The Google Lunar XPrize (also known as Moon 2.0) is a competition to see which privately funded team (not the government) can be the first to:
- land a robotic spacecraft on the moon,
- have it travel 500 metres
- transmit images back to the Earth
Why would people do this? Who ever gets there first can win $20 million! Second place gets $5 million. And there is another $5 million in prizes for other milestones.
When did humans first get to the moon?
Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first astronauts to step foot on the moon on 20 July, 1969.
Who else came close? The Russians. America and Russia were engaged in the ‘Space Race’ from 1957 – 1975. It was a matter of national pride to see which country would successfully make it first to space and then the moon and then beyond. The governments of these countries spent an extraordinary amount of time and money on this effort.
Has no one else been to the moon after 1969? Yes there have been other countries who have sent spaceships to the moon. America, Russia, China, Japan, and India to name a few. It has been difficult to land spacecrafts on the moon in one piece. It has also been expensive to do so.
Why the XPrize then? To encourage the research to lower the cost of developing and landing these spacecraft.
What’s the time limit? They have to launch before December 31, 2017.
Which teams are participating? 5 teams have made it to the final shot. SpaceIL (Israel), Moon Express (USA), Synergy Moon (an International Team), TeamIndus (India), and HAKUTO (Japan)
Who is funding their research? Private groups, investors, companies.
How many teams initially signed up to compete? It is reported that over 24 teams had initially signed up, in 2007. 5 have made it thus far with their designs, prototypes and timelines.
Why do we care about transmitting information about the moon back to the earth? To further research about the moon. Perhaps there are precious materials there that we can use on the earth. For example, helium-3 is a gas that is available in large quantities on the moon, but is rare on earth. This has uses in the generation of energy. Or… perhaps humans can colonise the moon – we are running out of space and natural resources here on earth!