September 14, 2007
Lloyd's Names Beware
You might want to have a look at what your brokers have been insuring in your name:
Google, the world's largest search engine, has established a $30 million (£15 million) prize fund to reward the first private company to send a robotic explorer to the Moon.
To secure the top award the vehicle would have to land safely on the Moon and travel at least 500 metres across the surface, sending data and video clips back to Earth.
The challenge is the latest initiative from the X Prize Foundation, which in 2004 paid out $10 million to the team behind the SpaceShipOne, the first private manned craft to reach the edge of space.
That first prize was in fact (as so many such prizes are) backed by an insurance policy at Lloyd's. Unfortunately, the broker thought it most unlikely that anyone would win it so the premium was rather low, so the story goes.
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I've been sayin' that we sure wasted a wonderful opportunity. And I've been sayin' it since before the first walk on the moon.
Just think. All we needed to do was to sink a sturdy steel rod in the Moon with a head incorporating a swiveling eye-bolt. And then tie a shipload (or a shitload) of strong nylon line to pay out on the return trip. And then, when the ship got back, hook that line up to a similar eye-bolt here on Earth.
Then, when we wanted to get something up there on the Moon, we could just tie it to the line we've already got and just haul 'er up with a motorized winch. The tie-line to the gadget could be fitted with a timer-operated blade to free the thing from the lift-line. It's important to understand the significance of the swivels at both ends. Without them, the damn line would keep gettin' twisted up due to the rotation of both spheres and, even worse, would get snarled around the poles.
Actually, it'd be even better than I've described so far. If we were really, really interested in the M oon, instead of just making a trip there every now and then (and putting up with all that no-atmosphere inconvenience), we could just, gently but firmly, bring that thing right down here and set 'er down where we could study it to our hearts' content--or do something really useful, like havin' Disney make a theme park out of it and charge admission. Just a steady, gentle tug would do it. Probably even get folks to pay admission just to take part in the
"Moon Harvest" shindig. People'd pay plenty to be able to say "I was one of the guys who helped bring that sucker down." Maybe even $10 for a 1-minute turn in the pulling-line.
I know plenty about this stuff. Fifty years ago, I worked for a company that was heavily into selling a broad line of astronomical telescopes; my job was to help phone customers with their needs. The very most frequent question I'd get was along the lines, "Hello. My name is Jack Furstenschlagger--from down here in Enid, Oklahoma. What would be best for me to see the Moon?" And I told 'em (all of 'em): "Best thing for you would be to move up here to New Jersey--we can see it fine from the front porch." Eventually, the higher-ups in the company found out what I was tellin' and liked it so much that they promoted me to a different job--where I didn't have to talk on the phone at all. I know how to get ahead.
Posted by: gene berman | Sep 14, 2007 1:35:22 PM