Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter
The Google Lunar X prize is the successor of the Ansari X Prize and is also provided and organized by the X prize foundation. The premise for the Google Lunar X prize is the same. It is the private achievement of specific objectives of space exploration with the award of a cash prize. The goal is to spur private sector innovation that will make a commercial space industry a reality. The specific goal of the Google Lunar X prize is to successfully launch a robot into space and have it land safely without damage on the lunar surface. The robot then has to travel at least 500 meters or 1/3 of a mile and take pictures and gather data on the lunar surface. This data including high definition pictures needs to be broadcast back to Earth. This is a major endeavor since there has not been a major lunar mission from the United States in a considerable amount of time.
The next important bit of information about the competition involves deadlines, requirements, and of course the prize money. First of each of the 32 different teams competing must by 90% privately funded. An effort where a significant portion is funded by government or public money is not eligible to compete. The other requirement is that the team has to meet key deadlines. The first deadline is December 31, 2012. If completed by this time the first place team is awarded 20 million dollars. If the deadline passes or a government funded lunar mission is completed by 2013 it will drop to $15 million. The ultimate deadline is December 31, 2014.
The 10 million in remaining prize money will be divided in the following ways. The second place team will get 5 million dollars. The remaining 5 million will be awarded as bonus prizes for completing specific goals. This can range anywhere from sending back the most data or discovering water to traveling the longest distance on the lunar surface. The goal of all the prizes is to get private firms thinking about cheaper and more efficient ways to get to the moon and get data from it. NASA is also putting its weight behind the contest by already making contracts to buy lunar data from specific teams that show signs of promise. If successful this make kick of more challenging prizes that can eventually lead to sending humans back to the moon.
We have written many articles about the Google Lunar X Prize for Universe Today. Here’s an article about Odyssey Moon, the first Lunar X Prize entrant, and here’s an article about Moon balloon’s test flight.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about the Return to the Moon. Listen here, Episode 115: The Moon, Part 3, Return to the Moon.
Source: Google Lunar X Prize