Earlier today, Google and X PRIZE announced the “Google Lunar X PRIZE,” a race to the Moon to win a $30 million prize. The same foundation, Ansari X PRIZE, offered $10 million for the first non-government manned spacecraft to enter space in 2004. That project was won in October of 2004 by Tier One using the SpaceShipOne craft. Shortly after they succeeded, they were approached by Virgin Galactic and later signed a deal to begin routine space travel as early as late-2008.
“The Google Lunar X PRIZE calls on entrepreneurs, engineers and visionaries from around the world to return us to the lunar surface and explore this environment for the benefit of all humanity,” X Prize CEO Peter Diamonds. “We’re confident that teams from around the world will help develop new robotic and virtual presence technology, which will […] reduce the cost of space exploration.”
Today’s new prize requires that a private company land a robotic rover on the Moon, travel over 500 meters, and transmit video/images back to Earth. The first to pass the requirements by the end of 2012 will receive $20 million. An additional $5 million will be available for completing optional tasks such as traveling over 5,000 meters, imaging artifacts or discovering ice/water. The second team to succeed will win the remaining $5 million. As for the public, everyone will have access to view high quality footage of the moon, since all rovers will be equipped with high-definition video and still cameras.