Google Lunar X Prize update

I just got out of some press events associated with the Google Lunar X Prize announcement this morning here in LA (where I discovered I created a little heartburn among the X Prize folks by linking to the HuffPo piece earlier this morning.) I’ll have more later, but some highlights from the announcement:

  • This is indeed a lunar rover prize, with the goal of soft-landing a spacecraft on the Moon, roams at least 500 meters, and returns two “Mooncasts” (hi-res panoramic photos and video);
  • The prize is $20 million for the first to achieve the feat, and $5 million for the second; there is also $5 million in additional “bonus” prizes for things ranging from discovering water ice to having the most “ethnically diverse” team;
  • Google is providing the $30M in prize money, but will allow other sponsors to come in and support additional bonus prizes;
  • The prize expires on December 31, 2014, and the grand prize decreases to $15 million if the prize is not won by December 31, 2012;
  • SpaceX will provide Falcon launches “at cost” to competition participants, a savings of about 10 percent from list prizes (according to Elon Musk, who also spoke at the press conference);
  • The SETI Institute and Universal Space Networks are also providing communications support for competitors;
  • As for why do a lunar lander prize, I asked Peter Diamandis about this after the event. Their top two choices for the next big space prize they wanted to do was a lunar lander prize and a human orbital spaceflight prize. Google was particularly interested in funding the lunar prize (and a human orbital spaceflight prize would have required at least $50M, he said) so that’s the direction they took.

I’ll have more on this later, and also probably in Monday’s issue of The Space Review, as my schedule permits (I have a redeye back to the east coast tonight…)

3 comments to Google Lunar X Prize update

  • Chance

    I’m no economist, social or political scientist, or even particularly smart, so I am forced to ponder what this means, sort of like a caveman pondering fire for the first time. My flow of conciousness thoughts and brainstorming go like this:

    Robert Bigelow, Elon Musk, and Burt Rutan are not generally household names. Google is. A really big household name. As a multi billion dollar company, the fact that it is throwing its weight behind this is pretty significant. Will Microsoft do something similiar in the near future in order to keep up, or will it ignore this altogether? Will other multi billion dollar companies join in? Is google thinking of going into the space business in a few years (presumably after this prize is won)? Will Newspace now have a new uber-powerful lobbyist on the Hill? Will a moon landing be followed by a 4 year span of “not much” like the Ansari X-Prize? I have to wonder.

  • […] & aerospace, Science and Technology, Cool Stuff. trackback So it turns out that it’s not just a simple cash prize of $30 million. I’m surprised by how down some people are about the prize, both its goal and the chances of […]

  • Sudha Jamthe

    Thanks for the neat summary!

    We’ve moved to Silicon Valley, next time you are in West coast, maybe we can get together.

    Best, Sudha

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