Sergei Dobrianski’s final message for students was, “Study hard at math and physics.” He added, “Be sure to learn at least basic computer programming. Everything needs to be programmed plus knowing the basics will help you on the business side of things.” He was spending his time outlining one of the most ambitious projects to have had legs in Burnaby!
He knows what is necessary. He is the CEO of Dobri Solutions, a company that has spent 7 years developing a very small-size craft to send to the moon and back, with onboard communications, and then marketing the spin-off science. All of the work has involved math and physics calculations and computer software. He and his team, Plan B, were in a competition called, “The Google Lunar X Prize”. Numerous international teams passed through various levels and those who found a sponsor for launching a spacecraft by December 2016, passed into the final phase. 5 teams made the cut. Plan B did not. Just one more year of development may have made the difference. The actual prize winner will be announced at the end of 2017.
Sergei’s father entered the contest not long before the deadline in 2010. It had been his dream to work on a project involving the moon. He convinced both of his sons to join in the work, plus 50 others over the last few years. Even Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut, has checked in with the team.
Entering the Google Lunar X prize competition, Sergei explained, was not about winning. Though $30 million would be a fine accomplishment, the ultimate prize. You see, space technology relies on work that was done in the 50’s and 60’s though we do have much more powerful computer capabilities. He noted that the iPhones we carry around in the palms of our hands are more capable then the technology that helped to achieve the original Apollo Mission to the moon.
The $30 million offering was Google’s way of getting private companies to push forward in an area that had not taken risks for years. Apparently, this is similar to how plane travel began. A prize was offered which tugged at competitive human nature, and we have all benefitted from the result – flying – something no one thought was possible at the time.
Adobri Solutions’ plan is to create a 3D printer that works on the moon’s surface. At that time, soil from the surface with it’s basic available elements like titanium, would be utilized to create tools and products, things needed for other work on the moon by spacecraft such as the one being developed by Sergei and family.
The company will forge forward on a solid footing with a firm goal in mind, with private funding as it comes in. Canada does not have a space industry, and indirectly as a result, it does not have investors willing to back the companies trying to get an industry started. Without one, the other can’t exist. It’s a repetitive loop. Dobri Solutions hopes that the inroads they are making will enable the future to offer space careers to today’s students, even with the difficult path they have travelled to get media and investor attention.
Burnaby Central Secondary students had many questions for the guest speaker. None seemed to want to leave the room at the end of this third and last session of the Science Trailblazers Speaker Series. Maybe it was kind of exhilarating to be in the same room as a real person who has built the object that might touch the moon. Maybe it’s not that far-fetched to think that a Burnaby Central student might just do the same thing. Why not?