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Forum:Commercial Space - Military Space
Topic:Google Lunar X PRIZE $30 million robotic race
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The X PRIZE Foundation and Google Inc. today announced the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the Moon to win a remarkable $30 million prize purse. Private companies from around the world will compete to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon that is capable of completing several mission objectives, including roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented international competition that will challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. The X PRIZE Foundation, best known for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private suborbital spaceflight, is an educational nonprofit prize organization whose goal is to bring about radical breakthroughs to solve some of the greatest challenges facing the world today.

"The Google Lunar X PRIZE calls on entrepreneurs, engineers and visionaries from around the world to return us to the lunar surface and explore this environment for the benefit of all humanity," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. "We are confident that teams from around the world will help develop new robotic and virtual presence technology, which will dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration."

"Having Google fund the purse and title the competition punctuates our desire for breakthrough approaches and global participation," continued Diamandis. "By working with the Google team, we look forward to bringing this historic private space race into every home and classroom. We hope to ignite the imagination of children around the world."

About Lunar Exploration:
In the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a historic superpower Moon race, which culminated in 12 men exploring the surface of the Moon. The first era of lunar exploration reached a dramatic conclusion in December of 1972 as Apollo 17 Astronauts Captain Gene Cernan and Dr. Harrison Schmitt became the last men on the Moon.

Moon 2.0, the second era of lunar exploration, will not be a quest for "flags and footprints." This time we will go to the Moon to stay. The Moon is a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system and a source of solutions to some of the most pressing environmental problems that we face on Earth -- energy independence and climate change. Already, governments from around the world recognize the importance of lunar exploration, and national space agencies from the United States, Russia, China, India, Japan, and the nations of Europe plan to send probes to the Moon in the coming decade.

Today, the frontier of private enterprise is the halo of communications satellites in geostationary orbit 24,000 miles above our planet. The Google Lunar X PRIZE now challenges private enterprise to reach 10 times beyond its present limits to participate in this great exploration adventure.

About the Prize Purse:

  • The $30 million prize purse is segmented into a $20 million Grand Prize, a $5 million Second Prize and $5 million in bonus prizes. To win the Grand Prize, a team must successfully soft land a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon, rove on the lunar surface for a minimum of 500 meters, and transmit a specific set of video, images and data back to the Earth. The Grand Prize is $20 million until December 31st 2012; thereafter it will drop to $15 million until December 31st 2014 at which point the competition will be terminated unless extended by Google and the X PRIZE Foundation. To win the Second Prize, a team must land their spacecraft on the Moon, rove and transmit data back to Earth. Second place will be available until December 31st 2014 at which point the competition will be terminated unless extended by Google and the X PRIZE Foundation.
  • Bonus prizes will be won by successfully completing additional mission tasks such as roving longer distances (> 5,000 meters), imaging man made artifacts (e.g. Apollo hardware), discovering water ice, and/or surviving through a frigid lunar night (approximately 14.5 Earth days). The competing lunar spacecraft will be equipped with high-definition video and still cameras, and will send images and data to Earth, which the public will be able to view on the Google Lunar X PRIZE website.
Why the Moon?
In a recent Gallup poll, more than two-thirds of Americans (68%) support a return to the Moon, and further missions to points beyond. Some practical benefits to lunar exploration include:
  • Enabling exploration of the solar system and beyond. Space exploration is expensive because every ounce of propellant and spacecraft must be launched out of the Earth's strong gravity field. A natural storehouse of materials, lunar soil is more than 40% oxygen by weight and oxygen makes up most of the mass of rocket propellant. Because of its shallower gravity well, the Moon is the stepping stone to the universe.
  • The Moon can help save the Earth. For more than 30 years, NASA and the US Department of Energy have experimented with ways to capture abundant clean solar energy in space for use on Earth. Although the technology for doing this is well understood, the high cost of launching materials out of the Earth's deep gravity well has prevented the implementation of these systems. However, if lunar material is used for space construction, clean energy could be supplied on a 24-hour basis without carbon dioxide or other hazards to the biosphere.
  • We can learn about the Earth's geologic past. Thanks to the Moon rocks and other information returned by Apollo astronauts, scientists now believe that the Moon was created by a collision between a planet-sized object and the early Earth. By exploring our nearest neighbor we are also exploring a remnant of ancient Earth.
  • We can see more deeply into space. The Moon provides a large stable platform for astronomical observation unhindered by atmosphere. The far side of the Moon is the one "quiet" place in the Solar System that is shielded from the Earth's cacophony of radio, television and data broadcasts. The body of the Moon itself provides this shielding, and a radio telescope on the lunar far side can detect energy from the beginning of the universe.
  • Driving new technologies and devices. The Moon may be the most hostile environment we face in the near future. Surviving and exploring will require major advances in technology. Many of those technologies will also have practical use back home.
Educational materials are now available online. Educators can sign up for regular updates, classroom plans and news about the teams.

Strategic Alliances:
Strategic alliances that support this new competition include:

  • Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), run by entrepreneur and X PRIZE Foundation Trustee Elon Musk, which is offering competing teams an in-kind contribution, lowering the cost of its Falcon Launch Vehicle. SpaceX is the first preferred launch provider for this competition;
  • The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), operated by the SETI Institute, will serve as a preferred downlink provider for communications from the Moon to the Earth; operated by SETI, which will provide downlink services at no cost to competing teams;
  • The Saint Louis Science Center serves as the Foundation's official education partner and the coordinator of an international network of museums and science centers; and
  • The International Space University (ISU), based in Strasbourg, France, will conduct international team outreach and facilitate an unbiased judging committee.
About The X Prize Foundation

The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is the third prize the Foundation has announced since its inception in 1995. In 2004, the X PRIZE Foundation captured world headlines when Mojave Aerospace Ventures, led by legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, built and flew the world's first private spaceship to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The Foundation has since expanded its mission beyond space exploration. In 2006, the X PRIZE Foundation launched the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, a $10 million competition in which the winning team will demonstrate the ability to sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days. This will reduce the cost of genome sequencing and herald a new era of personalized medicine. The X PRIZE Foundation will continue to offer new prizes for breakthroughs in the areas of life improvement, equity of opportunity and sustainability and is widely recognized as the leading model for fostering innovation through competition.

