The Moon-Rush is on and Dr. Barney Pell, well known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and former NASA R&D Manager, has joined the race. As Co-Founder, Vice-Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Moon Express, Inc., Barney believes very strongly in the economic potential the Moon. “The Moon is Earth’s eight continent,” he said. “We have barely begun to explore the lunar surface and are already finding compelling evidence of resources that are very important to Earth.”
Moon Express is a privately funded lunar transportation and data services company created to establish new avenues for commercial space activities beyond Earth orbit. Selected last fall by NASA, Moon Express was awarded a lunar data services contract worth up to $10M, for the initial delivery order of the “Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD)” program.
In addition, the X PRIZE Foundation announced Moon Express as a competitor for the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE, a competition to place a robot on the Moon’s surface that travels 500 meters and transmits high definition video, images and data back to Earth. Moon Express will be sending a series of robotic spacecraft to the Moon for ongoing exploration and commercial development.
Barney is excited to apply his expertise in artificial intelligence, search and spacecraft control to the exploration of the Moon and the search for lunar resources that can be of benefit to Earth. “It’s highly motivating for me to come back to my roots of space exploration as a commercial space entrepreneur at a time when the Moon is revealing compelling new secrets,” he said. “My career has been largely devoted to space and search technology and I can think of no more important place to focus my attention than on searching for new energy and resources for planet Earth.”
Barney spent almost a decade working at the NASA Ames Research Center prior to becoming a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He was a technology leader at NASA, managing an organization responsible for innovation in autonomous systems, human-centered computing, spoken dialog systems, search, collaboration, and the semantic web. Highlights of innovations during Dr. Pell’s career at NASA include mission critical software to support planning and science collaboration for the Mars Exploration Rovers mission; Clarissa, the first spoken dialog system in space; and the development of the Remote Agent, the first artificial intelligence (AI) system to fly onboard and control a deep space probe. Remote Agent is widely considered as one of the top achievements in the history of Artificial Intelligence and won NASA’s “software of the year” award in 1999.
Dr. Pell left NASA in 2005 to serve as an Entrepreneur-In Residence at Mayfield, a top Venture Capital firm. While at Mayfield, he founded Powerset, a provider of a natural-language based search engine that read each sentence in Wikipedia and answered user queries in plain English. Powerset was acquired by Microsoft in 2008 to help Microsoft with its new search engine, Bing, where Dr. Pell is currently Chief Architect of Bing Local Search.
Barney is also an early investor in Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and believes we are on the verge of an epic new era in commercial space exploration, when new public-private partnerships will form the new paradigm for a rational and sustainable space infrastructure. “As with the opening of every frontier, public-partnerships play an essential role in attracting risk capital to new ventures pursuing new markets,” Barney stated. “Moon Express has the people, experienced partners and financial resources lined up to blaze a trail to the Moon and establish new avenues for commercial space activities beyond Earth orbit.”
The company was founded by Barney and his two co-founders: Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards, a founder of International Space University, who serves as CEO, and renowned Internet innovator, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and visionary, Naveen Jain, who serves as company Chairman. All three Moon Express founders also work together as trustees of Singularity University based at the NASA Ames Research Park.
Barney and his Moon Express co-founders applaud NASA’s creation and rapid deployment of the Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data program and confirmed that his team was highly motivated to respond with the investment of private resources. “Together with NASA’s announced policy to increase engagement with the private sector, the entry of NASA into the risk-reward mix through its ILDD commercial lunar program was an essential ingredient to validate the market and catalyze substantial investment,” he said.
In addition to the above, Barney Pell is a technology and product strategist, angel investor and advisor, and artificial intelligence (AI) researcher.
Dr. Pell has served as a principal of several internet software companies. He was Vice President of Strategy for Whizbang! Labs, a pioneer in machine learning and natural language processing for search engines. Whizbang was most well-known for creation of the Flipdog job search engine, acquired by Monster.com. He was also Chief Strategist and Vice-President of Business Development for StockMaster.com, a provider of internet-based stock-market analysis tools, which was acquired by Red Herring Communications.
Dr. Pell also serves as an active angel investor, advisor or board member to several startup companies and nonprofits, including: Green Trail Energy, Getaround, Robotex, Halcyon Molecular, SpeakWithMe, and CrowdFlower. Dr. Pell’s startups have a history of successful exits, including: Appjet (Google), Aardvark (Google), Hot Potato (Facebook), Etacts (Salesforce.com), and Movity (Trulia). He was also an early advisor to LinkedIn, which has filed for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and recently acquired its hundred-millionth member.
Dr. Pell received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cambridge University, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and his B.S. degree in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was a National Merit Scholar. Throughout his career he has helped bring advanced technology and big ideas into real applications and markets that change people’s lives.
ABOUT THE GOOGLE LUNAR XPRIZE
The $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters (1/3 of a mile) and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first successful team prior to 2016 will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. Teams are also eligible to win up to $5 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks. 29 teams from more than a dozen countries around the world have registered to compete for the prize. For more information about the Google Lunar X PRIZE, visit www.googlelunarxprize.com.
ABOUT THE XPRIZE FOUNDATION
The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. In 2004, the Foundation captured the world’s attention when the Burt Rutan-led team, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the world’s first private spaceship to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for suborbital spaceflight. The Foundation has since launched the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, and the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The Foundation and its revolution partner BT Global Services are creating prizes in Exploration (Space and Oceans), Life Sciences, Energy & Environment, Education and Global Development. The Foundation is widely recognized as the leading model for fostering innovation through competition. For more information, please visit www.xprize.org.