're still hoping for a hearty Antarctican volunteer to find his or her way onto our forums.)
How can people join?
People can join by visiting the Team FREDNET web page. There you can find instructions for joining our forums, wiki, and the overall Team effort. If you have an idea and some tools to turn that idea into a working prototype, then join the forum first. There you can discuss your budding plans, and maybe find out from other people whether or not it has been tried, or discover some pitfalls you hadn't considered. Perhaps you've got something everyone wants though, and you'll find words of encouragement. You won't know unless you sign up, post something, and see what happens. Once you've gotten past that first hurdle, gaining some interest from your co-contributors on the forum, you have a few of options for what to do next. You can start building something, and post pictures, plans, tools, instructions, parts, etc., in the wiki, or you could post earlier stage development in the forum. Or you could choose to contact one of the Mission Team leaders (their contact info is in the wiki for the most part), and look into joining the Mission Team. Or do all of the above. The community is pretty friendly about this, they will help you know when it is time to move your magnificent inventions from the forum to the wiki. The Mission Team is probably already watching what you're doing too, and if they see you doing something essential to the Mission Plan, you might just get an invite -- when the timing is right.
Name the rover competition... How many entrants in this competition so far?
We have a few entrants but we are looking for more. Anyone is welcome to participate. The guidelines are on our wiki.
Who are the leaders? What are their backgrounds?
Our mission leads come from a variety of industry and academic background. These are listed on our wiki and include people from NASA and DOE centers, University programs, and a few Industry participants. Why are you doing this?
We are doing this to demonstrate that open source collaborations are capable of phenomenal successes. Space should be the domain of peaceful people and is the destiny of our planet. As space has been a great source of inspiration for individual advancement, open source space furthers that inspiration directly. What is "Open Source"? What is "Open Collaboration"?
The term "open source" is employed to refer to "source" as in "code" or to "source" as in "origin". Source as in code refers to practical and useful engineering products including software and CAD/CAM code. So we're talking about "open products" produced through "open collaboration" using internet tools and resources. Why "Open Source / Open Collaboration"?
As individual scientists and engineers we know or suspect that open collaboration produces open products in the most productive and efficient way possible. We learn from experience that when we try to protect or close our collaborations or products we substantially impact our individual and group productivity, which is dissatisfying and even frustrating. Recognizing this, and the contribution to be made this way, we reach for the achievement of our goals as well as the social "good" (resulting benefit). Haven't people already tried and failed to build successful "open source" companies? Why will this one be different?
Not many of the possible open source business models have been tried, and among those that have it's not clear how well the attempt fit the model. It's still a very young field. How much will this cost?
Cost is a very difficult thing to estimate in early stages of development of a space program. Especially with an open source development effort such as ours, we are unsure what key development areas might be contracted out and what may be developed in house. We are also hoping to establish key partnerships that will drive down cost. We hope to allow participants the innovative freedom to also be able to come up with cost reducing, yet feasible, flight options. With an average mid-size launch vehicle ranging in the 40-80 million dollar range, without key partnerships it is not out of the question for this program to cost from 100-150+ million dollar range.
January 2010 Update: We're establishing partnerships with several key players, ones who share our open source philosophy and vision of reducing the cost of access to Space. If you're following the wiki development and this web site you might even detect some familiar names.
How will you raise the money?
We are actively looking for non-profit contributors and for-profit partners. Right now, we are focused on demonstrated successes for the Team. We believe that we will find ways and means so as to deliver increasingly significant results. Who are your sponsors? Who are your partners?
How will you repay your sponsors and partners? What's the return (ROI)?
As a non profit, the return is the contribution to society that open space affords. Future entrepreneurialism in space requires advanced technologies to operate there. Lowering the boundaries to entrepreneurial effort through open engineering products benefits all of mankind by affording a significant component of the future space ecosystem for energy and resources. What if you win, who gets the prize money?
The team as a whole, in collaboration with our directors, determines the principal disposition of funds. We're interested in building and sustaining a significant contribution to open space on the long term. What if you don't win? What if it becomes clear that you aren't going to win, will you quit?
No, we are firm believers in the value our project brings to the space community at large. The GLXP is a particularly good way to launch this effort. Is this just a publicity stunt? An advertising gimmick? For you? For Google? For the X PRIZE Foundation?
The rules of the GLXP are specifically designed to prevent the exploitation of the prize by one- off or single run projects. Whoever's doing this is attempting to start a permanent endeavor. Similarly, the XPF has no particular interest in publicity for its own sake. What "other projects" are you planning after the Google Lunar X PRIZE?