About Google, Inc.

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major global markets. Google's targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Google is a trademark of Google Inc. All other company and product names may be trademarks of the companies with which they are associated.

Robert PearlmanX Prize release
The X PRIZE Foundation Announces Official Contenders in Private Moon Race

Ten Teams Registered to Compete for $30 Million Google Lunar X PRIZE

The X PRIZE Foundation and Google, Inc. today announced the first ten teams to register for the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the Moon to win a remarkable $30 million in prizes. This international group of teams will compete to land a privately funded robotic craft on the Moon that is capable of roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth.

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, announced the teams at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California. "I'm very pleased to welcome our first 10 fully registered teams to the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Only 6 months after the announcement of this competition, the response has been incredible -- we've received over 567 expressions of interest from 53 nations. By comparison, at the 6 month point of the Ansari X PRIZE we had only 2 teams registered. I think we're going to see an exciting and very competitive race to the Moon, highlighted by some very creative designs unlike anything we've seen come out of the government space programs. Many of these teams represent some of the most creative and entrepreneurial minds in space exploration today. I wish them all the very best of luck. I can't wait to join with Google in paying the winner," said Diamandis.

"We are excited that ten teams from around the world have taken up the challenge of the Google Lunar X PRIZE," said Megan Smith, Google's Vice President for New Business Development. "We look forward to the exciting achievements and scientific advancements that will result from the efforts of these teams as they participate in the next great space race."

The ten teams are:

  • Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA): Based in Valcea, Romania and led by Dumitru Popescu, ARCA was also a contender in the Ansari X PRIZE. Two of ARCA's most innovative projects to date have been the Demonstrator 2B rocket and Stabilo, a two-stage manned suborbital air-launched vehicle. The craft they plan to enter in the Google Lunar X PRIZE will be called the "European Lunar Explorer."

  • Astrobotic: Team Astrobotic, led by Dr. William "Red" Whittaker, was formed to coordinate the efforts of Carnegie Mellon University, Raytheon Company and additional institutions. One of Carnegie Mellon's specialties is autonomous navigation through stereo vision and other technologies. This enables Carnegie Mellon's robots to automatically avoid obstacles and select their own route across unmapped terrain. Astrobotic will compete for the prize using their "Artemis Lander" and "Red Rover."

  • Chandah: Chandah, meaning "Moon" in Sanskrit, was founded by Adil Jafry, an energy industry entrepreneur. He is now chairman and CEO of Tara, the largest independent retail electricity provider in Texas. Jafry's goal is to catalyze commercialization of space, and bring advances in space travel, tourism, sciences, and technology to the general public at large. Team Chandah's spacecraft will be named "Shehrezade."

  • FREDNET: Headed by Fred J. Bourgeois III, this multi-national team is comprised of systems, software, and hardware developers who serve as the leaders and overall coordinators of an international group of Open Source developers, engineers, and scientists. Their goal is to bring the same successful approach used in developing major software systems (such as the Internet, and Linux) to bear on the problems associated with Space Exploration and Research.

  • LunaTrex: Led by Pete Bitar, LunaTrex is comprised of several individuals, companies, and universities from all over the United States, some of whom were also competitors for the Ansari X PRIZE. Each team member brings their own history to the mix: rocket science, high-altitude near-space R&D, defense directed-energy technology, aviation design and development, robotics, trajectories, and non-conventional propulsion expertise. The name of their competing craft will be "Tumbleweed."

  • Micro-Space: Helmed by Richard Speck and based in Colorado, Micro-Space, Inc. has a 31-year history of producing world class, high tech products. Since focusing on the development of spaceflight systems, they have flown 17 innovative, bipropellant liquid fuel rockets, three near-hover rockets with vectored thrust guidance, scores of flights with telemetry and radio tracking, and several innovative life support systems. Micro-Space has been a competitor in the Ansari X PRIZE as well as the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Their "Human Lunar Lander" will compete for Google Lunar X PRIZE.

  • Odyssey Moon: The first team to register for the competition, Odyssey Moon is a private commercial lunar enterprise headquartered in the Isle of Man and founded by Dr. Robert Richards. Odyssey Moon's business plans are actively in development for a series of missions to the Moon during the International Lunar Decade in support of science, exploration and commerce. Their Google Lunar X PRIZE craft is titled "MoonOne (M-1)."

  • Quantum3: A U.S.-based team, Quantum3 is led by Paul Carliner, a senior executive in the aerospace industry. They propose to field a small spacecraft launched from an East Coast range using launch-coast-burn trajectory for a propulsive soft landing on the surface of the Moon at the Sea of Tranquility. Quantum3 is taking a partnership approach to the mission, utilizing the unique capabilities of the private sector and academic communities. Their craft will be called "Moondancer."

  • Southern California Selene Group: According to team leader Harold Rosen, the approach taken by the Santa Monica Selene Group can be succinctly summarized as "an elegantly simple design that is relatively inexpensive to implement." The architecture for their "Spirit of Southern California" spacecraft will combine the control and communication systems used in some of the earliest communications satellites with the latest in electronic and sensor technology.

