Google Lunar X Prize

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For the visual phenomeon created on the moon by lunar craters, see Lunar x.
Google Lunar XPRIZE
Google Lunar X Prize logo
Awarded for "land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth"[1]
Country Worldwide
Presented by X Prize Foundation (organizer),
Google (sponsor)
Reward US$20 million for the winner,
US$5 million for second place,
US$4 million in technical bonuses,
US$1 million diversity award
Official website googlelunarxprize.org

The Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) sometimes referred to as Moon 2.0,[2][3] is an inducement prize space competition organized by the X Prize Foundation, and sponsored by Google. The challenge calls for privately-funded spaceflight teams to compete to successfully launch a robotic spacecraft that can land and travel across the surface of the Moon while sending back to Earth specified images and other data.

As of June 2014, 18 GLXP teams remain in the competition, and five of those are thought to be making good progress. However, none of the GLXP teams have announced firm launch dates to attempt the prize, even though the prize expires at the end of 2015 and launch service providers typically require launch vehicle reservation 24 months prior to the date of the launch.[4] Also in June, one GLXP team is scouting co-competitors to travel with it on a common launch vehicle and lunar transit satellite. Astrobotic announced it would be willing to share a single "ride" to the Moon with up to four competitors. The shared transporter, including a shared Lunar landing, would result in a common start time for a race to achieve the 500 m lunar-surface distance-traveled objective. However, Astrobotic had not yet lined up its own launch arrangements with 18 months left in the competition.[5] As of August 2014, there are only 16 months remaining before the deadline to earn the prize.

Competition summary[edit]

The Google Lunar XPRIZE was announced at the Wired Nextfest on 13 September 2007.[6] The prize offers a total of US$30 million in prizes to the first privately funded teams to land a robot on the Moon that successfully travels more than 500 meters (1,640 ft) and transmits back high definition images and video. The first team to do so will claim the US$20 million Grand Prize; while the second team to accomplish the same tasks will earn a US$5 million Second Place Prize. Teams can also earn additional money by completing additional tasks beyond the baseline requirements required to win the Grand or Second Place Prize, such as traveling ten times the baseline requirements (greater than 5,000 meters (3 mi)), capturing images of the remains of Apollo program hardware or other man-made objects on the Moon, verifying from the lunar surface the recent detection of water ice on the Moon, or surviving a lunar night. Additionally, a US$1 million Diversity Award may be given to teams that make significant strides in promoting ethnic diversity in STEM fields. Finally, Space Florida, one of the "Preferred Partners" for the competition has offered an additional US$2 million bonus to teams who launch their mission from the state of Florida.

The Google Lunar XPRIZE expires when all constituent purses have been claimed or at the end of the year 2015 (whichever comes first). At the time the prize was announced, the last operational vehicle on the moon had landed in 1976. To provide an added incentive for teams to complete their missions quickly, it was planned to decrease the prize from US$20 million to US$15 million whenever a government-led mission lands on and explores the lunar surface.[1] The Chinese Chang'e 3 probe landed on the moon in December 2013, however, in November 2013, as the launch of the probe approached, it was agreed between the organizers and the teams to drop this rule.[7]

The closing date for the competition was originally announced to be Dec 31, 2012 for the 'Grand Prize' of $20M and 2014 for the reduced prize of $15M.[3][8] In 2010 the closing date was extended to Dec 31, 2015.[9]

Overview[edit]

Peter Diamandis, the project founder, wrote on the official web page:

"It has been many decades since we explored the Moon from the lunar surface, and it could be another 6–8 years before any government returns. Even then, it will be at a large expense, and probably with little public involvement."[10]

The goal of the Google Lunar X Prize is similar to that of the Ansari X Prize: to inspire a new generation of private investment in hopes of developing more cost-effective technologies and materials to overcome many limitations of space exploration that are currently taken for granted.

