Google Lunar X Prize

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Google Lunar XPRIZE
Google Lunar X Prize logo
Awarded for "landing a robot on the surface of the Moon, traveling 500 meters over the lunar surface, and sending images and data back to the Earth."[1]
Country Worldwide
Presented by X Prize Foundation (organizer),
Google (sponsor)
Reward(s) US$20 million for the winner,
US$5 million for second place,
US$4 million in technical bonuses,
US$1 million diversity award
Website lunar.xprize.org
Trailer for the prize.

The Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP), sometimes referred to as Moon 2.0,[2][3] is an inducement prize space competition organized by XPRIZE, and sponsored by Google. The challenge calls for privately funded spaceflight teams to be the first to land a privately funded robotic spacecraft on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit back high-definition video and images.[4]

In 2015, XPRIZE announced that the competition deadline would be extended to December 2017 if at least one team could secure a verified launch contract by 31 December 2015.[5] Two teams secured such a launch contract, and the deadline was extended.[6] In August 2017, the deadline was extended again, to March 31, 2018.[7]

As of 2017, 5 teams remain in the competition. SpaceIL,[8] Moon Express, Synergy Moon, Team Indus, and Team Hakuto,[9] having secured verified launch contracts for 2017 (with Spaceflight Industries, Rocket Lab, Interorbital Systems, and a joint ISRO launch for the latter two teams).[6][10][11]

Competition summary[edit]

The Google Lunar XPRIZE was announced at the Wired Nextfest on 13 September 2007.[12] The competition 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 prize.[13] Teams can also earn additional money by completing additional tasks beyond the baseline requirements required to win the grand or second 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.

To provide an added incentive for teams to complete their missions quickly, it was announced that the prize would decrease 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.[14]

In 2015, XPRIZE announced that the competition deadline would be extended to December 2017 if at least one team could secure a verified launch contract by 31 December 2015.[5] Two teams secured such a launch contract, and the deadline was extended.[6]

XPRIZE announced 5 finalists on 24 January 2017.[15] SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, Team Indus and Hakuto having secured verified launch contracts for 2017 (with SpaceX, Rocket Lab, Interorbital Systems and ISRO respectively).[6][10][11] All other teams had until the end of 2016 to secure a verified launch contract, but failed to meet this deadline and are no longer in the competition.[16]

The Google Lunar XPRIZE expires when all constituent purses have been claimed, or on March 31, 2018.

Overview[edit]

Peter Diamandis, the project founder, wrote on the official web page in 2007:

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 XPRIZE was announced in 2007.[18]

Origin of the prize[edit]

Similar to the way in which the Ansari XPRIZE was formed, the Google Lunar XPRIZE 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.[19]

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.[20]

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 XPRIZE 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.[20][when?]

Extensions of the 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 would conclude. The five-year deadline was optimistic about schedule, and Jeff Foust commented in Space Review that as the end of 2012 approached, "no team appeared that close to mounting a reasonable bid to win it."[21] 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."

On 16 December 2014, XPRIZE announced another extension in the prize deadline from 31 December 2015 to 31 December 2016.[22] In May 2015, the foundation announced another extension of the deadline. The deadline for winning the prize was now December 2017, but contingent on at least one team showing by 31 December 2015 that they have a secured contract for launch. On 9 October 2015, team SpaceIL announced their officially-verified launch contract with SpaceX, therefore extending the competition until the end of 2017.[6]

On 16 August 2017, the deadline was extended again, to March 31, 2018.[7]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28] And in July 2011, NASA issued Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Lunar Artifacts.[29] These guidelines were developed with the assistance of Dr. Beth O'Leary, an anthropology professor at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and a recognized leader in the emerging field of space archaeology.[30] However, these are only guidelines and recommendations and are not enforceable beyond the possibility of "moral sanctions."[31] An organization called For All Moonkind is now working to develop an international treaty that will include enforceable provisions designed to manage access to the Apollo sites and protect and preserve those sites, as well as others on the Moon, as the common heritage of all humankind.[32]

Nevertheless, some of the Apollo astronauts themselves have expressed support for the bonus, with Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin appearing at the Google Lunar XPRIZE's initial announcement and reading a plaque signed by the majority of his fellow surviving Apollo Astronauts.[33]

Competitors[edit]

Registration in the Google Lunar X Prize closed as of 31 December 2010. The complete roster of teams was announced on 17 February 2011. As of 24 January 2017, there are 5 officially registered Google Lunar X Prize teams involved in the competition (not including teams that have left the competition or merged into other teams):[34] Initially 32 teams were registered, with 16 teams having actively participated in all activities and only 5 teams satisfying the rule requiring a verified launch contract by 31 December 2016.

