I grew up in the sixties, in the heroic age of space travel. I heard the breaking news about the first astronauts almost every day. I was hardly nine when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, and I was jumping around on our sofa when Armstrong stepped out of the Lunar Module Eagle. This is how it all started. Next, the flight of Bertalan Farkas, the first Hungarian astronaut was also very motivating to me. I am fortunate enough to know him. Although I did not become an astronaut, I eventually became a physicist to research the universe and space. I graduated in cosmology from the Lóránd Eötvös University in Budapest and earned my PhD in Heidelberg, where Eötvös, one of the greatest scientists ever also studied. On the other side, I was always interested in economics and the corporate world as well, so I traveled through the world as a consultant, designed and implemented controlling and investment management systems, worked in almost all European countries, and even in Singapore, Kazakhstan and South Africa. However, I did not loose my interest in space and when in 2008-2009, through a Bosnian friend of mine, I learned of the Google Lunar XPRIZE, the largest incentive prize competition of the world, that got my mind back to the Moon. The GLXP was all about to build and deliver an exploration robot to the Moon. I got back to my original inspiration and founded the Puli project.
Yes, indeed, the GLXP race was the trigger for this exciting endeavour. I am so much motivated to prove that a small country like Hungary can reach the Moon and serve the purposes of a new economy.
Tibor Pacher Phd
Source: Tibor Pacher Phd
In February 2011 we were among the 28 teams, that large number surprised even the organizers. The rules of the game were relatively simple: build a robot, get it to the Moon, it should then make at least five hundred meters and send high-resolution images and videos back to Earth. All this should be accomplished of private money, with a maximum of 10 % of potential government financing. The first prize was $ 20 million and the second place was $ 5 million worth.
It was an extremely exciting time, and although none of the teams was able to accomplish it until the deadline in March 2018, amazing results have been achieved. The Israeli team SpaceIL, for example, was the first private organization to successfully launch its self-developed lunar probe into Moon orbit last April. SpaceIL was within arm’s reach of total success, but the Beresit probe eventually failed to soft land on the Moon. A few miles above the surface the braking system stopped because of a software fault, and the spacecraft crashed.
The Israelis are already working on preparing the next expedition, but there are five other former GLXPs teams aiming to reach the Moon. I would like to mention two of them: the Japanese company ispace raised already $ 128 million for two missions to the Moon 2022-23, while the Pittsburgh based Astrobotic, Inc. has already secured more than 50 NASA contracts. The first mission with the Peregrine lander is slated for launch in the 2nd half of 2021, while the launch of the Griffin is expected in 2023. The Peregrine mission is a $ 80 million NASA order, while Griffin is worth $ 200 million to the U.S. Space Agency.
Puli owes its achievements to its volunteers and supporters. Over the past ten years, more than a hundred people have contributed to our success, to a greater or lesser extent. We currently have 17 active members; our Group Leaders volunteerly work up to 40-50 hours a month in addition to their day jobs. Team members come from all walks of life: engineers, physicists, IT specialists, but we also have representatives from the marketing, PR and legal professions. Since we founded Puli Space Technologoies, we have built several rover prototypes and tested their operation in three large field tests in different Moon- and Mars like environments: in the Moroccan desert, on the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii, and on a rock glacier in the Austrian Alps, also in collaboration with analog astronauts. We have been closely cooperating with the top teams. Since we are not building an own landing unit, we’ve been looking for potential partners from the beginning to bring our payload to the Moon. We have been working with Astrobotic of Pittsburgh since 2014, and in 2016 we signed a contract to deliver Puli’s payload to the Moon. It is now a special pleasure for me that Dan Hendrickson, Vice President of Business Development at Astrobotic, joins us in one of the next pitch events online!
Our Puli rover will be able to provide transportation services on the surface of the Moon. Puli’s main focus is to develop a low cost, lightweight planetary rover platform with unique high mobility capabilities, which can survive in the harsh lunar environment. The customizable rover will provide transportation, control and communication of various measuring devices that will play an important role in the discovery and exploitation of lunar resources. One of the most important “treasures” on the Moon is water ice, from which hydrogen and oxygen can be produced – and this is just excellent rocket fuel. That’s why there’s a lot of interest in technologies that can detect water ice on the Moon, so to speak, under our feet.
We designed the Puli Lunar Water Snooper exactly for these task: it identifies hydrogen and therefore all hydrogen-bearing volatiles like water ice, it measures quantity and distribution of these resources in the lunar surface regolith. Because of the extremely small weight and size of the PLSW instrument, it can even be mounted on a 2 kg rover. We are very proud that our design won the First Prize of NASA’s “Honey, I shrunk the NASA Payload” challenge.
Research and development of the necessary technologies and the ride to the Moon are not free either, and one of the biggest challenges for Puli is to raise money. Among the traditional options, sponsorship and the involvement of venture capital are pretty challenging ones to realize, since private Moon exploration is a very new area, quite far away from the usual endeavors. That’s why we decided to, in a somewhat unusual way, try to generate a wide community support for our project. Puskas an the Golden Soccer Team has achieved legendary results, let’s just think of the sensational 6-3 win over England in the Wembley Stadium, or Puskas’s career with Real Madrid, and we can also say for sure that it had a big impact on football as a whole and on Hungarians as well. Similarly, we hope that Puli Space and our Moon ride will be remembered that we Hungarians also took care of the birth of the cislunar economy. And of course – I am passionate about good soccer as well. Puskás is perhaps still the most well-known Hungarian personality in the world. I remember also a nice personal experience: in the famous Marrakesh market my Moroccan friends took me to a little shop to buy some dates and figs and when the sales guy heard where I was coming from, he immediately shouted “Puskas, Puskas”. And let’s not forget the merits of the Golden Team!
The Puli Spacetime plaque is a unique time capsule, this will travel to the Moon next. It is a 20 cm x 20 cm plaque that we want to implement in two versions. One is a so-called. ceramic microfilm, a ceramic plate on which up to 5 million characters can be stored with a special laser engraving technology. And you just need a simple 10x magnifying glass to read it even in ten thousand years from now – just think of the Babylonian clay tablets! This ceramic plaque will go to the World Heritage Salt Mine in Hallstadt as part of perhaps the world’s most exciting time capsule project, the Memory of Mankind, and an aluminum replica will travel to the Moon on the Astrobotic Peregrine spacecraft.
In fact, everyone can take part in creating the content of the Spacetime plaque: we want to compile a colorful “carpet” of family events, memories, laudations of artists, athletes, companies. We chose the Golden Team story to be one of the first themes of the plaque; we believe that to commemorate the Mighty Magyars even on the Moon can give a good start to the whole plaque project. We will capture the story of the legendary team in twelve lunar notes of two thousand characters each, for a total of 24 thousand characters.
There are examples of successful crowd funding of space projects. These usually worked when there existed a community that resonated with the specific project and the project also had the right professional marketing support. We think that combining soccer history with a project that evokes the future can be an exciting mix to bring sports fans and space geeks together. This is complemented by the absolute professional support of Tokeportal, so I am confident that we will reach the HUF 1.2 million campaign goal and that the Golden Team can go to the moon! And, the experience of a successful campaign will definitely give us additional motivation to continue or R&D efforts.
We hear that it is important for our supporters to push the space sector as one of the important industries of the future, together with messages about Hungarian success stories – especially, they would be happy if the Golden Team could “conquer” the moon. And there is, of course, always a little personal pride:
“Not everyone’s name will go to the Moon, but mine will be there!… And yours can go as well. Join us! Hungarians to the Moon!”