History[edit]

The Google Lunar X Prize was announced in 2007.[4]

As of June 2014, none of the GLXP teams have announced firm launch dates to attempt the prize, although five of the 18 teams remaining in the competition have "demonstrated good progress."[4] IEEE Spectrum has noted that "time is getting short" for teams to make an attempt prior to expiration of the prize funding at the end of 2015.[4]

Origin of the prize[edit]

Similar to the way in which the Ansari X Prize was formed, the Google Lunar X Prize was created out of a former venture of Peter Diamandis to achieve a similar goal. Dr. Diamandis served as CEO of BlastOff! Corporation, a commercial initiative to land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon as a mix of entertainment, internet, and space. Although it was ultimately unsuccessful, the BlastOff! initiative paved the way for the Google Lunar X Prize.[11]

Initially, NASA was the planned sponsor and the prize purse was just US$20 million. As NASA is a federal agency of the United States government, and thus funded by US tax money, the prize would only have been available to teams from the United States. The original intention was to propose the idea to other national space agencies, including the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency, in the hope that they would offer similar prize purses.[12]

However, budget setbacks stopped NASA from sponsoring the prize. Peter Diamandis then presented the idea to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, at an X Prize Foundation fundraiser. They agreed to sponsor it, and also to increase the prize purse to US$30 million, allowing for a second place prize, as well as bonus prizes.[12][when?]

Delay of Deadline[edit]

The prize was originally announced as "a contest to put a robotic rover on the moon by 2012,"[3] with a $20 million prize to the winner if the landing was achieved by 2012; the prize decreased to $15M until the end of 2014, at which point the contest concluded. The five-year deadline was optimistic about schedule, and Foust commented that as the end of 2012 approached, "no team appeared that close to mounting a reasonable bid to win it."[13] In 2010, the deadline was extended by one year, with the prize to expire at the end of December 2015, and the reduction of the grand prize from $20 million to $15 million changed from originally 2012 to "if a government mission successfully lands on the lunar surface." In 2013, with no candidates appearing to be closing in on a launch, the proposal to add prizes for progress on the way to the landing[14] was under discussion.

Objections to the Heritage Bonus Prizes[edit]

Some observers have raised objections to the inclusion of the two "Heritage Bonus Prizes," particularly the Apollo Heritage Bonus Prize, which will award an additional estimated US$1 million to the first group that successfully delivers images and videos of the landing site of one of the Apollo Program landing sites, such as Tranquility Base, after landing on the lunar surface.[15] Such sites are widely regarded as archaeologically and culturally significant, and some have expressed concern that a team attempting to win this heritage bonus might inadvertently damage or destroy such a site, either during the landing phase of the mission, or by piloting a rover around the site.[16] As a result, some archaeologists are on record calling for the Foundation to cancel the heritage bonus and to ban groups from targeting landing zones within 100 kilometers (62 mi) of previous sites.[17]

In turn, the Foundation has noted that, as part of the competition's educational goals, it hopes these bonuses will foster debate about how to respectfully visit previous lunar landing sites, but that it does not see itself as the appropriate adjudicator of such an internationally relevant and interdisciplinary issue. This response left detractors unsatisfied.[18] The Foundation points to the historical precedent set by the Apollo 12 mission, which landed nearby the previous Surveyor 3 robotic probe. Pete Conrad and Alan Bean approached and inspected Surveyor 3 and even removed some parts from it to be returned to Earth for study; new scientific results from that heritage visit, on the exposure of manmade objects to conditions in outer space, were still being published in leading papers nearly four decades later.[19] However, as Surveyor 3 and Apollo 12 were both NASA missions, there was no controversy at the time.

In January 2011, NASA's Manager for Lunar Commercial Space noted on Twitter that work was underway to provide insight and guidelines on how lunar heritage sites could be protected while still allowing visitations that will yield critical science.[20]

Many of the Apollo astronauts themselves have already expressed support for the bonus, with Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin appearing at the Google Lunar X Prize's initial announcement and reading a plaque signed by the majority of his fellow surviving Apollo Astronauts.[21]

Competitors[edit]

Registration in the Google Lunar X Prize closed as of December 31, 2010. The complete roster of teams was announced on 17 February 2011. There are 18 officially registered Google Lunar X Prize teams involved in the competition (not including teams that have left the competition or merged into other teams):[22]