  • Team Italia: Based in Italy and led by Prof. Amalia Ercoli-Finzi, Team Italia is a collaboration between several universities. The team is currently running a prototype of its system at Politecnico di Milano. The architecture of the robotic system is under study: a single big rover or a colony of many robots, light and mobile, with many legs and wheels, able to be compacted in the lander and distributed quickly on the Moon's surface with cameras and sensory support.
The X PRIZE Foundation has also announced that Space Florida will be a new preferred partner and the first preferred launch site for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. Each preferred partner offers additional prizes or strategic services at a discounted rate to all competition teams. As the first preferred launch site, Space Florida will award an additional prize of $2 million to the Grand Prize winner of the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, provided the winner launched the winning flight from the State of Florida and upon confirmation that the winner has complied with all competition rules. Space Florida was created by the Florida Legislature to sustain Florida's position as the global leader in space exploration and commerce, and is the principal organization charged with promoting and developing Florida's aerospace industry.
Robert PearlmanX PRIZE Foundation release
X PRIZE Foundation Announces Two New Teams and Preferred Partner in Private Moon Race

The X PRIZE Foundation today announced two new teams and a new Preferred Partner in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the Moon to win a remarkable $30 million in prizes. These two teams join the international group of teams that will compete to land a privately funded robotic craft on the Moon that is capable of roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth.

The announcement was made at the AGI Users' Conference, held in Chicago on October 7-9, 2008. Google Lunar X PRIZE teams were invited to attend the conference to learn about the services that Analytical Graphics, Inc. will be offering as a Google Lunar X PRIZE preferred partner. Will Pomerantz, Senior Director for Space Projects at the X PRIZE Foundation, spoke at the conference about the Google Lunar X PRIZE and introduced the new teams and partner. "We are thrilled to add our first team from Florida and our second team from Malaysia to the roster of competitors. Both these teams will add an exciting element to the competition," said Pomerantz.

As a preferred partner, AGI will provide each Google Lunar X PRIZE team with nearly $200,000 worth of complimentary software and engineering services. "AGI's software is unsurpassed and will bring critical new capabilities to the competing teams," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. "This modeling and visualization software will be a great asset for the teams. We are delighted to welcome AGI as a preferred partner for the Google Lunar X PRIZE."

The two new teams are:

  • Independence-X Aerospace: Independence-X Aerospace is based in Malaysia and is lead by Mohd Izmir Yamin, who has extensive experience in rocket propulsion and robotic control systems. Independence-X Aerospace is composed of team members who have served in various engineering and business fields as professional engineers, technologists and academics. They believe one of their primary advantages is their strategic geographical location, which they hope will help to reduce launch costs and utilize abundant direct solar reception. The team has also formed an academic and technical partnership with a Malaysian university, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). In addition, the Malaysian Entrepreneurs Development Center (MEDEC) will support the team with business advice.

  • Omega Envoy: Omega Envoy is led by Ruben Nunez, Jason Dunn, and Justin Karl, all students at the University of Central Florida. Their company, Earthrise Space, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that was founded by a group of students and professionals in Central Florida with the common goal of advancing private and commercial space exploration. The Omega Envoy project, their entry into the Google Lunar X PRIZE, will help realize these goals and expand the horizons of human space exploration. Through outreach to all academic and professional levels, coupled with synergistic business relationships, they hope to maintain Florida's position as the global leader in the space industry.
They join the twelve currently registered teams:
  • Odyssey Moon: Based in the Isle of Man, Odyssey Moon is a private commercial lunar enterprise and is developing the "MoonOne (M-1)" spacecraft.

  • Astrobotic: Based in the United States, Astrobotic is led by Dr. William "Red" Whittaker, winner of the DARPA 2007 Urban Challenge.

  • Team Italia: Based in Italy, Team Italia involves several Italian universities and companies.

  • Micro-Space: Based in the United States, Micro-Space is a former Ansari X PRIZE competitor and is a current competitor in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

  • Mystery Team: Google Lunar X PRIZE teams have the option of officially registering but remaining anonymous until July 20, 2009; this team has chosen to keep their identity a secret for the moment.

  • FREDNET: A multi-national team, FREDNET is a 100% open source team.

  • Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA): Based in Valcea, Romania, ARCA is a former Ansari X PRIZE competitor.

  • LunaTrex: Based in the United States, LunaTrex is developing a craft named "Tumbleweed."

  • Chandah: Based in the United States, Chandah means "Moon" in Sanskrit.

  • Advaeros: Based in Malaysia, Team Advaeros is led by Hanidy Yusof, who founded the Malaysian company Advanced Aerospace Industries.

  • STELLAR: Based in North Carolina and led by Dick Dell, Team STELLAR includes team members from Insight Technologies, the Advanced Vehicle Research Center, and North Carolina State University.

  • JURBAN: Started in 2000, the Juxtopia Group, Inc. is led by Dr. Jayfus T. Doswell; the JURBAN team will be made up of professional and student engineers.
More information about each of the teams can be found at the Google Lunar X PRIZE website.
Robert PearlmanGoogle Lunar X PRIZE release
Google Lunar X PRIZE Announces Two New International Competitors at Google Headquarters

Part One of a Two-Part, Two-Day Announcement Introduces Two Teams on Tuesday, Dec. 16th

Two new international teams in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a $30 million competition by the X PRIZE Foundation to land a vehicle on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit a "Mooncast" back to Earth, were announced today in a tele-press conference from Google Headquarters. The announcement was held as part of a Team Summit at Google Headquarters and NASA Ames. These recent additions bring the total number of teams to 16, from seven different countries.

Part two of this two-day announcement will reveal the identity of the "Mystery Team" which is scheduled for Wednesday, December 17 at 8:30 am, PST at NASA Ames. Also announced during the tele-conference was the groundbreaking of a new mission control center for Team Lunatrex, in the City of Anderson, South Carolina.

