Google Pledges $30 Million for Private Moon Rover Prize

Are you working on anything right now? If you’ve got a little time to kill between now and 2012, you might want to win the newly announced $30 million prize announced by the X-Prize Foundation and Google. You’ll need some engineering expertise as well; in order to take the prize home, you’ve got to land a rover on the Moon, capture some video, and drive around a little – maybe find some water ice while you’re at it.

The newly announced Google Lunar X Prize isn’t a single $30 million prize. In fact, it’s actually a collection of prizes. The main prize is $20 million, awarded to the first team that can soft land a privately funded spacecraft onto the surface of the Moon, and then drive a rover 500 metres transmitting video and images back to Earth. If nobody claims the prize by 2012, it will shrink to $15M and go until the end of 2014.

Unlike the Ansari X-Prize, which offered $10M to the first privately built craft to reach 100 km altitude, the Google Lunar X-Prize does award a second place finisher. The second team to put a rover on the surface of the Moon will take home $5M.

They’ve also announced a series of bonus prizes totaling $5M for other completed tasks, such as surviving the lunar night (14.5 days), driving further on the Moon, capturing images of Apollo hardware, and discovering deposits of water ice.

Needless to say, the skills and resources required to accomplish a goal like this are massive. Traditionally it requires the resources of government and the entire populations of countries. If a private firm could accomplish this on a reasonable budget, it would be a tremendous accomplishment for private space exploration.

Original Source: Google Lunar X-Prize News Release