From a group of 16 contestants, five teams are officially moving forward into the final stretch of the Google Lunar X Prize competition — an international contest to send the first private spacecraft to the surface of the Moon. To win the competition, one of these finalists has to be the first to launch a spacecraft to the Moon by December 31st, 2017, and then explore the lunar surface.
In order to advance to this stage of the competition, each team had to secure a verified launch contract before the end of 2016. That entailed booking a rocket to launch the team’s spacecraft in 2017 and then having that launch contract verified by the X Prize Foundation.
Not only do the spacecraft need to land on the Moon intact, but the vehicles also need to travel at least 500 meters on the lunar surface. To fulfill that requirement, most teams have built rovers, while SpaceIL and Moon Express have taken a different approach by designing landers that “hop” across the Moon. Additionally, all the spacecraft must send back photos from the lunar surface, and provide live video “Mooncasts.”
The first team to fulfill all of the requirements will receive the grand prize of $20 million, while the second to do so will receive $5 million. Other cash prizes will be given for pulling off special tasks, such as visiting an Apollo landing site.
This bears watching. A fascinating concept that seems to have garnered a lot of attention and interest.