Last year, SOFREP reported on the Google sponsored Lunar X Prize competition. Originating in 2007, the competition was aimed at expanding the burgeoning private space exploration industry beyond orbital operations and all the way to the surface of the moon. There were 29 teams in all that enlisted to compete for the $20 million purse and a number showed promise to succeed, but on Tuesday, Google announced that the competition has ended without a winner.
After close consultation with our five finalist Google Lunar X Prize teams over the past several months, we have concluded that no team will make a launch attempt to reach the moon by the March 31, 2018, deadline,” X Prize founder and chairman Peter Diamandis said in a joint statement. “This literal ‘moonshot’ is hard, and while we did expect a winner by now, due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the grand prize of the $30M Google Lunar X Prize will go unclaimed,” they added.
The rules of the contest were simple; in order to win, a team needed to land a robotic rover on the surface of the moon, with additional prize money allocated for any team that was able to get their rover close enough to the Apollo 11 landing site to take pictures and transmit them back to the earth.
The Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) group has already awarded some $6 million to various groups for achieving milestone accomplishments, and at least three groups secured contracts with private launch companies intended to deliver their payloads into lunar orbit. The initial deadline was set for 2012, but Google opted to extend it through March of this year when it became apparent that no team was far enough along in the process to feasibly reach the moon within that timeline. Since then, a number of teams made significant strides, but Google apparently opted not to offer another extension. Nonetheless, the contest itself may not be dead.
“X Prize is exploring a number of ways to proceed from here,” the joint statement said. “This may include finding a new title sponsor to provide a prize purse following in the footsteps of Google’s generosity, or continuing the Lunar X Prize as a noncash competition where we will follow and promote the teams and help celebrate their achievements.”
Out of the original 29 teams that signed up for the competition, only five remained when GLXP announced that they would not be extending the deadline earlier this week. However, a number of the remaining teams have expressed that the $20 million purse wasn’t the primary motivator in their pursuit of landing a rover on the moon, and that they intend to continue their efforts independent of the competition.
“SpaceIL is committed to landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, regardless of the terms or status of the Lunar X Prize,” SpaceIL spokesman Ryan Greiss told the press. “We are at the height of our efforts to raise the funds for this project and to prepare for launch.”
Image courtesy of Google Lunar X Prize