Google Lunar XPRIZE gets mission deadline, new awards
The Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, designed to inspire engineers and entrepreneurs to land a vehicle on the Moon, has been given a slight modification to its deadline. Teams no longer have to launch by Dec. 31, 2017, to stay competitive; instead, they just have to focus on completing their missions by March 31, 2018.
The latest modification also adds $4.75 million in additional Milestone Prizes, which will be divided among all the competitors who achieve the stated goals.
“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.
The first new milestone prize is called the “Lunar Arrival Milestone Prize”. In order to qualify, the spacecraft must complete one orbit around the Moon or enter a direct descent approach to the lunar surface. A total prize of $1.75 million is available.
The second new milestone prize is called the “Soft Landing Milestone Prize”. In order to qualify, the spacecraft must transmit data proving that it soft-landed on the lunar surface. A total prize of $3 million is available.
First announced in September of 2007, the Google Lunar XPRIZE will award $20 million to the first privately funded team who can land a robotic vehicle on the lunar surface and have it travel a minimum of 1,640 feet (500 meters). The second team to accomplish the same task will receive $5 million.
When first announced, the competition required competitors to put a vehicle on the surface by 2012. A landing by 2014 was allowed but with $5 million less in prize money awarded to the first-place team. The first extension came in 2010 when the deadline was moved to Dec. 31, 2015.
A second extension was announced in December of 2014, moving the deadline to Dec. 31, 2016. A third extension was announced in May of 2015 pushing the deadline to December of 2017.
Another deadline was set in May of 2015: in order to stay in the competition, a team needed to secured a launch contract by Dec. 31, 2015. When only two teams had done so by that date, the launch contract deadline was moved out one more year.
Out of the 32 teams originally registered, only five have secured launch contracts by the December 2016 deadline. Three of those were with proven launch providers. SpaceIL (Israel) contracted with SpaceX to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket, while TeamIndus (India) and HAKUTO (Japan) will launch together on Antrix Corporation Limited’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The other two teams, Moon Express (USA) and Synergy Moon (International), will utilize two new companies just getting their launch vehicles flying: Rocket Lab and Interorbital Systems, respectively.
Seven teams that did not meet the December 2016 deadline have secured launch contracts afterward and are continuing to develop spacecraft. However, those competitors are no longer eligible for the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
This story was updated on Aug. 31, 2017, to clarify that the March 31, 2018, date is the deadline for GLXP teams to complete their missions and that the Dec. 31, 2017, deadline to launch was removed.
Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.