The two new teams are:

  • EUROLUNA: Based in Europe and led by Palle Haastrup, who is a founding member and current president of the European Lunar Exploration Association, Team Euroluna is comprised of six people who range from 16 - 60 years old and whose backgrounds span from chemical and mechanical engineering to software and business administration. Team Euroluna plans to utilize commercial, off-the-shelf technologies that will be downsized and implemented in the design of their craft, ROMIT. Designed to be lightweight and small, ROMIT will be powered by solar cells (with a total power of less than 20W) and will have six solar panels. Additionally, all control and command operations will be remotely controlled, with only limited computing power on the Moon.

  • SELENE: Headed by Markus Bindhammer, Team Selene (whose name represents the Greek goddess of the Moon) is based in China and consists of a Chinese and German group of mathematicians, physicists and designers along with aerospace and robotic engineers. Team Selene's concept of a rocket car as the lunar rover will be driven by a rocket engine and powered by solid fuel, liquid fuel or compressed gas. The ignition system of LuRoCA 1, the working title of the vehicle, will be activated by remote control or by a timer circuit. The cost-efficient craft will also be equipped with four HD cameras and will be characterized by the simplicity of its operation and insusceptibility to malfunctions.
"The Google Lunar X PRIZE is truly an international competition, and with the addition of Euroluna and Selene, our first teams headquartered in Denmark and China, respectively, the competition continues to grow throughout the world," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. "I'm confident that their participation will inspire others to reach for the stars, and wish both teams the best of luck!"

The announcement was made during a two-day Google Lunar X PRIZE Team Summit, where teams were able to give "mock" sponsorship presentations to a group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists who provided guidance on their business plan pitches and gave advice on how to raise money more effectively. One of the objectives of the Team Summit was to help leverage the financial playing field for the Google Lunar X PRIZE and allow teams to raise the money they need for a successful trip to the Moon.

Robert PearlmanGoogle Lunar X PRIZE release
Mystery Team for the Google Lunar X Prize Reveals Team at NASA Ames Research Center

Next Giant Leap, a small company that was the fourth team to register for the Google Lunar X-Prize, publically announced its name and team members at a press conference held today at the NASA Ames Research Center. Based in the United States, the Next Giant Leap (NGL) team boasts highly qualified members from the academic, aerospace and small business communities. NGL was founded on the concept that a small but focused team is the ideal vehicle to efficiently engineer the winning Google Lunar X PRIZE entry. Founded by entrepreneur Michael Joyce in November of 2007, the team was known only as the "Mystery Team" for the first year.

"Our first year was well spent, recruiting the best possible team members and building the strong working relationships required to reach our goals," said Next Giant Leap Founder Michael Joyce. "With the world class team we have assembled we are ready to take the next giant leap forward required to win the Google X PRIZE and establish NGL as commercial lunar services company."

The X PRIZE Foundation and Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the Moon to win a remarkable $30 million prize purse, on September 13, 2007. Teams from around the world are competing to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon that is capable of completing several mission objectives, including travelling at least 500 meters across the lunar surface and sending video, images and data back to the Earth.

"We've reveled in the additional excitement that has centered around our 'Mystery Team' and are thrilled to have them finally reveal their true identities," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. "We are delighted to have them go public as we believe they will be a strong contender with experienced participants, a strong academic partner and several innovative, small space companies."

The lead systems integrator is MicroSat Systems, Inc., known for its innovation in small spacecraft. On May 7, 2008, MicroSat Systems was awarded a contract to build 18 Orbcomm Inc. satellites with an option for 30 more. In charge of the difficult task of landing safely on the Moon is the Draper Laboratory. Draper has been involved in space guidance navigation and control since the earliest days of the space program supporting Apollo, the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the leading engineering institution in the United States, is a key academic partner. The MIT team includes five time Shuttle astronaut Jeff Hoffman and Professor David Miller, head of MIT's Space Systems Laboratory and developer of the innovative SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) payload on the International Space Station.

"When approached to join the Next Giant Leap team, we thought it was an outstanding opportunity for our students to be exposed to several agile, cutting-edge companies in the space business while working on a very challenging project," said MIT professor Jeff Hoffman. "We feel that this team has the right stuff to have a shot at capturing this very challenging prize."

Other innovative small companies that are partners on the team include Aurora Flight Sciences, a company that operates on the frontiers of flight with specialties in unmanned aerial vehicles and manned space hardware, and Busek Co. Inc., a company that specializes in advanced space propulsion, especially electrical propulsion systems.

"It's an exciting time to see companies in the private sector working to develop a vehicle that will land on the lunar surface," said NASA Ames Research Center Director S. Pete Worden. "These competitions bring new and innovative ideas that everyone in the space community can benefit from and that's a win-win for everybody."

Robert PearlmanGoogle Lunar X PRIZE announcement
Taking A Piece of Apollo Back to the Moon

Lending themselves to lunar exploration once more, eleven of the surviving Apollo astronauts have bestowed their names to a plaque that will be carried to the surface of the Moon by each Google Lunar X PRIZE spacecraft. The plaque, whose exact format is [to be decided] at this time, will read:

"We Apollo Astronauts congratulate the winner of the Google Lunar X PRIZE. May this plaque, placed on the surface of the Moon by this intrepid craft and its team, serve as a welcoming beacon to future generations of lunar explorers. This spacecraft returns in the spirit of our journeys of the 20th Century - in peace and with hope for all humankind."
  • Col R. Walter Cunningham, USMCR, (Ret.), Apollo 7
  • CAPT James A. Lovell, Jr., USN (Ret.), Apollo 8, Apollo 13
  • BrigGen James A. McDivitt, USAF, Ret., Apollo 9
  • Russell L. Schweickart, Apollo 9
  • CAPT Eugene A. Cernan, USN (Ret.), Apollo 10, Apollo 17
  • Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11
  • CAPT Alan L. Bean, USN (Ret.), Apollo 12
  • CAPT Edgar D. Mitchell, USN (Ret.), Apollo 14
  • LtCol Alfred M. Worden, USAF, Ret., Apollo 15
  • BrigGen Charles M. Duke, Jr., USAF, Ret., Apollo 16
  • Hon. Harrison H. Schmitt, Ph.D., Apollo 17
Robert PearlmanX PRIZE Foundation release
Google Lunar X PRIZE Announces Official Roster of Teams Competing in the $30 Million Race to the Moon

