The X Prize Foundation and Google have announced the creation of the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, an international competition designed to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.
Companies from around the world will be invited to compete to land a privately funded robotic rover on the moon. The rover must be capable of roaming the lunar surface for at least five hundred meters and be able to send video, images, and data back to earth.
The competition will feature a $20 million grand prize, a $5 million second prize, and $5 million in bonus prizes. The full grand-prize award will be offered until December 31, 2012; thereafter it will drop to $15 million until December 31, 2014, at which point the competition will be terminated, pending further review by Google and the X Prize Foundation. The second-place award will be available until the 2014 completion date.
Bonus prizes will be won by successfully completing additional mission tasks such as roving longer distances, imaging man-made artifacts, discovering water in ice form, and surviving through a frigid lunar night (the equivalent of almost fifteen earth days). Competing lunar spacecraft will be equipped with high-definition video and still cameras and will send images and data back to earth, which the public will be able to view on the Google Lunar X Prize Web site.
"Having Google fund the purse and title the competition punctuates our desire for breakthrough approaches and global participation," said X Prize Foundation chairman and CEO Dr. Peter H. Diamandis. "By working with the Google team, we look forward to bringing this historic private space race into every home and classroom. We hope to ignite the imagination of children around the world."