Right now we are focused on the GLXP mission. We do have some forum participants that are actively pursuing small satellite programs (e.g. cubesats). We feel that the small satellite community is a growing industrial base that we are ideally suited to serve. Given the success of an open source methodology, we plan to address other major engineering challenges such as water purification, smart grid technologies, or transportation. We are, however, focusing upon the challenge of the GLXP competition. Where are you located?
A core element of our team is located in Silicon Valley. Our mission team is in fact distributed around the globe with representation from 38 countries (based upon the W. Pomerantz study).
What about ITAR, EAR, MTCR (and other laws in the U.S. and elsewhere)?
With a multinational team working on a US based program, ITAR implications are always strong. We hope to establish a team that understands and interfaces with the key folks necessary to be a fully ITAR compliant program. International participation will be possible within the constraints of ITAR. Who owns the Moon? Do you have to get permission to land somewhere?
The moon, with the remainder of the extraterrestrial universe, is governed by international law for peaceful cooperation. These laws require notifications for mission operations in proximity to others and general noninterference, among other things. They quite specifically preclude any national sovereignty over territory, and require open access which precludes any other conception of territorial property.
Why go to the Moon? Isn't this a colossal waste of time and money?
The moon represents mankind's first step into the universe, and has great value for proving the effectiveness of spaceflight programs as may branch out to other destinations. If the Moon had any value, wouldn't somebody else have already done this?
If the Moon had any value, wouldn't the Government have already gone back there?
Due to popular culture and media coverage of space flight, it is not uncommon for the average person to believe that space flight is a "routine" business. We assure you it is anything but routine. Flying to the moon requires an unbelievable level of collaboration of folks of all different backgrounds working on some of the most advanced technologies available. When adding front end cost of development to the equation, a mission to the moon becomes an almost impossible affair. With this in mind, even if the moon did have any value, flying there requires an understanding of an endless list of technical, financial, and political requirements that make the task a monumental endeavor.
Why "Team FREDNET"?
Ask Fred, he named it after his consulting company. We like to call it Fred's Research, Exploration and Development Network.
What's the business model?
As a non profit open source organization, our business model is first educational. We will seek to develop funds from the opportunistic exploitation of media derived from our missions, from professional services we may render, and from any fee based space services we may be able to deliver in future in the field of low cost ultra light space flight. As an "open collaboration for open educational products" organization, we're perpetually in the business of putting ourselves out of the intellectual property business -- which is our primary intellectual driver and one which has the capacity to maintain a leading edge technology organization indefinitely. How can people get involved? What's needed? What if they aren't engineers, or technologists, or scientists? Do you really need musicians too?
We welcome all contributions. People can join the effort by going to the www.TeamFREDNET.org and sending an e-mail to to join our forum and wiki. We need many engineering and science skill sets. Management and adminstrative talent is also welcome. For the creative types, we need help outreach to the community - contest ideas, viral concepts, and even open source music, video, and animation contributions.
You claim people from all over the world - how many countries? How many continents? Do you check up on people's race, sex, religion, or other personal matters when they join your Team?
As of July 2009, People from over 30 countries have joined our forum. The current core mission team is global. All seriously interested participants are welcome. The only colors that matter are our brains are mostly grey and our blood is all red. Any cultural differences help us to be more creative.
January 2010 Update: Our volunteer members now hail from more than 60 countries on all 6 populated continents! Team FREDNET is a truly global community. Do you have meetings? Where? When? How?
We have a bi-weekly team meeting using VOIP services. The free calling for our international participants keeps our development costs near zero. We also share internal development documents via standard document sharing services which allow us to collaborate and edit documents jointly. We are planning to have a face-to-face team meeting which may coincide with the GLXP team meeting later this year.
January 2010 Update: We held a Senior Management Review in Palmdale California on January 8-9 2010.
We have begun planning for a larger, Open Team Meeting to be held in mid-July 2010. All members are invited to join in planning for this meeting, please see the wiki page to find ways that you can contribute. How do you coordinate so many people in so many places?
Through e-mails, VOIP calls, our Team FREDNET forum and wiki sites. Where will you launch your rocket?
This will depend on the lunar trajectory decided upon by the mission design team. The current Mission Plan specifies Florida as our launch location. Are you building a rocket?
No. We expect to purchase the launch from one of the existing launch providers. Where will you assemble your system?
This is still TBD. Final integration will take place near the launch facility. How will you control your system?
Our system will be controlled by sending telecommands to it and receiving telemetry from it.
The telecommands can either be high level commands addressed to the system or low level telecommands addressed to a specific unit within the system. At the highest level we will also execute on-board control procedures that can be thought of as a pre-programmed sequence of low level telecommands.
We will not use joystick-like controls because they are only suitable for real-time control and we will have a feedback delay of 5+ seconds during lunar surface operations.
The video and images can be considered as a special kind of telemetry that requires higher data rates.
