Google Lunar XPrize: Would-be moon voyagers get extension in $30 million contest as millions more in prize money added

The timeline has been stretched and the pot sweetened.

Putting a robot on the surface of the moon won’t be a cake walk, and the finalist teams in the Google Lunar XPrize competition have just received a deadline extension and a tweak to the terms of the tilt.

Previously, the rules required launch of robotic landers moon-ward on the last day of this year. Now, the prize-winning team will have to complete its moon mission by March 31 next year, to win grand prizes.

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“The teams must demonstrate that their vehicles can land gently on the Moon, and then move up to 1,640 feet (500 meters) across the lunar surface, taking pictures and video that can be sent back to Earth,” tech website The Verge reported.

“The first team to do this before the X Prize deadline is eligible to win the grand prize: a purse equaling $20 million. The second place team will win a $5 million purse.”

And there’s additional prize money for feats that may be accomplished along the way. Completing an orbit around the orb or entering a “direct descent approach to the lunar surface” will qualify a team for part or all of a new $1.75 million prize. A soft landing on the moon will qualify a team for a new $3 million prize. These purses will be divided up equally among all teams that achieve the milestones, according to the contest organizers.

“XPRIZE and Google are thrilled to offer these additional in-space Milestone Prizes as a further incentive for finalist teams and to recognize the full gravity of these bold technological feats taking place in the race to the Moon,” said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director of the competition.

The five teams with “verified launch contracts” are SpaceIL of Israel; Moon Express from the U.S.; Synergy Moon, a multi-national team; TeamIndus from India and HAKUTO from Japan, according to the organizers.

 

Photo: The supermoon rises in San Jose on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

 

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