The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so goes the old saying. And apparently the quickest way to the minds of potential future space experts is to exploit American audiences’ appreciation for reality entertainment with space-related TV specials. Or make an app. Following in the tentative footsteps of the Mars One mission/competition series, Discovery Channel and Science Channel have teamed up for a miniseries chronicling the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge. The plan is to follow the winning lunar lander into space to give a new generation of viewers the first live moon landing in over 40 years. The landers in the contest are all unmanned, of course, so this isn’t so much a giant leap for mankind as it will a linear, whirring roll for robots.
For a little background info, Google launched the Lunar XPRIZE as a way to jumpstart the privatized space race, which has become a more widespread (though not quite vertical) industry in recent years. $20 million goes to the first team that successfully lands a craft on the moon’s surface and travels 500 meters, all while sending pictures and video back to Earth in real time. The second place winner and other contestants split the remaining $10 million in prize money.
Discovery and Science want to showcase the entire XPRIZE process—including the test launches—leading up to the possibly historic landing, which they’ll show as it happens. Because if you’re not watching it live, you’re doing it wrong…unless it’s before 8 a.m., because I won’t be watching it live then, either.
“The $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE offers all the ingredients of fantastic television,” said Eileen O’Neill, who serves as group vice president at Discovery, Science and Velocity. “Stakes, competition, big characters and mind-blowing visuals. It’s the perfect project for Science Channel and Discovery Channel to partner on. When the winning craft touches down on the moon’s surface, it’s going to trigger buzz and inspiration all over the world. Our intention is to provide a live, front-row seat to history being made, just as we did with Nik Wallenda’s Skywire event and the upcoming Everest Jump Live.”
The first plug she mentioned was for Wallenda’s outstanding tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon, while the second references Joby Ogwyn’s plan to leap off of the world’s tallest mountain wearing a wingsuit with a camera attached, so audiences can watch him sail through the air on live TV. There are a lot of dumb TV gimmicks out there, but I’m admittedly highly supportive of these networks’ grasp of using live television in a way that isn’t just more awards shows and sporting events. Remember this guy?
NASA needs to back off of commercial landers and dive into the TV world if they want to start funding their missions a little quicker. Or there’s always Kickstarter.