Team

Number

Country Team Name Craft Name Craft Type Craft Status Ref
02 US Astrobotic Griffin[23] lander development [24]
Red Rover[25] rover [26]
03 Italy Team Italia rover development [27]
07 US Moon Express MoonEx-1 rover development [28][29]
08 US STELLAR Stellar Eagle rover development [30]
10 Malaysia Independence-X ILR-1 rover development [31]
11 US Omega Envoy

Teaming with AngelicvM[32]

To be named lander development [33]
Sagan rover [33]
12 International Synergy Moon Tesla rover development [34]
13 International Euroluna ROMIT development [35]
15 Japan Hakuto[36] To be named lander development [37]
To be named rover [37]
16 Germany Part-Time Scientists Asimov Jr. rover development [38]
19 Spain Barcelona Moon Team development [39]
22 Israel Team SpaceIL Sparrow nano-ship development [40]
23 Hungary Team Puli development [41]
24 Brazil SpaceMETA development [42]
25 Canada Team Plan B Plan B development [43][44]
26 US Penn State Lunar Lion Team[45] Lunar Lion lander + rocket-hopper development [46]
27 Chile AngelicvM

Teaming with Omega Envoy[32]

Dandelion rover development [47]
28 India Team Indus HHK1 lander + 2 rovers development [48]
01 US Odyssey Moon MoonOne (M-1) lander Merged into Team SpaceIL[49] [50]
04 US Next Giant Leap Acquired by Moon Express[51] [52]
05 International FREDNET[53] withdrawn [54]
06 Romania ARCA HAAS lunar orbiter withdrawn [55]
European Lunar Explorer spherical rover [55]
09 US JURBAN JOHLT withdrawn [56]
14 International Team SELENE RoverX wheel+leg robot withdrawn [57]
17 Germany C-Base Open Moon C-Rove rover withdrawn[58] [39]
18 Russia Selenokhod withdrawn [59]
20 US Mystical Moon withdrawn [60]
21 US Rocket City Space Pioneers Acquired by Moon Express[61] [62]
29 US Team Phoenicia Storming the High Heavens lander withdrawn [63]
30 US SCSG withdrawn [64]
31 US Micro-Space Crusader LL[65] lander withdrawn[66] [67]
32 US Quantum3 withdrawn [68]
33 US Advaeros withdrawn [69]
34 US LunaTrex not registered[70] [71]

Shortly after the announcement of the complete roster of teams, an X Prize Foundation official noted that a total of thirty one teams entered a partial registration program by filing a "Letter of Intent" to compete; of these, twenty did indeed register or join other registered teams, while eleven ultimately did not register.[72]

Initial flights[edit]

On November 14, 2009 and August 4, 2010 ARCA had two unsuccessful launch attempts for their Helen and Helen 2 rockets from the Black Sea. They were followed by the successful launch of Helen 2 at altitude of 40,000 m (130,000 ft) on October 1, 2010. The flights were intended to test components and the gravitational stabilisation method for the Haas moon rocket.[73] On April 27, 2010 three crew members flew to an altitude of 5,200 m (17,100 ft) m in a hot air balloon to test video transmission and telemetry systems for the rocket.[74]

On June 30, 2011, Moon Express had its first successful test flight of a prototype lunar lander system called the Lander Test Vehicle (LTV) that was developed in partnership with NASA.[75]

Terrestrial Milestone Prizes[edit]

Overview[edit]

In November 2013 the X-Prize organization announced that several milestone prizes will be awarded to teams for demonstrating key technologies prior to the actual mission. A total of US$6 million could be awarded throughout 2014 for achieving the following milestones:[76]

  • $1 million (for up to 3 teams) for the Lander System Milestone Prize to demonstrate hardware and software that enables a soft-landing on the moon.
  • $500,000 (for up to 4 teams) for the Mobility Subsystem Milestone Prize to demonstrate a mobility system that allows the craft to move 500 meters after landing.
  • $250,000 (for up to 4 teams) for the Imaging Subsystem Milestone Prize for producing “Mooncasts” consisting of high-quality images and video on the lunar surface.