Twenty-Nine Teams Have Been Qualified to Compete in the Largest, International Contest to Develop Low-Cost Methods of Robotic Space Exploration

Today, the X PRIZE Foundation announced the official roster of 29 registered teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, an unprecedented competition to send a robot to the Moon that travels at least 500 meters and transmits video, images, and data back to the Earth. This group of teams signifies this new era of exploration's diverse and participatory nature as it includes a huge variety of groups ranging from non-profits to university consortia to billion dollar businesses representing 17 nations on four continents. The global competition, the largest in history, was announced in September 2007, with a winner projected by 2015.

Today's announcement reveals seven teams that had not been previously announced:

  • Mystical Moon of the USA, targeting a global youth audience as active participants in designing their mission;
  • Space Il of Israel, aimed to promote scientific awareness among Israeli youth as well as develop the nation's space industry;
  • Puli of Hungary, composed of young Hungarian professionals and space enthusiasts;
  • SpaceMETA of Brazil, a group with experience in creating start-ups in fields like wireless and power line communications and design thinking processes;
  • Plan B of Canada, utilizing existing technologies in software, microprocessors, communication, guidance, and robotic systems for their technology;
  • Penn State Lunar Lions of the USA, a combination of students and faculty and engineers from the Applied Research Laboratory at the Pennsylvania State University;
  • Angelicum Chile of Chile, a mix of students, professionals, and entrepreneurs with engineering backgrounds;
  • Indus of India, led by a serial entrepreneur with more than ten years of experience in developing new businesses; and
  • Phoenicia of the USA, a former Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE competitor who has worked for a variety of small groups and companies interested in building small launch vehicles.
"The official private race to the Moon is on. 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," said Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. "Instead, we have nearly 30 teams of heroic innovators showing us a new way to the Moon."

The announcement of the official roster of registered teams comes at a time when this new era of lunar exploration has received great recognition and credibility. Recently, NASA, the U.S. civil space agency, announced that it will purchase data related to innovative lunar missions from six Google Lunar X PRIZE teams, with contracts worth as much as $10 million each. These purchases demonstrate how public and private space exploration alike will play an important role in making missions to the Moon financially sustainable.

"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," continued Diamandis. "I want to congratulate the teams that have registered. We are excited to see what they will accomplish in the coming years."

"From the Wright brothers' first flight to the Lewis and Clark expedition, the most successful and revolutionary discoveries often come from small, entrepreneurial teams," said Tiffany V.C. Montague, Manager of Google Space Initiatives. "At Google, we share with this global group of innovators a passion for tackling tough technological and scientific challenges, and we wish them the best of luck as they begin the mission phase."

Since the competition was first announced, the roster of teams has steadily grown. All of the competing teams have accepted and signed the binding set of rules for the competition.

Robert PearlmanGoogle Lunar XPRIZE release
Google Lunar XPRIZE selects five teams to compete for $6 million in milestone prizes

The Google Lunar XPRIZE announced today the five international teams selected as finalists for Milestone Prizes, with a total purse of $6 million to be awarded this year. After reviewing 33 total submissions, the nine member independent judging panel selected 11 submissions from the following teams: Astrobotic (US), Moon Express (US), Hakuto (Japan), Part-Time-Scientists (Germany), and Team Indus (India).

The Milestone Prizes were added to recognize the technological achievements and the associated financial hurdles faced by the teams as they vie for the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, a global competition to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon.

The three categories of Milestone Prizes are as follows, along with which teams are competing:

  • Landing System Milestone Prize: $1,000,000 per team — based on the hardware and software that enables a soft-landing on the moon (Astrobotic, Moon Express, Team Indus)

  • Mobility Subsystem Milestone Prize: $500,000 per team — based on the mobility system that allows the craft to move 500 meters after landing (Astrobotic, Moon Express, Hakuto, Part-Time-Scientists)

  • Imaging Subsystem Milestone Prize: $250,000 per team — based on producing "Mooncasts" consisting of high-quality images and video on the lunar surface (Astrobotic, Moon Express, Part-Time-Scientists, Team Indus)
In order to compete for the Milestone Prizes, teams had to submit documentation to the judging panel, defining the key technical risks they face and how they intend to retire them. Selected teams must now accomplish the milestones outlined in their submissions through testing and mission simulations under the scrutiny of the judges, in order to win the prizes. Teams have until September 2014 to complete the prize requirements and the winners will be announced on an ongoing basis throughout 2014.

"Every strategy presented to us was imaginative, forward-thinking and ambitious, which made it difficult to choose only a handful to proceed to the Accomplishment Round," said David Swanson, chair of the Google Lunar XPRIZE judging panel. "As there are increasing fiscal constraints threatening the ability of governments to fund exploration, the need to recognize the bold technical achievements of these privately-funded teams is greater than ever."

Competing for the Milestone Prizes is an optional part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Teams that chose not to participate in the Milestone Prizes are still eligible to win the Grand or Second Place Prizes. The prize money for the Milestone Prizes will be deducted from any future Grand or Second Place Prize winnings of that team. To accommodate the possibility of teams winning Milestone Prizes and not subsequently going on to win the Grand or Second Place Prize, Google has increased the maximum prize purse to $40 million.

