Google Lunar X Prize

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For the visual phenomenon 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

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. In 2015, Google announced that the deadline for winning the prize will be extended to December 2017 if at least one team can show a launch contract by December 31, 2015. Two teams secured such a launch contract and the deadline was extended accordingly.[4]

As of September 2015, 16 GLXP teams remained in the competition, and five of those were thought to be making good progress. While none of the GLXP teams had announced firm launch dates to attempt the prize by mid-2014,[5] team Moon Express signed a contract with Rocket Lab on Sept. 30 to launch three Moon Express robotic spacecraft to land on the Moon, with two launches manifested in 2017, utilizing an Electron launch vehicle, and announced the contract on 1 October 2015,[6] and the Israeli team SpaceIL booked a launch on the Spaceflight “2017 Sun Synch Express” mission, utilizing a SpaceX Falcon 9 and announced the contract on 7 October 2015.[7] As of October 2015, SpaceIL and Moon Express are the only GLXP teams to have current announced launch contracts.

Competition summary[edit]

The Google Lunar XPRIZE was announced at the Wired Nextfest on 13 September 2007.[8] 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.

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.[9] As of October 2015,

The Astrobotic team 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 meter lunar-surface distance-traveled objective.[10] In February 2015, Astrobotic announced a partnership with Hakuto for an arrangement to share a prospective SpaceX launch and the Astrobotic Griffin lander for the XPRIZE competition,[11] and as of October 2015 the company states that it plans to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, but has not yet signed a launch contract.[12]

The Google Lunar XPRIZE expires when all constituent purses have been claimed, or at the end of the year 2017, whichever comes first. At the time the prize was announced, the last operational vehicle on the Moon had landed in 1976.


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."[13]

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.


The Google Lunar X Prize was announced in 2007.[5]

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."[5] 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.[5]

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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[15][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 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."[16] 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, additional prizes were added for progress on the way to the landing[17] was under discussion.

On Dec. 16, 2014, the X Prize Foundation announced another extension in the prize deadline from Dec. 31, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2016.[18] In May 2015, the foundation announced another extension of the deadline. The deadline for winning the prize is now December 2017, three years after the original deadline, but the extension is contingent on at least one team showing by December 31, 2015 that they have a firm contract for a launch. If no competitor has a contract by the end of 2015, the prize will expire without a winner.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22]

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

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.[26]


Registration in the Google Lunar X Prize closed as of December 31, 2010. The complete roster of teams was announced on 17 February 2011. As of 20 September 2015, there are 16 officially registered Google Lunar X Prize teams involved in the competition (not including teams that have left the competition or merged into other teams):[27]



Country Team Name Craft Name Craft Type Craft Status Ref
02 US Astrobotic Griffin[11][28] lander development
Red Rover[30][dated info] rover [31]
03 Italy Team Italia rover development [32]
07 US Moon Express MoonEx-1 lander development;
launch under contract
08 US STELLAR Stellar Eagle rover development [35]
10 Malaysia Independence-X ILR-1 rover development [36]
11 US Omega Envoy

Teaming with AngelicvM[37]

To be named lander development [38]
Sagan rover [38]
12 International Synergy Moon Tesla rover development [39]
13 International Euroluna ROMIT development [40]
15 Japan Hakuto[41] piggyback contract ride on Astrobotic's Griffin lander[11] lander development
Moonraker and Tetris[11] rover [42]
16 Germany Part-Time Scientists Audi lunar quattro rover development [43][44]
22 Israel Team SpaceIL Sparrow nano-ship development;
launch under contract
23 Hungary Team Puli development [46]
24 Brazil SpaceMETA development [47]
25 Canada Team Plan B Plan B development [48][49]
27 Chile AngelicvM

Teaming with Omega Envoy[37]

Dandelion rover development [50]
28 India Team Indus HHK1 lander + 2 rovers development [51]
01 US Odyssey Moon MoonOne (M-1) lander Merged into Team SpaceIL[52] [53]
04 US Next Giant Leap Acquired by Moon Express[54] [55]
05 International FREDNET[56] withdrawn [57]
06 Romania ARCA HAAS lunar orbiter withdrawn [58]
European Lunar Explorer spherical rover [58]
09 US JURBAN JOHLT withdrawn [59]
14 International Team SELENE RoverX wheel+leg robot withdrawn [60]
17 Germany C-Base Open Moon C-Rove rover withdrawn[61] [62]
18 Russia Selenokhod withdrawn [63]
19 Spain Barcelona Moon Team withdrawn [62]
20 US Mystical Moon withdrawn [64]
21 US Rocket City Space Pioneers Acquired by Moon Express[65] [66]
26 US Penn State Lunar Lion Team[67] Lunar Lion lander + rocket-hopper withdrawn [68]
29 US Team Phoenicia Storming the High Heavens lander withdrawn [69]
30 US SCSG withdrawn [70]
31 US Micro-Space Crusader LL[71] lander withdrawn[72] [73]
32 US Quantum3 withdrawn [74]
33 US Advaeros withdrawn [75]
34 US LunaTrex not registered[76] [77]

