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Team FREDNET - Three Teams, Many Goals, One Primary Mission
Written by Fred J. Bourgeois, III   
Three Teams, Many Goals, One Primary Mission
 
Team FREDNET attempts to do several things that no organization has successfully done before, and that requires some innovation.  Innovation often starts in chaos.  The chaos makes us aware of needs, which in turn spark ideas of how to meet those needs with various solutions.  Those solutions in turn generate opportunities.  Not every solution is the best solution, because (among other things) not every need was expressed correctly in the first place.  That is when we go back to the drawing board, and work to better understand the need, and thereby better understand the problem, which leads to a better solution.

When I started Team FREDNET the main question everyone asked was "How do you make an Open Source Team competitive?  Won't your competitors steal your best ideas?"  I knew (gut-level "knew") that there was a way to do this project using Open Source techniques and still be a real competitor for the Prize, but initially I had no idea how to accomplish that.  After months of working on this project and the underlying business to support the Team and the projects, the methodology has gradually crystallized and become more and more clear.  That too was an exercise in learning by doing, recognizing perceived needs, expressing those needs as first-pass problems, and developing initial solutions.  Frankly, many of those solutions were wrong.  In fact, the best solutions I had initially failed to recognize entirely what problem I was trying to solve.  On the other hand, those initial solutions were essential to coming to an understanding of what the problem really is, which led me to better express the real need (or more appropriately, my current understanding of the real need).  This has been a highly iterative process.  Such is innovation.

Rich and I launched the Team with the belief that we'd only get a few dozen participants, and mostly from the network of people we had known and worked with over the years.  Running a Team of people you know well and have worked with before is quite a different prospect than working with people you've just met.  Building working relationships takes time and a different kind of effort.  We were more than a little surprised to find 80 members signed up and chomping at the bit to get to work within days of opening our initial forum web site.  Now, eighteen months later, we're even more surprised (and delighted) at the growing response: more than 500 registrants on the forum, and dozens of those making serious, dedicated, and sometimes expensive development work for this cause.

So what does it mean to be 100% Open Source, 100% Open Participation, and 100% Focused on Victory for the Google Lunar X PRIZE ... and therefore 100% focused on beating our most worthy competitors?  I'll tell you when we get there!  No, seriously, I'll present my best understanding of how we're envisioning this process right now, but (and based on our experience of the past 18 months) I'm pretty sure this will have to evolve further as we proceed in our work.  Here goes.

Team FREDNET is (internally) really three very different Teams, each focused on completing different and extremely imprtant functions, and each of those functions are essential to the development, success, and completion of each of the other Teams.  Namely, these Teams are (1) the Open Source Development Team, (2) the GLXP Mission Engineering Team, and (3) the Business Development Team.  Not one of these Teams can exist without the cooperation and support of the other Teams, and the whole of Team FREDNET cannot succeed without the success of all three of these essential internal sub-Teams.  For a simple sports analogy, think of these as Offense, Defense, and Coaching.  (Don't overthink that analogy, it will break down pretty quickly.)

Open Source Development Team

The Open Source Development Team is the most visible of our organization.  This is the place where most people want to work, the area where all the cool gizmos and essential operating software will be discussed, requirements laid out, specs defined, designs drawn up, and code generated.  Initially, this Team gets all the attention, all the buzz, and in the long run this Team develops most of the stuff we need to complete the primary mission.  That stuff falls into many categories, including hardware, software, systems, code, as well as things more esoteric, like management software, collaboration tools, and means and methods for working together over great distances with the most efficiency and best results.  In the long run though, not every item developed by this Team will be used in our primary mission.  In fact, this Team's charter is to "Make Cool Stuff" that can either be used in Space, or helps make things that can someday be used in  Space.  The goal is to build a catalog of Space Components, all the things that are necessary to make Space Commercialization more Open, Cost-Effective, Productive, and Accessible.  This Team also has the huge burden of working within all of the laws of all of the countries that the participants live within.  The Teams motto is "Make Cool Stuff, Make Space Exploration More Accessible, Have Fun, and Stay Out of Jail!"

GLXP Mission Engineering Team

 The second internal division is the GLXP Mission Engineering Team (or just "Engineering Team" for short), which is somewhat less visible at this point in our mission development.  Like the Open Source Development Team, the Engineering Team invites anyone to join and participate in the GLXP Mission engineering development process.  While this Team's development product will also be published as an "Open Source" product, the specifics of what is included within the GLXP Mission are a little more closely held, until we reach the point of GLXP Mission Execution.  That is, the specific plans for which Open Source products will be used in the GLXP Mission are considered confidential until such time as we launch this mission and subsequently land on the Moon to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE.  Some people have claimed that this violates the "Open Source" principal: I submit that they are wholly incorrect, and point to the analogous situation that exists within Open Source O/S kernel development.  The simple fact is that not every line of code that I or any other developer write is suitable for release.  Hence, some debugging work is necessary in order to produce the highest quality and most useful release of the final product.  After we've put things together, tested them, and proved they can work, we then release that code for the rest of the world to review, contribute to, change, enhance, or whatever.  This phase is essential to the success of the Mission, and further, this is where our competitors don't get to see how we're going to use all the cool stuff the OSDT has built to complete the GLXP Mission -- at least not until after they see us do it!  After we succeed, I frankly hope to see another competitor use our already-successfully-completed GLXP Mission as a template they use to take Second Prize in the GLXP.  That would be the ultimate validation that our Open Source methodology works!

Business Development Team

Finally, in order to build the technologies and execute the GLXP Mission, we have a Business Development Team.  Their job and long range goal is to create, shape, manage, market, describe, promote, and fund the activities of Team FREDNET, thereby producing an integrated package that we can present to our Sponsors, Partners, Investors, and Clients that demonstrates our vast range of capabilities.  This package will show that (1) the GLXP Mission is a not-for-profit demonstration of the advantages and capabilities of a new-style Space Development business, (2) Space Commercialization can be accomplished in newer, better ways using component Open Source techniques customized for the Space Environment, and (3) Open Space Development can be beneficial and profitable for all of our peoples, nations, and economies. 

In summary, we're demonstrating that Open Source development is the best way to solve complex real world problems.  We're doing something important here, this stuff matters!  The Moon is just our next stepping off point, to start developing the means and methods to develop and utilize our nearby Space Resources, reducing the load on our fragile Earth-bound environment.  Besides, what kid (or adult) doesn't want to drive a rover on the Moon?!  It may sound a little corny, and I've said it before and will keep saying it:  we are one people, one planet, working together to solve complex, real world problems.  Ask not what your planet can do for you, but ask what you can do for your planet.  Join Team FREDNET and help us win this race!

 

 
 

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