XPRIZE is also considering additional Milestone Prizes for technical achievements after lift-off on the way to the moon, to be announced at a later date. For more details on the Milestone Prizes, please visit googlelunarxprize.org.

Robert PearlmanGoogle Lunar XPRIZE release
Deadline For $30 Million Google Lunar XPRIZE Extended To End Of 2016

Up to $6 Million in Milestone Prizes Recognizing Technological Advancements to be Awarded in January 2015

XPRIZE, the global leader in incentivized prize competition, today (Dec. 16) announced that the deadline for the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE has been officially extended until December 31, 2016. As part of this revised timeline, at least one team must provide documentation of a scheduled launch by December 31, 2015 for all teams to move forward in the competition.

"We continue to see significant progress from our Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, most recently demonstrated in the pursuit of the Milestone Prizes, in which teams exhibited substantial technological achievements that will ultimately support their missions," said Robert K. Weiss, vice chairman and president, XPRIZE. "We know the mission we are asking teams to accomplish is extremely difficult and unprecedented, not only from a technological standpoint, but also in terms of the financial considerations. It is for this reason that we have decided to extend the competition timeline. We firmly believe that a whole new economy around low-cost access to the Moon will be the result of the Google Lunar XPRIZE."

To recognize the recent technological achievements made by teams in the areas of Landing, Mobility and Imaging, Google and XPRIZE will be awarding up to $6M in Milestone Prizes on January 26, 2015 at a private event at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Two purses have already been announced as Astrobotic (U.S.) has won $500,000 in the Mobility category and $250,000 for their Imaging Subsystem, all determined by a judging panel of science, aeronautics and space industry experts that evaluated numerous field and technology tests over the past year. In addition to Astrobotic, the other teams competing for Milestone Prizes are Hakuto (Japan), Team Indus (India), Moon Express (U.S.) and Part-Time Scientists (Germany).

"Over the past year, the judging panel has been consistently impressed with the progress seen from the five teams selected to contend for the Milestone Prizes," said David Swanson, chairman, Google Lunar XPRIZE judging panel. "It goes without saying that space exploration comes with a myriad of challenges, yet the enthusiasm and teamwork exhibited by these competitors has been second to none, exceeded only by their adept technical expertise. As part of this process, we are pleased to recognize Astrobotic for their achievements in the Mobility and Imaging categories and look forward to awarding additional Milestone Prizes in the coming weeks."

Competing for the Milestone Prizes is an optional part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Teams that chose not to participate in the Milestone Prizes are still eligible to win the Grand or Second Place Prizes. The prize money for the Milestone Prizes will be deducted from any future Grand or Second Place Prize winnings of that team.

Robert PearlmanGoogle Lunar XPRIZE release
Private Moon Race Heats Up As Five Google Lunar XPRIZE Teams Take Home $5.25 Million For Key Technological Advancements

Five Teams From Around the World Recognized with Milestone Prizes for Progress Toward Lunar Missions

XPRIZE, the global leader in incentivized prize competition, today announced that five Google Lunar XPRIZE teams have been awarded a combined US$5.25 million in recognition of key technological advancements toward their quest to land a private spacecraft on the surface of the moon. Determined by a judging panel of science, aeronautics and space industry experts that evaluated numerous tests over the past year, the Milestone Prizes honor hardware and software innovations needed to overcome technical risks in the three crucial areas—Imaging, Mobility and Landing systems—all of which are necessary to complete a successful Google Lunar XPRIZE mission.

The 9 awarded Milestone Prizes are as follows:

"The $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE is asking teams to accomplish a feat that has never been achieved—the safe landing of a private craft on the lunar surface that travels at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and imagery back to Earth," said Robert K. Weiss, vice chairman and president, XPRIZE. "Congratulations to these five talented teams on winning Milestone Prizes. The goal of this unprecedented competition is to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration and these achievements represent a pivotal moment in this important journey back to the moon."

"We would like to congratulate Astrobotic, Hakuto, Moon Express, Part-Time Scientists and Team Indus on their Milestone Prize Award wins, as well as the other 13 Google Lunar XPRIZE competitors, all of which continue to devote tireless dedication to this goal," said Matt Hirst, Head of Brand Partnerships and Experiences, Google. "At Google, we passionately believe in the power of asking big questions and we are proud to support the efforts of those who push boundaries in science and society to create a better world."

For each Milestone Prize category, teams carried out a number of hardware tests representative of their planned lunar mission, while sharing extensive design information and analysis with the judging panel. The Landing prizes have been awarded to teams that demonstrated advanced progress on their spacecraft that will land on the moon, the Mobility prizes recognize the vehicle that will need to move across the lunar surface and the Imaging prizes acknowledge the camera system needed to send high definition imagery and video to back to Earth.

The Milestone Prizes will be awarded at a private event tonight hosted by XPRIZE and Google at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Competing for the Milestone Prizes is an optional part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Teams that chose not to participate in the Milestone Prizes are still eligible to win the Grand or Second Place Prizes. The prize money for the Milestone Prizes will be deducted from any future Grand or Second Place Prize winnings of that team..

The deadline for the Google Lunar XPRIZE was officially extended until December 31, 2016. As part of this revised timeline, at least one team must provide documentation of a scheduled launch by December 31, 2015 for all teams to move forward in the competition.

Robert PearlmanGoogle Lunar XPRIZE release
Google Lunar XPRIZE Awards $1 Million Diversity Prize, Five Teams Move Forward to Final Phase of Competition

Today, XPRIZE and Google announce that a $1 million Diversity Prize will be split among 16 Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, and that five teams have verified launch contracts and are moving forward to the final phase of the competition to land an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the Moon.