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.[78]

Flights tests[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.[79] 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.[80]

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.[81]

In October and November, 2013, Moon Express successfully conducted several free flight tests of its flight software utilizing the NASA Mighty Eagle lander test vehicle, under a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.[82]

In December 2014, Moon Express successfully conducted flight tests of its "MTV-1X" lander test vehicle at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility, becoming the first private company (and GLXP team) to demonstrate a commercial lunar lander.[83]

Terrestrial Milestone Prizes[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:[84]

  • $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:[85]

Team Landing
($1 million)
Total Prize Awarded
Astrobotic awarded awarded awarded $1,750,000[86]
Moon Express awarded not awarded awarded $1,250,000[86]
Team Indus awarded not selected not awarded $1,000,000[86]
Part-Time Scientists not selected awarded awarded $750,000[86]
Hakuto not selected awarded not selected $500,000[86]

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.[18]

Confirmed launch reservations[edit]

Date Team(s) Launch vehicle Notes
2017 [87] Moon Express Rocket Lab Electron Three launches have been contracted. Two launches have been manifested for 2017, with a third to be scheduled.[88]
second half 2017 [89] SpaceIL SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch will be provided by Spaceflight Industries. Officially verified by Google Lunar X Prize officials.[90]

See also[edit]


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  4. ^ Deadline For $30 Million Google Lunar XPRIZE Extended To End Of 2017, May 22, 2015, (downloaded 15 June 2015)
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  7. ^ BBC
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  9. ^ "A New Player in the Return to the Moon". Google Lunar XPRIZE. 2013-11-13. 
  10. ^ Mack, Eric (2015-02-24). "Google Lunar XPrize Teams To Hold Nascar Race On The Moon". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 2015-02-25. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Two Google Lunar XPRIZE Teams Announce Rideshare Partnership For Mission To The Moon In 2016". Xprize Foundation. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015. Hakuto [... and fellow competitor] Astrobotic [will] carry a pair of rovers to the moon. Astrobotic plans to launch its Google Lunar XPRIZE mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., during the second half of 2016. HAKUTO’s twin rovers, Moonraker and Tetris, will piggyback on Astrobotic's Griffin lander to reach the lunar surface. Upon touchdown, the rovers will be released simultaneously ... in pursuit of the $20M Google Lunar XPRIZE Grand Prize. 
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ "A Word From the Founders of X Prize & Google". Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  14. ^ "Origin of the prize". X Prize Foundation. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  15. ^ a b "Is it true that originally the Google Lunar X Prize was going to be the NASA Lunar X Prize (or the ESA or similar)?". X Prize Foundation. Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  16. ^ Jeff Foust, "The Google Lunar X PRIZE at five: can it still be won?" The Space Review, Oct. 1, 2012 (accessed 25 July 2013)
  17. ^ "Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration," SpaceRef Business, July 24 2013 (accessed 24 July 2013)
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  19. ^ Google Lunar X-Prize page: Deadline For $30 Million Google Lunar XPRIZE Extended To End Of 2017, May 22, 2015, (downloaded 15 June 2015)
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  22. ^ "uncomPRESSed: Google Lunar X PRIZE - William Pomerantz" Andreas -horn- Hornig,, August 01, 2010, 12:51:07 CET
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  28. ^ "Lander". Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
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  30. ^ "SpaceX Lands Contract To Fly To Moon". Aviation Week. 2011-02-08. Retrieved 2011-02-08. The landing site, originally targeted for the Sea of Tranquility near where Apollo 11 touched down, is up for grabs, as is the name of the spacecraft, once called Artemis, and the name and destinations of the 1.5-meter tall, 1-meter wide rover. 
  31. ^ Astrobotic reveals moon mission plans
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  33. ^ Opam, Kwame. "Moon Express unveils lunar lander design with planned 2015 launch date", Vox Media, Inc., December 9, 2013
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  37. ^ a b "Earthrise Space Inc. Signs $1.6M Contract with Fellow GLXP Team Angelicvm to Land Rover on Moon". 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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  41. ^ Announcement: New Team Name is "HAKUTO"
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  44. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  61. ^ Team Drops Out of Google Lunar X Prize at Parabolic Arc
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  67. ^ Lunar Lion Team
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  71. ^ Lunar challenge lures maverick, Denver Post, 2006-10-16, accessed 2010-12-24. Micro-Space plans circa 2006.
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  76. ^ LunaTrex Out of the Race
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  82. ^ [3]
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  84. ^ "Regulations – Milestone Prizes". Google Lunar X-Prize. 
  85. ^ "Google Lunar XPRIZE Selects Five Teams to Compete for $6 Million in Milestone Prizes". 2014-02-19. 
  86. ^ a b c d e "Private Moon Race Heats Up As Five Google Lunar XPRIZE Teams Take Home $5.25 Million For Key Technological Advancements". 2015-01-26. 
  87. ^
  88. ^
  89. ^
  90. ^

External links[edit]