Selected teams[edit]

In February 2014, a judging panel selected five teams which can compete for these prizes based on their proposals on how to achieve the respective goals. The nominated teams are:[77]

Team Landing
($1 million)
Mobility
($500,000)
Imaging
($250,000)
Total Prize Awarded
Astrobotic competing competing competing
Moon Express competing competing competing
Team Indus competing not selected competing
Part-Time Scientists not selected competing competing
Hakuto not selected competing not selected

The selected teams must now accomplish the milestones outlined in their submissions through testing and mission simulations, in order to win the prizes. The teams have until September 2014 to complete the prize requirements and the winners will be announced on an ongoing basis throughout 2014.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ a b c Koman, Richard (2007-09-14). "Moon 2.0: Google Funds $30 Million Lunar X Prize". Newsfactor. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  4. ^ a b c d Laursen, Lucas (2014-06-05). "Google Lunar Race Teams Discuss Next Steps, House on the Moon". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  5. ^ Foust, Jeff (2014-06-19). "Astrobotic offers other GLXP teams a ride to the Moon, but does it have a ride of its own?". NewSpace Journal. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  6. ^ Reiss, Spencer (2007-09-13). "Google Offers $20 Million X Prize to Put Robot on Moon" 15 (10). Wired. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
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  13. ^ Jeff Foust, "The Google Lunar X PRIZE at five: can it still be won?" The Space Review, Oct. 1, 2012 (accessed 25 July 2013)
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  15. ^ Thomas, Jill and Justin St. P. Walsh, "Space Archaeology," The Los Angeles Times, 1 June 2009.
  16. ^ Billings, Lee (2008-10-28). "Billings, Lee, "Should the Sites of Lunar Landings Be Protected as PArt of our Cultural Inheritance?"". SEED. Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  17. ^ "uncomPRESSed: Google Lunar X PRIZE - William Pomerantz" Andreas -horn- Hornig, HDTVTotal.com, August 01, 2010, 12:51:07 CET
  18. ^ Matson, John (2009-06-09). "Matson, John, "Can space-faring companies be entrusted with the Apollo program's history?," Scientific American, "60-Second Science," Comments, 9 June 2009". Scientificamerican.com. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
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  26. ^ Astrobotic reveals moon mission plans msnbc.msn.com
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  32. ^ a b "Earthrise Space Inc. Signs $1.6M Contract with Fellow GLXP Team Angelicvm to Land Rover on Moon". Googlelunarxprize.org. Retrieved 2012-12-26.  Omega Envoy's Sagan rover and Angelicvm's Dandelion rover will land together. Sagan will explore first and Dandelion will follow.
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  36. ^ Announcement: New Team Name is "HAKUTO"
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  45. ^ Lunar Lion Team
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  58. ^ Team Drops Out of Google Lunar X Prize at Parabolic Arc
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  65. ^ Lunar challenge lures maverick, Denver Post, 2006-10-16, accessed 2010-12-24. Micro-Space plans circa 2006.
  66. ^ Micro-Space, Google Lunar X Prize webpage, 2010-11, accessed 2010-12-24. Noted that "Micro-Space withdrew from competition in November 2010." following the death of the founder, Richard P. Speck.
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  70. ^ LunaTrex Out of the Race
  71. ^ LunaTrex announces entry into GLXP
  72. ^ "The Launch Pad: Well, let's start: How many LOI teams were there?". X PRIZE Foundation. Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  73. ^ "The first Romanian space rocket successfully launched". Cotidianul. Retrieved 2012-03-18. 
  74. ^ "Test for the launch of Helen 2 Romanian space rocket". Romania Libera. Retrieved 2012-03-18. 
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  76. ^ "Regulations – Milestone Prizes". Google Lunar X-Prize. 
  77. ^ "Google Lunar XPRIZE Selects Five Teams to Compete for $6 Million in Milestone Prizes". googlelunarxprize.org. 2014-02-19. 

External links[edit]