Teams Race To The Moon For Google Lunar XPRIZE

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X Prize Foundation is offering a hefty sum of cash (US $30 Million) to the first privately-funded spaceflight teams that can successfully land and operate a robotic spacecraft across the surface of the Moon while sending back important data to Earth. Given the baseline requirements are completed, teams can also complete a series of mini-missions to earn part of the funding.


Google announced that the prize, or the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP), would expire if no team could earn a launch deal by the end of 2015. Up until September 2015, 16 GLXP teams remained in the competition, yet none had contacts – until now that is.

Moon Express, a Silicon Valley-based start up company, is the first team to land a contract, signing a deal with Rocket Lab for three robotic lunar craft launches, beginning in 2017. In light of the announcement, Chanda Gonzales, the Senior Director of Google Lunar XPRIZE, stated, “XPRIZE is pleased to hear about Moon Express’s progress in the Google Lunar XPRIZE, and we look forward to receiving and verifying the terms of the launch contract in order to fully support an extension to the competition.”

Upon reaching the moon, the team behind Moon Express will mine its surface in search of rare and precious metals, some of which include gold, tungsten, and iron.

“The holy grail of our company is to provide, to prove, a full-service capability — not just landing, but coming back from the moon,” said Bob Richards, the founder of Moon Express co-founder. The deal was announced at the Space Technology & Investment Summit in San Francisco on October 1st.

To make the journey, Moon Express’ MX-1 lander will fly into space aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron 3.9-foot-wide (1.2 m) rocket. As preparation for the mission, the spacecraft has already undergone several design iterations, as well as terrestrial test flights, which earned Moon Express $1 million Lunar X Prize from Google earlier this year. The lander itself will be small, constrained by the Electron’s own compact size. However, MX-1 is scalable and can be modified as needed in order to carry out the mission.

With regard to the cost of the moon expedition, each liftoff will cost $4.9 million, which is rather affordable compared to other options. Falcon 9 launches, for comparison’s sake, come with a $60 million price tag. “We think the collapse of the price to get to the moon is going to enable a whole new market — kind of like the 4-minute-mile of space,” Richards said.