Fly a robot to the moon, get up to $25 million

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Fly a robot to the moon, get up to $25 million

Santa Monica (CA) – Google is sponsoring the Lunar X Prize project, which will award up to $25 million for landing a robotic rover that can roam the moon’s surface and send images, video and other data back to Earth. The second prize winner will get $5 million.

Google calls the “Google Lunar X Prize” event an “unprecedented international competition”, which the company hopes will inspire people and private companies around the world to “develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.”

“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. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation. “We are confident that teams from around the world will help develop new robotic and virtual presence technology, which will dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration.”

The X Prize Foundation already has awarded the $10 million Ansari X Prize to Scaled Composites’ and its Spaceship One for the first private suborbital spaceflight back in October 2004.

The competition has a jackpot totalling $30 million and will challenge engineers to not only fly to the moon, but also to successfully land a rover that is capable of completing several missions, which will include roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to Earth, Google said.

According to the competition guidelines, a $20 million “Grand Prize” will be given to the team “that can soft land a craft on the Moon that roams for at least 500 meters and transmits a Mooncast back to Earth.” This prize is only available until Dec. 31, 2012, thereafter it will drop to $15 million until Dec. 31, 2014. An additional $5 million can be won for driving the rover over a distance of more than 5000 meters as well as completing additional tasks such as “discovering water ice, and/or surviving through a frigid lunar night.” Further details about the requirements of the “Mooncast” are provided on the Lunar X Prize website.

A $5 million second prize will be available until December 31, 2014.