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Ex-Google Books man hired to drive private MOON BUS

Jimi Crawford snapped up by Moon Express

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A man who was formerly in charge of scanning books for Google has transferred to a private space company and will be programming robots for trips into space.

Jimi Crawford used to work as engineering chief at Google Books at Mountain View but now he's going to be working with a team of engineers on sending a spacecraft to the Moon – which may eventually be used to bus kit to and from the satellite for paying customers.

Crawford has joined private space flight company Moon Express as its Chief Technology Officer and software architect. In his new role he'll be responsible for the mission-critical programmes that will guide the craft's trip to the Moon.

Moon Express logo, credit Moon Express

Moon Express - all about getting to the Moon

Moon Express is one of 25 businesses competing in Google's Lunar X Prize, which challenges private companies to make a successful Moon trip.

To win the Lunar X challenge, a craft has to make it to the Moon, travel up to 500m over the surface and send back data and images to Earth. The challenge runs until the end of 2015, and the first one to the Moon will scoop a $20m grand prize.

Moon Express has plans to take its Moon transport beyond the Google Prize by setting up a sort of Moon-ferry service that would take payloads to the Moon for government and commercial companies.

Pre-Google, Crawford worked on astro-robotics at the Autonomy and Robotics programme at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, for four years. He dropped that for enterprise software after four years, but has obviously felt the pull of the void again.

In an interview with Space.com, Crawford said space companies could learn from Silicon Valley's start-up culture and, err, attitude to risk...

We're trying to set up a really strong partnership with Ames and with other NASA centers to bring in space expertise, but set up the culture to be as much as possible a Silicon Valley culture, in terms of willingness to take reasonable amounts of risk, the pace and the heartbeat of the organization, being reasonable about processes and also doing VC [venture capital] funding.

But he did drop a bit of shade on the software start-up scene:

Everybody that creates a startup in Silicon Valley, they all try to say they're going to change the world. Here, it's just so completely obvious.

The Americans haven't been on the Moon for 45 years since Apollo 17 landed in 1972. The US remains the only country in the world to have achieved manned Moon landings.

Moon Express is based in Moffett Field, the NASA-funded research airfield controversially "rented" by Google for the storage of its jets. ®

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