Lunar XPRIZE competition continuing without cash reward
The Lunar XPRIZE, a competition among various teams to land a robot on the Moon, is proceeding even though Google is no longer sponsoring the project. As of April 5, 2018, it is now operating as a non-cash competition.
XPRIZE is a nonprofit which offers competitions to solve many of the world’s problems. According to its website:
“XPRIZE’s philosophy is that—under the right circumstances—igniting rapid experimentation from a variety of diverse lenses is the most efficient and effective method to driving exponential impact and solutions to grand challenges.”
In 2015, XPRIZE offered to extend the deadline of landing on the Moon until December of 2017 if at least one team managed to secure a launch contract. SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, Team Indus, and Hakuto managed to secure verified launch contracts for 2017. But when the 2017 deadline was not reached, Google chose not to grant a further extension. The Google Lunar XPRIZE expired on March 31, 2018.
Now that Google’s involvement has ended, XPRIZE is seeking a new title sponsor.
“We are extraordinarily grateful to Google for funding the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE between September 2007 and March 31, 2018,” Peter Diamandis, executive chairman and founder of XPRIZE, said in an organization-released statement. “While that competition is now over, there are at least five teams with launch contract that hope to land on the lunar surface in the next two years. 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.”
Many of the Lunar XPRIZE teams have expressed a desire to continue the competition even without a monetary prize.
“We applaud XPRIZE’s decision to continue the Lunar XPRIZE, with or without a title sponsor,” said Bob Richards, founder and 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.”
Hakuto is another team competing to land on the Moon. Its CEO, Takeshi Kahamada, said the previous Google Lunar XPRIZE competition showed the world how the concept of a race was necessary to advance the private space industry.
“It raised public interest in space and led to activations from companies not traditionally involved in space,” Kahamada said. “We believe a new competition would again elevate our industry to an even higher level, so we eagerly welcome a new Lunar XPRIZE.”
CEO Rahul Narayan of TeamIndus, the only Indian team in the competition, said the Google Lunar XPRIZE served as an early catalyst to get new people, partners and money involved.
“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.” Narayan said.
The senior director of prizes at XPRIZE, Chanda Gonzalez-Mowrer, said the last decade of the Google Lunar XPRIZE saw teams raise over $300 million through corporate sponsorship, government contracts and venture capital.
“These space entrepreneurs are developing long-term business models around lunar transportation, and we cannot give up on them now,” Gonzalez-Mowrer said. “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.”
Collin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.