Google and X Prize announced this weekend that nine new privately funded teams will compete for $30 million in prize money in the Google Lunar X Prize. The requirements:
90% of a winning team’s funding has to come from the private sector
The first team to land their robot on the moon and complete a set of tasks* with said robot by December 31, 2012 will win a $20 million grand prize. If the above takes place in 2013 or 2014, the prize drops to $15 million. No prize money will be awarded after December 31, 2014. That leaves teams 4 to 6 years to complete the feat.
If a second team achieves all the tasks by 2014, they will win $5 million. That’s not bad for a 2nd place finish. An additional $5 million is available for completing difficult bonus objectives. These include moving the robot an additional 500 meters (1,600ft), photographing man-made objects on the moon and surviving two weeks on the Moon’s surface.
Oh, the mean daytime surface temperature is 107C and the mean night-time surface temperature is -153C. In addition to just getting to the Moon’s surface, that’s some serious engineering requirements.
*Tasks to complete: travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth.
The teams that have announced so far can be found here.
This contest will spur technological developments that will influence space travel and commerce for the rest of this century. It’s the perfect task for private industry at this stage of our societal development. NASA needs to concentrate on monitoring the Earth system and exploring deeper space.