Google Lunar X Prize competition teams aiming for the Moon

Feb 21, 2011 by Lin Edwards report

( -- The final list of competitors for the robotic Moon explorer prize has been announced. The Google Lunar X first prize total of $20 million will be awarded to the team that is first to transmit high-definition video back from the Moon as its robot travels across at least 500 meters of the Moon’s surface.

The competition was first announced in September 2007 by the X Prize Foundation and sponsor . Now the final list of competitors has been announced and includes 29 teams from around the world, ranging from non-profit and university groups to large and well-funded business teams.

The winning team will need to complete its mission before December 31, 2015 to win the $20 million first prize ($15 million if the winning team is a government agency). Other prizes will be awarded for feats such as surviving the freezing lunar night or traveling five kilometers, for finding water, touching down near an Apollo landing site, and for “stimulating diversity” in space exploration.

Plans to transport the robotic vehicles to the Moon include US government-backed space agencies, private US agencies such as SpaceX, a company set up by Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, and agencies in Russia, China, and elsewhere.

Teams include Astrobotic Technnology, Next Giant Leap, Part-Time Scientists, Mystical Moon, Penn State Lunar Lions, Space II of Israel, Puli of Hungary, and teams from Canada, the Isle of Man, Italy, Romania, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Malaysia, the Netherlands, India, Spain, and Germany.

Tim Pickens, a propulsion engineer and leader of the US-based Rocket City Space Pioneers team, said the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) is not a great concern as it would not cover the mission costs, but he said the first prize would be an “awesome consolation” and a good way to recoup the costs of development.

X Prize Foundation’s senior director William Pomerantz said the goal of the competition is to trigger business of much larger value than the prize, and said that the flags and footprints planted on the Moon so far are not a financially sustainable form of lunar exploration. Recent surveys have shown that valuable resources for moon bases and rockets, such as ammonia, methane and water, are available on the ’s surface. There is also hope a rare isotope of helium capable of fuelling fusion reactors may also be present.

Organizers of the competition hope the contest will boost the prospects for lower-cost exploration using robots, and believe privately funded agencies will dominate in future space exploration.

Explore further: Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

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not rated yet Feb 21, 2011
SpaceX for the win! :-)
not rated yet Feb 21, 2011
Automated Helium-3 lunar mining would be great. They might launch the payloads from the moon to a space elevator on earth for easy transport to the surface.
1 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2011
Oh please.. mining the moon is one of the most retarded ideas i ever heard.
not rated yet Feb 21, 2011
Mining the moon does indeed look like a mission looking for a purpose (Space-lab ring any bells?). However I guess had you suggested to early oil drillers that they might be drilling for oil in the deeper parts of the continental shelf in stormy latitudes, within an average lifetime, then they might have raised their eyebrows too. I can imagine if the resources employed to allow off-shore extraction were dedicated to moon-mining then it would already be happening but only if what is there cannot be found in easier locations and is found to be valuable enough in smallish quantities to human economic development. Otherwise it is only a method of extending scientific research via moon bases and moon-based probe launches. This is not in itself a reason for commercial interest unless governments make it so. This takes foresight and a belief that we should taking action to benefit future generations. Can't see this coming from the US - but the Chinese might be up for it.
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2011
I wonder what responsibilities these teams have if they come near an Apollo landing site. It would be a shame to accidentally drive over the first human foot prints or disturb the scene in any way. Being so well preserved in the vacuum of space, it's like a museum display.
5 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2011
Many kudos to Google for spurring global interest in space innovations/cost reductions. i imagine it would be a win scenario even if you spent $15 million on the project, if you win.
not rated yet Feb 22, 2011
Oh please.. mining the moon is one of the most retarded ideas i ever heard.

Who cares what they're doing up there? Giving incentive for the private sector to get to the Moon is a great gesture.

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