In 2011, Google announced the Google Lunar X Prize; a contest intended to usher in a new era of privatized space exploration by offering $20 million to the first team that successfully lands a rover on the surface of the moon, operates it, and sends back HD footage of the event. Twenty-nine of the world’s top tech teams signed up for the competition, each designing their own lander, securing their own means of travel to the lunar surface, and receiving no formal assistance from any of the world’s governmental space agencies. Six years later, only five teams remain in the hunt, and all five are slated to make their trips in the coming year.
Only one remaining team, Moon Express, is US based. They have secured a multi-mission deal with Rocket Lab USA to launch three separate lunar missions by 2020, with the intent of “establishing new avenues for commercial space activities beyond earth orbit.”
The other teams hail from Israel, India, Japan, and a final team comprised of members from fifteen different nations.
In order to be eligible to win the prize, the lunar lander must be launched prior to December 31st, 2017. Once on the surface of the moon, the rover must travel at least five hundred meters and stream high resolution pictures and video back to Earth. Additional awards will be given for achieving other lunar accomplishments, such as sending back pictures and video of one of the Apollo landing sites.