Team

Number

Country Team Name Craft Name Craft Type Craft Status Ref
07 US Moon Express MX-1E lander development;
launch under contract
[35][36]
12 International Synergy Moon Tesla rover development;
launch under contract
[11]
15 Japan Hakuto[37] piggyback contract ride on TeamIndus's lander[38] lander development;
launch under contract
[39]
Moonraker and Tetris[40] rover [39]
22 Israel Team SpaceIL Sparrow[citation needed] nano-ship development;
launch under contract
[41]
28 India Team Indus HHK-1[citation needed] lander development;
launch under contract
[42][43]
ECA rover
01 US Odyssey Moon MoonOne (M-1) lander Teamed with Team SpaceIL[44] [45]
02 US Astrobotic Griffin[40][46] lander withdrawn from competition ;
will launch in 2019
[47]
Red Rover[48][needs update] rover [49]
03 Italy Team Italia Amalia (Ascensio Machinae Ad Lunam Italica Arte ) rover Launch contract not secured in time [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]
08 US STELLAR Stellar Eagle rover development;
teaming with Synergy Moon[56]
[57]
09 US JURBAN JOHLT withdrawn [58]
10 Malaysia Independence-X SQUALL (Scientific Quest Unmanned Autonomous Lunar Lander) Lander/Hover Probe development;
teaming with Synergy Moon[56]
[59]
11 US Omega Envoy To be named lander development;
teaming with Synergy Moon[56]
[60]
Sagan rover [60]
13 International Euroluna ROMIT Launch contract not secured in time [61]
14 International Team SELENE RoverX wheel+leg robot withdrawn [62]
16 Germany Part-Time Scientists ALINA lander Launch contract not secured in time [63][64]
Audi lunar quattro rover
17 Germany C-Base Open Moon C-Rove rover withdrawn[65] [66]
18 Russia Selenokhod withdrawn [67]
19 Spain Barcelona Moon Team withdrawn [66]
20 US Mystical Moon withdrawn [68]
21 US Rocket City Space Pioneers Acquired by Moon Express[69] [70]
23 Hungary Team Puli withdrawn from competition ;
will launch in 2019
[71]
24 Brazil SpaceMETA development;
teaming with Synergy Moon[56]
[72]
25 Canada Team Plan B Plan B Launch contract not secured in time [73][74]
26 US Penn State Lunar Lion Team[75] Lunar Lion lander + rocket-hopper withdrawn [76]
27 Chile AngelicvM Uni rover development;
launch contract with Astrobotic for 2019 launch
[77]
29 US Team Phoenicia Storming the High Heavens lander withdrawn [78]
30 US SCSG withdrawn [79]
31 US Micro-Space Crusader LL[80] lander withdrawn[81] [82]
32 US Quantum3 withdrawn [83]
33 US Advaeros withdrawn [84]
34 US LunaTrex not registered[85] [86]

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.[87]

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:[88]

  • $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:[89]

Team Landing
($1 million)
Mobility
($500,000)
Imaging
($250,000)
Total Prize Awarded
Astrobotic awarded awarded awarded $1,750,000[90]
Moon Express awarded not awarded awarded $1,250,000[90]
Team Indus awarded not selected not awarded $1,000,000[90]
Part-Time Scientists not selected awarded awarded $750,000[90]
Hakuto not selected awarded not selected $500,000[90]

The selected teams were required to accomplish the milestones outlined in their submissions through testing and mission simulations, in order to win the prizes. The teams had until October 2014 to complete the prize requirements. The winners were officially awarded on 26 January 2015 in San Francisco.[22]

Confirmed launch reservations[edit]

Date Team(s) Launch vehicle Notes
2018 Moon Express Rocket Lab Electron Three launches have been contracted. Initially, two launches have been manifested for 2017, with a third to be scheduled.[91] The company launched its first Electron rocket in May 2017, but has yet to reach orbit.[92] Officially verified by Google Lunar X Prize.[93]
2018 SpaceIL SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch will be provided by Spaceflight Industries.[94] Officially verified by Google Lunar X Prize.[95] There are rumors that SpaceIL has voluntarily postponed their launch to 2019,[96] thereby quitting the competition.[97]
2018 Synergy Moon Interorbital Systems Neptune The company set to launch their first rocket. Officially verified by Google Lunar X Prize.[11]
6 March 2018 Team Indus PSLV-XL Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO signed the deal with Team Indus. Officially verified by Google Lunar X Prize.[98]
6 March 2018 Hakuto PSLV-XL Will be a piggyback on Team Indus's PSLV.[38]

Others[edit]

Another seven of the competitors who were unable to get a verified launch contract by 31 December 2016, leading their disqualification from Google Lunar X Prize, are however planning to launch their crafts independently, though not in competition but for research and commercial purposes.

Date Team(s) Launch vehicle Notes
2018 Independence-X Interorbital Systems Neptune with Synergy Moon This would be with a partnership with Team Synergy Moon and first Malaysian Spacecraft[99]
2018 Team Omega Envoy Interorbital Systems Neptune with Synergy Moon This would be a part of coalition lead by Synergy Moon, from United States.
2018 SpaceMETA Interorbital Systems Neptune with Synergy Moon This would be a part of coalition lead by Synergy Moon, from Brazil.
2018 Team Stellar Interorbital Systems Neptune with Synergy Moon This would be a part of coalition lead by Synergy Moon, from Croatia.
2018 PTScientists (formerly Part-Time Scientists) SpaceX Falcon 9 The landing module will be programmed to touch down in the Taurus-Littrow valley, around two miles from the site of the final Apollo 17 mission.
2019 Astrobotic ULA Atlas V Astrobotic stated that the team does not plan to rush into another launch opportunity and it would fly when ready. It is currently targeting a launch date sometime in 2019 [100]
2019 AngelicvM ULA Atlas V with Astrobotic AngelicvM signed a contracted with Astrobotic back in 2015 to have their rover carried on board Astrobotic's lander [77]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]