A moon race is going to take place before December 31st 2017 – contestants that want to be in the race have until December 31st 2016 to get their ducks in a row and become verified by Google Lunar XPRIZE officials to participate in the special event.
The race involves getting some kind of rover to the moon and then racing to have it travel 500 meters. The first of the competing companies to reach the 500-meter goal and transmit HD video of the event back to Earth will then win the contest and bring home the first-place prize of $20,000,000 – the second-place winner will earn $5,000,000 as a reward, but there are also some other achievements that can be done to earn even more rewards.
“The first team that successfully completes this mission will be awarded the $20M dollar Grand Prize and the second team to successfully complete the mission will be awarded $5M, with Bonus Prizes available for further technical and scientific achievements, such as surviving the lunar night or visiting an Apollo landing site,” the XPRIZE Web site explains. “To win either of these prizes, teams must prove that 90% of their mission costs were funded by private sources.”
The only contestant that was enrolled in the competition early was SpaceIL, a company based out of Israel, but a recent addition to the competition is United States-based company Moon Express, who also just recently signed a contract to compete in the competition.
“We are extremely proud to officially confirm receipt and verification of Moon Express’s launch contract,” said Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE. "Having multiple teams attempting actual missions to the moon is a hallmark of a genuine competition. Verified launch contracts are the 'bona fides' that teams need to demonstrate that they are in it to win it. Moon Express' accomplishment has brought XPRIZE closer to the moon."
Moon Express will be using Rocket Lab USA as the supplier of a new Electron rocket to get the rover to the Moon; from there, the rover will be 'hopping' across the surface of the Moon by way of small thrust boosters.
"We applaud Google and XPRIZE for setting up such a visionary competition, and we’ve got our eyes on the prize,” said Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards. "Our long-term goal is to unlock lunar resources for the benefit of humanity, and we are thrilled to have our contract in place with Rocket Lab allowing us to provide low-cost missions to the moon for science and commerce.”
There are another 14 companies that also want to be a part of the space race, but their contracts and plans to launch haven’t yet been verified. To complete, they will have to have a launch plan and contract verified by XPRIZE before the end of next year.
It will be interesting to see who follows through and who will become crowned the winner of this lunar race. With all of the interest in space technologies and space travel these days, any shift in knowledge and capabilitity having to do with space is a big deal that could change space travel trends for the better.