Bang, zoom, straight to the Moon!

Google Lunar X Prize

The roster of competitors is set for the Google Lunar X Prize, a multimillion-dollar race to land a homemade robot on the moon.

Twenty-nine privately funded teams have thrown their hats in the ring, contest organizers announced Feb. 17. The teams represent 17 nations spanning four continents, and the competitors range from non-profits to university consortia to billion-dollar businesses.

“The official private race to the moon is on,” Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, said in a statement. “What I find amazing is that when we first announced this competition, we thought there might be a dozen groups talented and bold enough to compete. Instead, we have nearly 30 teams of heroic innovators showing us a new way to the moon.”

Shooting for the moon

The Google Lunar X prize is an international moon exploration challenge to land a robot on the lunar surface, have it travel at least 1,650 feet (500 meters), and send data and images back to Earth. The first privately funded team to do this will receive the $20 million grand prize.

An additional $10 million is set aside for second place and various special accomplishments, such as detecting water in lunar craters, bringing the prize’s total purse to $30 million. The Google Lunar X Prize expires whenever all awards are claimed — or, failing that, at the end of 2015.

The prize, which was announced in September 2007, aims to spur the development of lunar resources and advance private spaceflight capabilities, competition officials have said.

Until recently, 22 teams were known to be in the running for the prize. The new announcement reveals seven teams not previously known to be participating, including one based in Hungary and one headquartered in India.


Competition heats up

Several teams have hit some big milestones recently. In early February, for example, Astrobotic — a spinoff team from Carnegie Mellon University — announced it had signed a deal with private spaceflight firm SpaceX to launch its robotic payload to the moon. That flight could happen as soon as December 2013, Astrobotic officials say.

Last month, the Colorado-based Next Giant Leap team revealed that it had scored a $1 million grant from the not-for-profit Charles Stark Draper Laboratory to help develop its hopping lunar landers. And NASA recently announced that it will buy mission-relevant data from six Google Lunar X Prize teams, with contracts worth as much as $10 million each.

“Teams have purchased launch vehicles, they are well into their design process and we have even seen NASA recognize the value of this competition by purchasing data from several competitors,” Diamandis says. “I want to congratulate the teams that have registered. We are excited to see what they will accomplish in the coming years.”

Innovation is the name of the game and private industry has always been a great incubator to foster such innovation. With foundations out there like X prize and forward looking companies like Google sponsoring fabulous competitions such as the Google Lunar X Prize, this geek foresees a great future in store for the private space race. Come together my fellow geeks and nerds! There is money to the tune of nearly 100 million dollars out there for the taking. Bang, zoom, straight to the moon for this geek, please.

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Posted March 25th, 2011, by

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About J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

J. VanDomelen holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and myriad certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTia in varying facets of computer software, hardware, and network design and implementation. He has worked in the electronics industry for more than 12 years in varied fields, including advanced systems design of highly technical military and aerospace computer systems, semiconductor manufacturing, open source software development, hardware design, and rapid prototyping. J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

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Commented on March 28, 2011 at 10:34 am
By NASA Budget Rollbacks « J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

[…] the potential roll back in overall NASA spending, the budget request boosts NASA sectors’ interaction and collaboration with commercial […]

Commented on October 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm
By Popular Mechanics Breakthroughs « J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

[…] of their industry headlong into the future. The winner of the Breakthrough Leadership Award is Peter Diamandis, the entrepreneur, engineer, and physician behind the XPRIZE Foundation (which has the tagline […]

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