"XPRIZE and Google have been awestruck by the educational outreach activities conducted by all of the competing teams and have decided to split the $1 million Diversity Prize across all 16 teams to recognize each of their unique approaches and initiatives over the years," said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director, Google Lunar XPRIZE. "Each of these teams has pushed the boundaries to demonstrate that you don't have to be a government superpower to send a mission to the Moon, while inspiring audiences to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics."

All teams had until December 31, 2016 to have a verified launch contract in place. XPRIZE has verified the launch contracts of the following five teams, who are moving forward to the final phase of the competition:

  • SpaceIL (Israel), a non-profit organization, has secured a position on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Their goal is to make an educational impact and to create an "Apollo Effect" for the next generation in Israel.

  • Moon Express (USA), signed a multi-mission launch contract with Rocket Lab USA for three lunar missions by 2020. Their directive is to open up the Moon's vast resources for humanity and establish new avenues for commercial space activities beyond Earth orbit.

  • Synergy Moon (International), team member Interorbital Systems will serve as the launch provider, using a NEPTUNE 8 rocket to carry a lunar lander and rover to the surface of the Moon. Synergy Moon is made of up individuals from over 15 countries, with a mission to make manned orbital travel, personal satellite launches and Solar System exploration cost effective and accessible.

  • TeamIndus (India), signed a commercial launch contract aboard the Indian Space Research Organization's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). TeamIndus' spacecraft is designed to nestle inside the nosecone of the PSLV and will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

  • HAKUTO (Japan), signed a rideshare agreement to have TeamIndus carry its four-wheeled rover to the Moon. Hakuto's ultimate target is to explore holes that are thought to be caves or 'skylights' into underlying lava tubes, for the first time in history, which could lead to important scientific discoveries and possibly identifying long-term habitats to shield humans from the Moon's hostile environment.
In recognition of the diverse mission plans of each finalist team, XPRIZE made an update to the guidelines to require that the launch is initiated by the December 31, 2017 deadline, instead of completed.
Robert PearlmanGoogle Lunar X PRIZE release
Google Lunar XPRIZE Offers $4.75 Million to Teams Who Complete In-Space Milestones on Way to the Moon

Additionally, a mission completion deadline has been set for March 31, 2018

Today, XPRIZE and Google announce that $4.75M in additional Milestone Prize money will be available to Google Lunar XPRIZE finalist teams for achieving technological milestones along the way to the Moon. Teams can compete for one or both of the following prizes:
  • Lunar Arrival Milestone Prize — The spacecraft must complete one orbit around the Moon or enter a direct descent approach to the lunar surface to win $1.75M.

  • Soft Landing Milestone Prize — The spacecraft must transmit data proving it soft-landed on the lunar surface to win $3M.
The Milestone Prize purses will be evenly distributed between all teams who have achieved each milestone by March 31, 2018.

"XPRIZE and Google are thrilled to offer these additional in-space Milestone Prizes as a further incentive for finalist teams and to recognize the full gravity of these bold technological feats taking place in the race to the Moon," said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director, Google Lunar XPRIZE.

Earlier this year, XPRIZE announced the five finalist teams with verified launch contracts: SpaceIL (Israel), Moon Express (USA), Synergy Moon (International), TeamIndus (India) and HAKUTO (Japan). Additionally, XPRIZE established a mission completion deadline of March 31, 2018, regardless of the initiation date, in order for teams to win the Grand or Second-Place Prizes.

In January 2015, five Google Lunar XPRIZE teams were awarded Milestone Prizes for a combined $5.25M in recognition of advancements in the areas of mobility, imaging and landing technology. If a team ultimately wins the Grand Prize or Second-Place Prize, then the Grand Prize or the Second-Place Prize will be reduced by the amount the team has won in Milestone Prizes.

Robert PearlmanGoogle Lunar XPRIZE release
An Important Update From Google Lunar XPRIZE

By Peter Diamandis & Marcus Shingles on January 23, 2018

"After close consultation with our five finalist Google Lunar XPRIZE teams over the past several months, we have concluded that no team will make a launch attempt to reach the Moon by the March 31st, 2018 deadline. This literal "moonshot" is hard, and while we did expect a winner by now, due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the grand prize of the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed.

We are extraordinarily grateful to Google for enabling this 10-year journey with us and for having the foresight and courage to support and catalyze the commercial space industry, which was the ultimate goal of this competition.

As a result of this competition, we have sparked the conversation and changed expectations with regard to who can land on the Moon. Many now believe it's no longer the sole purview of a few government agencies, but now may be achieved by small teams of entrepreneurs, engineers, and innovators from around the world. We are thankful to the teams for their decade of hard work, and acknowledge that a number of our teams are now, finally building flight ready hardware, contracting with launch providers and are close to being able to make their attempt to land on the Moon.

XPRIZE is exploring a number of ways to proceed from here. This may include finding a new title sponsor to provide a prize purse following in the footsteps of Google's generosity, or continuing the Lunar XPRIZE as a non-cash competition where we will follow and promote the teams and help celebrate their achievements.

Even though we are disappointed that we do not have a winner at this time, we are proud of the impact that the Google Lunar XPRIZE has achieved to date. Over the course of this competition:

  1. Teams and the companies that own the teams have raised more than $300 million through corporate sponsorships, government contracts and venture capital, including the largest space-related series A investment of $90 million;

  2. Hundreds of jobs were created and the first commercial space companies were established in India, Malaysia, Israel and Hungary;

  3. Through educational programs, we have engaged hundreds of thousands of young people across the globe, sparking an interest in exploration and STEM fields;

  4. We have also seen regulatory reform: one team received the first-ever 'Mission Approval' from the U.S. government to send a private spacecraft beyond Earth's orbit and to the Moon in their quest to complete their first lunar mission;

  5. We have already awarded more than $6 million in prize money to teams over the course of the competition, in recognition of the milestones they have accomplished; and,

  6. Finally, we have secured global media exposure for our teams, including a recent 32-page feature in National Geographic, a segment on The Today Show, and a 9-part web series, Moon Shot, executive produced by J.J. Abrams, inspiring millions of people around the world with the story of the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
In conclusion, it's incredibly difficult to land on the Moon. If every XPRIZE competition we launch has a winner, we are not being audacious enough, and we will continue to launch competitions that are literal or figurative moonshots, pushing the boundaries of what's possible. We are inspired by the progress of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, and will continue to support their journey, one way or another, and will be there to help shine the spotlight on them when they achieve that momentous goal."
BlackarrowAt least the 1957 Vanguard launch got a few inches off the pad.
Robert PearlmanRushing to the launch pad to be first, or to win a race (or a prize) is not always the best course of action — as Vanguard so amply demonstrated.

