“I think we should go first to the moon and then further on,” says Johann-Dietrich Worner, the Director General of the European Space Agency. The Google Lunar XPRIZE, a space race that we first reported on in March is still very much underway. The competition originally set to end in 2015, but extended to December of this year, has now been extended again until March of 2018. With only five teams securing launch contracts, the race to be the first to the moon is still very much on.
What the Teams Must Do
In order to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, the privately funded teams from all around the world, must complete three specific tasks:
- The team must work together to build a spacecraft that successfully lands on the moon’s surface. This is the first major hurdle the teams must accomplish. Before even beginning the second two tasks, the spacecraft much touchdown on the surface.
- The team’s rover must travel at least 500 meters on the moon. While this does not sound complicated, there are incredible variables like landing the spacecraft safely and navigating the moon’s challenging landscapes that make rover travel difficult.
- The rover must transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth. Again, while this doesn’t sound complicated, there are several factors including dust and solar flares that can make transmitting any kind of data from the Moon to the Earth difficult.
What Are The Teams Doing Now?
Many of the original Google Lunar XPRIZE teams are no longer in the competition because they failed to secure a launch contract. Before the teams can even begin to tackle the competitions tasks, they have to find a way to get to the moon. This portion of the competition proved to be the most difficult as only 5 teams successfully secured the contracts. The difficulty of successfully securing a contract was always a major factor in both competition deadline extensions.
Originally the competition included a Grand prize, second place, and bonus prizes. Since the competition deadlines are extended, additional milestone prizes are now included in the competition. While over $5 million has been awarded already, there are still two in-space Milestone Prizes waiting to be claimed:
- Lunar Arrival Milestone Prize- Worth $1.75 million, this prize will be awarded to the team that successfully completes one orbit around the Moon or enters a direct descent approach to the lunar surface.
- Soft Landing Milestone Prize- Worth $3 million, this prize will be awarded to the first team that transmits data proving it soft-landed on the lunar surface.
Explore Space With Your Classroom!
You don’t have to leave the space exploration to those in the XPRIZE competition. StratoStar can help you and your classroom travel to the edge of space with a high-altitude weather balloon project! Get started by contacting StratoStar today!