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$30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE

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September 17, 2007

Photograph taken from the Moon's surface during the Apollo 8 mission. Photo: NASA

Photograph taken from the Moon's surface during the Apollo 8 mission. Photo: NASA

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September 17, 2007 The prize that saw the world's first private spaceship reach beyond the Earth's atmosphere in 2004 is headed for the moon. The X PRIZE Foundation and internet giant Google are offering a US$30 million prize purse in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a competition to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon by 2012.

To be eligible for a share of the cash the rover must be capable of completing several mission objectives, including roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters (over 1600 feet) and sending video, images and data back to the Earth. The competition aims to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.

The prize is motivated by the benefits that can be provided by further lunar exploration. As it is much easier to launch materials and spacecraft from the Moon we here on Earth could use that capability for a variety of initiatives such as exploring outside of our solar system and harnessing clean solar energy in space. Additionally, the Moon can tell us a great deal about Earth’s geological past and allow us to see more deeply into space. Currently private enterprise with regard to space exploration is limited to a halo of communications satellites in geostationary orbit 24,000 miles above our planet. The Google Lunar X-PRIZE now challenges private enterprise to reach ten times beyond its present limits to participate in this great exploration adventure.

The US$30 million in prize money is segmented into a US$20 million Grand Prize, a US$5 million Second Prize and US$5 million in bonus prizes. The Grand Prize is valid until 31 December 2012 at which time it will drop to US$15 million if no team has been successful and if by the end of 2014 there is still not winner, the competition will be abandoned. Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation has no such concerns that the race challenge will go unsolved. “The Google Lunar X PRIZE calls on entrepreneurs, engineers and visionaries from around the world to return us to the lunar surface and explore this environment for the benefit of all humanity,” said Dr. Diamandis. He also hopes that the prize will ignite the imaginations of children around the world in an effort to reenergize kids’ enthusiasm for space.

The X PRIZE foundation is an educational nonprofit prize organization whose goal is to bring about radical breakthroughs to solve some of the greatest challenges facing the world today. In 2004 the foundation captured the world's attention by handing out the largest prize in history, the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE, to Mojave Aerospace Ventures. Led by aircraft designer Burt Rutan and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, the company built and flew the world’s first private spaceship - SpaceShipOne.

If space is not your thing then perhaps the Automotive X PRIZE might be. It’s a competition designed to foster a new generation of viable, ultra-economic vehicles that are both accessible and affordable to the consumer. It is currently underway with a number of innovative entries so far including a 3-wheeler and a super fuel efficient Loremo.

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