The prize is over, but several of the teams are well-funded and are still pursuing the moon.

Robert PearlmanFrom TeamIndus:
TeamIndus has been in talks with the Google Lunar XPrize over the past few weeks and had expressed its inability to meet the 31st March 2018 deadline to complete 500 meter traversal on the Moon. We respect the decision by the organizers to not extend the competition deadline any further and thank them for having created an unique platform that unleashed innovation, created newer technologies and drew in teams from various backgrounds to solve problems of enabling human exploration beyond the Earth orbit.

We have formally, amicably and mutually closed our Launch services agreement with Antrix. We continue to look towards Antrix & ISRO as our preferred partners of choice for all our future endeavours.

At TeamIndus, we are grateful for the support we have received from all our partners, supporters over this journey of 7 years. We are working closely with all of them to ascertain their role as we expand our horizons and work on repeatedly delivering increased capacity, precision of payload to the Moon. More details on our next phase of evolution coming up later this week.
Blackarrow
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Rushing to the launch pad to be first, or to win a race (or a prize) is not always the best course of action — as Vanguard so amply demonstrated.
A slightly odd comment for a citizen of the country which responded, gloriously and successfully, to the ultimate challenge — to be first on the Moon by the end of the decade (of the Sixties).
Robert PearlmanApollo was a tremendous achievement, but because it was a race, the program ended as soon as it was won. Everything after Apollo 11 was just riding on the inertia of that initial push.

That's not to say that races and prizes don't serve a purpose, they do. The Google Lunar XPRIZE, even without a winner, provided the initial push needed to get people thinking about sending robotic landers and rovers to the moon. But if we don't want those efforts to end like Apollo, they are going to need more than the promise of a prize to keep them going.

Fortunately, a few of the teams recognized that before the prize ended and pivoted from chasing the XPRIZE to pursuing the moon as a business opportunity.

On edit: And to point, Naveen Jain, co-founder and chairman of Moon Express said the following at the Space Tech Summit on Wednesday (Jan. 24), via SpaceNews:

"With or without the prize, I think we're going to be just fine, because we started the company to build a great business, not to simply win the prize. Winning the prize would have been just fine, too, because that's icing on the cake, and who doesn't love icing?"
Robert PearlmanX PRIZE release
XPRIZE Plans To Continue Lunar XPRIZE Mission

Past Competing Teams Support a Non-Cash Lunar Prize Competition, While the XPRIZE Foundation Seeks a Replacement Cash Sponsor

Today, XPRIZE announced their plan to continue the Lunar XPRIZE mission, with a re-launch of a new Lunar-focused competition.

Effective today, the Lunar XPRIZE will operate as a non-cash competition. Over the next few months, XPRIZE will define new parameters for companies to compete in the prize.

Also, effective today, XPRIZE is seeking a new Title Sponsor for the Lunar XPRIZE competition, taking over for the support provided by Google during the past decade.

"We are extraordinarily grateful to Google for funding the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE between September 2007 and March 31st, 2018. While that competition is now over, there are at least five teams with launch contracts that hope to land on the Lunar surface in the next two years," said Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., XPRIZE founder and executive chairman. "Because of this tremendous progress, and near-term potential, XPRIZE is now looking for our next visionary Title Sponsor who wants to put their logo on these teams and on the lunar surface."

"Over the last decade the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams raised over $300 million through corporate sponsorships, government contracts and venture capital," said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director of prizes at XPRIZE. "These space entrepreneurs are developing long-term business models around lunar transportation, and we cannot give up on them now. I am confident that one of these companies will land on the Moon in the near future and am excited for the next chapter of this new space race."

XPRIZE has heard from many of the major Google Lunar XPRIZE teams who have expressed their support and desire for the competition to proceed with or without a monetary prize purse:

  • "We applaud XPRIZE's decision to continue the Lunar XPRIZE, with or without a title sponsor," said Bob Richards, founder & CEO of Moon Express. "While we plan to win this Moon race and are committed to carrying the Lunar XPRIZE logo, the real opportunity is in opening the lunar frontier and the multibillion dollar industry that follows."

  • "The previous Google Lunar XPRIZE competition showed the world how the concept of a race was necessary to advance the private space industry to a new level," said Takeshi Hakamada, founder and CEO of ispace, the management company for HAKUTO. "It raised public interest in space and led to activations from companies not traditionally involved in space. We believe a new competition would again elevate our industry to an even higher level, so we eagerly welcome a new Lunar XPRIZE."

  • "The Google Lunar XPRIZE served as an excellent early catalyst to get new people, partners and money involved," said Rahul Narayan, CEO and founder of TeamIndus. "With the renewed interest in beyond Earth-orbit exploration by multiple large government space agencies, a new Lunar XPRIZE will be a perfectly timed platform with the chances of multiple successful launches being much higher than before."
The new Lunar XPRIZE Title Sponsor would be responsible for putting up one or more contingent purses for the winners. The Title Sponsor would have the benefit of having their name and branding incorporated into the competition, and in success, on the surface of the Moon.

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