While the world is now looking to conquer Mars and the universe beyond that, it seems Google is adamant at keeping our nearest neighbour relevant. Google has launched a competition to race towards being the first private company to land on the moon, with an offer of $20 million for the team which makes it.
The competition is titled Google Lunar X-Prize, and lately, a Japanese company, HAKUTO, looks to be the front-runners.
The team has recently acquired a launch vehicle for their Moon rover, and on Tuesday they announced that the team would be forming a collaboration with the India-based Team Indus to bag the prize.
Team Indus has their own rover as well, along with a rocket developed with the help of the Indian Space Research Organization which will be available by December 2017. For Team HAKUTO, the partnership means that they will have a launch vehicle by the end of this year, which was a requirement to compete for the X-Prize.
Google’s justifies their $30 million Lunar X-Prize to spur on private companies towards developing new and improved technologies for space exploration. Out of this $30 million, $20 million will go to the team which can land first on the Moon, perform a 500 meters (1,640 feet) -dash, and send back high-definition photos/ video to Earth.
On the question of why is Google still focusing on the Moon, they write on their website,
“The Moon is not only our nearest planetary neighbor, but it is also the gateway to the rest of the universe. Formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, the Moon provides exciting opportunities for discovery in the fields of science, technology, resource detection and utilization, and human habitation.”
$5 million will be given to the second place team, while the remaining $5 million prize money will be handed out for “bonus” challenges such as travelling to the Apollo sites and discovering water ice.
Another requirement to win the prize money is for the teams to fund at least 90 percent of their mission costs using private funding.
Before the news of Team Hakuto’s participation, just a few weeks ago a German team, PT Scientists, also announced that have also secured a ride to the Moon and will be competing for the prize money. Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL will also compete, as will the American company Moon Express with the help of the Federal Aviation Administration.