With the Google Lunar XPRIZE’s goal of making travel to the moon more cost-effective and therefore, more attainable to us all, two competitors have decided that they will launch their rovers together in a head-to-head 500m dash, saying that this will serve as an F1 or NASCAR race, lunar style.
Astrobotic, from the US, and HAKUTO, from Japan, will work together to launch their rovers and reach the moon safely, but will compete again once the landing is complete. Astrobotic will be sending out one rover, Andy, while HAKUTO will be sending out two, Moonraker and Tetris.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE challenges private teams to send a rover to land safely on the moon, have the rover travel 500 meters on its surface, above it or below ground, and have an HD video recording of it all that will be sent back to the people on earth. These private teams can only receive 10% in government funding, but can be awarded funding by Google for test categories in Landing, Mobility and Imaging. The total Google Lunar XPRIZE will amount to $30 million, with $20 million being the grand prize.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE website points out that the mission will bring out several benefits for humans, particularly in discovering the moon and its many treasures. If successful, the project hopes to eventually open up the experience of travelling to the moon to many more people, in the same way that aviation is now open to all as well.
HAKUTO has made significant advancements in its design of their two rovers for crossing the distance on the moon, even garnering $500,000 in Mobility Milestone Prizes, or prizes for the funding and continued development of the rovers. The team, however, has not been able to spend as much time with its launch and landing plans. This is how the partnership with Astrobotic was conceptualized. Astrobotic, which has won over $1.75 million will allow the HAKUTO rovers to use their Griffin lander.
While HAKUTO will not be able to return this favor in this mission, Astrobotic feels confident that this partnership will be the start of a brighter future for them, establishing them as a lunar delivery service.
The three rovers will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in the second half of 2016, before the December 31 deadline set by the contest. It is then expected to land in the area of the moon called the Lacus Mortis region. The lunar skylight that is said to be located in this spot is hoped to reveal some data on the moon’s geological past.
Google Lunar XPRIZE officials have no problem with this collaboration, stating that this alliance will definitely help in opening that age of space exploration for many. According to the technical operations director, this new business ecosystem is one of the many hopes of the contest. He also says that this shows how our ventures will also now reach beyond the physical confines of the earth, and into space.