Spaceflight Insider

Lunar X-Prize milestones awarded to five teams

Artist rendition of Moon Express lunar lander as seen on Spaceflight Insider

Artist rendition of America's first private lunar microlander and commercial robot, developed by Moon Express. Image Credit: Moon Express

SAN FRANCISCO, Ca. – The Google Lunar X-PRIZE (GLXP ) Foundation announced winners of the Terrestrial Milestone Prizes in an award ceremony on Jan. 26, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The milestone prizes are designed to boost the efforts of the 18 teams currently attempting to launch a robotic lander on the Moon by the end of 2016. Nine prizes were awarded in three categories for overcoming technical hurdles in landing, mobility, and imaging. Five of the 18 teams received an award.

Time is running out for the first and second prizes. When the Lunar X-Prize was announced in 2007, the original deadline to land on the Moon was the end of 2012; however, that deadline was extended until the end of 2015. The X-PRIZE Foundation is planning one more extension – to Dec. 31, 2016, provided at least one team has their robotic lander on a flight manifest by the end of 2015. That leaves slightly more than 11 months for a team to convince Space Explorations Technology (SpaceX ) or Orbital Sciences Corporationto allow a lander to ride along as a secondary payload by the end of 2016.

Astrobotic rover on the surface of the Moon Astrobotic image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Astrobotic’s rover travels across the lunar surface in this image by the company. Image Credit: Astrobotic

To win the Google Lunar X-PRIZE, a commercial company must land on the moon, move 500 meters, and send back images.

In an interview with SpaceFlight Insider, Bob Richards of Moon Express explained that their lander can take one of two paths to the Moon. If they hitch a ride on a launch vehicle doing a lunar injection orbit, their lander can arrive at the Moon in a few days time.

However, it is far more likely that they will have to hitch a ride with a satellite inserted in geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). From this position, Moon Express will have to overshoot the Moon and fall back toward its target, a route that could take as long as two months. That would force Moon Express to launch by the end of October, 2016 in order to reach the lunar surface before the deadline.

Three categories of prizes were awarded at the private ceremony held by Google and the X-PRIZE foundation at the California Academy of Sciences. Teams could win $1 Million for advancements in landing technology, $500,000 for mobility, and $250,000 for imaging.

Five teams shared $5,250,000 in prizes. Image credit: Bill Jelen / SpaceFlight Insider

Five teams shared $5,250,000 in prizes. Image credit: Bill Jelen / SpaceFlight Insider

The prize winners are:

  • Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh-based team who tested their lander in the Mojave desert. They took home a prize in each category, for a total of $1.75 million.
  • Moon Express, a Silicon-Valley start-up who recently announced plans to establish a permanent presence at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company has already tested their lander at the hazard field the firm shares with the Morpheus Lander at Kennedy Space Center. Moon Express won $1.25 million in prizes for landing and imaging.
  • Team Indus, from New Delhi, India. The company demonstrated their landing system near the end of 2014, earning them a $1 Million prize.
  • Part-Time Scientists have developed a rover that earned them a $500 thousand mobility prize and high-tech cameras that brought along a $250 thousand imaging prize.
  • Hakuto, from Japan recently tested their rover on the beaches near Hamamatsu, Japan, earning them a $500,000 mobility prize.

There is one catch: for any of the five teams who fail to win first or second prize, they get to keep their milestone prize. However, if one of these teams wins first or second, the milestone prize is deducted from their later winnings.

Part Time Scientists entrant in the GLXP posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Part Time Scientists’ entrant in the Google Lunar X-PRIZE. Photo Credit: GLXP


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