Getting to the Moon is hard, but it’s considerably easier when you have a $20 million prize to motivate you. That’s why teams from all over the world are battling it out to win that nice chunk of change in the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge. If all goes according to plan, the winning private company will send a rover to the Moon sometime this year, so it can roam around and beam cool pictures back to Earth.
Originally, 16 teams vying to compete had until December 31, 2016 to have a verified launch contract in place. Now, XPRIZE has selected five teams to advance to the final stages of the competition: SpaceIL (Israel), Moon Express (USA), Synergy Moon (International), Team Indus (India), and HAKUTO (Japan). Though SpaceIL and Moon Express have had launch contracts in place since late 2015, the other teams had to scramble to get similar contracts by the end of 2016 in order to continue.
“The Google Lunar XPRIZE has done a great job inspiring teams worldwide to shoot for a dream thought only within the reach of governments, while bringing a focus back to the Moon as an important destination for expansion as a multi world species,” Bob Richards, founder and CEO of Moon Express, told Gizmodo.
Each team’s ambitions for reaching the Moon are remarkably different. SpaceIL, for example, is mainly concerned with the educational impact a lunar landing could have on the next generation of Israeli space enthusiasts. Moon Express, on the other hand, wants to explore commercial possibilities on the Moon, such as mining it for iron ore, water, and precious minerals.
It’s also a good opportunity to prove for the 100th time that the Apollo landings were not a hoax.
Though 11 teams won’t advance to the finals, Google impressed enough by every group’s ingenuity it decided to split a $1 million diversity prize among them. Not too shabby.
The final five have until December 31, 2017 to initiate their launches. The first team to successfully land its uncrewed spacecraft, move a 500 meters (1,640 feet), and beam high-definition photos and video footage back to Earth will nab the $20 million grand prize. The second team to accomplish that will be awarded $5 million, and more money will be distributed to teams who go above and beyond basic requirements (e.g. traveling long distances, taking photos of Apollo sites).
No pressure, though.