Friday, September 14, 2007

“Bang, zoom, straight to the moon!”

Google and X-Prize Foundation
Back Private Moon Landing Attempt

Damn. Now that is technological leadership.


Search giant Google is offering a $30m prize pot to private firms that land a robot rover on the Moon. The competition to send a robot craft to the Moon is being run with the X-Prize Foundation.

To claim the cash, any craft reaching the lunar surface must perform a series of tasks such as shoot video and roam for specific distances.

Firms interested in trying for the prize have until the end of 2012 to mount their Moonshot.

The top prize of $20m will be given to the private firm that soft lands a rover on the Moon which then completes a series of objectives.

These include roaming the lunar surface for at least 500m and gathering a specific set of images, video and data.

A prize of $5m will be given to the second firm that manages to reach the Moon with a rover that roams the surface and shoots some pictures.

Google said it would give bonuses of $5m if the rovers complete other objectives such as travelling further on the Moon, taking pictures of Apollo hardware, finding water-ice and surviving the freezing lunar night.

The prize is the third offered and administered by the X-Prize Foundation.

The first was run to encourage private space travel. The $10m (£4.9m) Ansari-sponsored prize was won in October 2005 when the SpaceShipOne rocket plane climbed to an altitude of 100km twice inside seven days.

In October 2006, the X-Prize Foundation created the $10m Archon X-Prize for Genomics, which will be given to the first private research group to sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days.
LA Times

Peter Diamandis, founder of the Santa Monica-based X Prize Foundation, estimates the cost of building and landing the rover at $20 million to $40 million.

He said the contest already had spurred interest from potential competitors, including a major aerospace company and Carnegie Mellon University roboticist William "Red" Whittaker.

"Our hope is that the technology coming out of this will really spark a commercial revolution that will see new types of companies and new types of robotics used to explore the moon, asteroids and beyond," said Diamandis, whose foundation also offers prizes for feats in automobile design, genomics and other fields.

Space travel has long captured the imagination of Silicon Valley. Elon Musk, a PayPal founder, has developed rockets through his company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. "The Sims" video game designer Will Wright's latest effort is "Spore," in which players evolve a species from a single-celled organism to a space-exploring civilization.

Now Google has a team working on Moon 2.0, which supporters hope will be a launching pad for exploring the solar system. Google products including Google Earth, which was recently updated with moonscape images, and YouTube will support the teams building the moon rovers, said Dylan Casey, Google's manager for the project.

"The entire team at Google is honored to participate in something that will have such a profound effect on all of humankind," Casey said.
Want to register a team?

Official Google Lunar X-Prize Moon 2.0 rules and web site.

"The Earth is too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in." - Robert A. Heinlein

Bring it baby.