How will you communicate with your system?
We will have a mission control centre from where operations will take place. The mission control centre will be connected to the space vehicles (lunar bus, lunar lander, and lunar rover) via Earth Stations (aka. ground stations) using radio waves. On the surface of the Moon, the rover will use the lander as a relay station. See images below.
Who is really in charge?
How we organize ourselves depends on the subject. But generally we tend to recognize individual experience and effort into momentary kinds of leadership hierarchies. That said, we have our recognized "Directors" including Fred, Rich and Sean who know how to resolve conflicted subjects.
What's a meritocracy?
An organization whose members recognize individual education, experience and effort for the benefit of the whole. For any one individual, effecting this behavior consistently may require placing the future of the organization as more important than the past or present.
Why? Why bother? Why try? Who cares?!
If we're successful in the development of open source space flight and ultra light space flight, we'll be creating new industries and new individual, do it yourself kinds of industries. The first most important economy in space is energy. But the world will take open source ultra light space flight and run with it in directions that no one would be able to predict. And then, in this perspective, we can imagine ultra light space flight as critical to the long term space ecosystem.
Who is your Program Manager?
Our current program manager is Rich Core.
Who is your Education Liaison?
Dr. Joseph Stevenson has been our Higher Education Liaison almost since the program's inception.
Who is your Embedded Public Outreach Liaison?
Our EPOL (a GLXP required position for every team) is Wade Butcher. Wade's background in web 2.0+ technologies and his poitioning near major media outlets give him the best visibility both inward and outward to satisfy these efforts. He also grew up in a NASA household, so has some idea of the things associated with space flight. Who is your Media Contact? Who is your representative / press agent?
See above, Wade is also handling this role for the moment. We are developing a new position, one which we call "Community Management". The members of the community management team will become more involved in media relations as they gain confidence and familiarity with their tasks.
January 2010 Update: Finn Nielsen and Rob Vandyk are handling most aspects of Community Management now, with ongoing help and support from an extended cast of characters. How can you compete with established companies like Odyssey Moon, or major Universities like Carnegie-Mellon and MIT?
We compete through a compelling business model. Odyssey Moon, Carnegie-Mellon, and MIT necessarily limit their idea pool to those specific institutions. We believe that the Internet has created a new collaborative medium for people to join together in a common purpose to address the most difficult problems that our planet faces today. Our open source movement is to support a peaceful global space faring society. We don't believe that the exploration of space should be the enclave of governmental organizations or elite institutions.
Do you have any University partners?
We are courting University teams and are actively seeking partnership through cooperative agreements and memorandums of understanding. Any interested University programs should contact us directly to participate in this effort.
Are you crazy?
Crazy and innovative are hard to disentangle. As the great Robert. H. Goddard once said... "It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow".
Shouldn't you just get a life / get a job? Why not do something productive?
We already have a life and a job. We do this for fun in our spare time. (See also "Are you crazy?"). We think this is productive. While other people on the planet are doing innumerable other things, someone has to do this. And that would be us. We believe that the peaceful exploration of space should be one of our planet's highest priorities. Why does this matter?
At one end of the spectrum of possible responses is the idea that space flight is increasingly accessible, and at the other end is the role of the individual in space flight.
Aren't you just dreaming? Only a government can accomplish something this big, right?
This mission is the dream of many. Space offers incredible opportunities which we believe should be directly accessible to all. The resources of our solar system belong to all of humanity. Governments are formed by people and it's people that explore and capitalize on the resources of space. We are creating an infrastructure to allow for this collaborative activity to take place. A talented management team with a good business plan will get the funding to make this happen. We think that team is us.
Don't you need a billionaire to finance something like this? Why would they do that?
Because they see the value of the contribution.
And also because anyone who had the ability to become a billionaire probably has the intellect and the foresight to realize that the resources available here (on Earth) are extremely limited compared to those that we're making more accessible up there through this effort. "To the victor [and the gatekeepers] go the spoils."
Where will you land?
Our landing site will be in areas deemed safe for landing by Team FREDNET engineers and the Google Lunar X PRIZE judging committee, in accordance with all International Laws and Treaties concerning access to the Lunar surface. With this in mind, the actual landing sites will remain confidential until close to launch in the spirit of competition.
When will you launch?
As early as fiscally possible so as not to compromise quality and reliability.
What will it look like? Is that picture on the googlelunarxprize.org site an accurate depiction of your spacecraft?
Our team is currently in the development phase of the spacecraft structure. The actual craft will most likely be different from the one on the web as we begin to understand the long list of technical requirements in detail.
January 2010 Update: Check out the latest designs in the wiki for a far more accurate view of our craft's design. You can also find actual digital images of our first hovercraft prototypes now being built.