- Who is competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE?
- How does the Google Lunar XPRIZE relate to lunar missions being planned by NASA and other government space agencies?
- How much will teams spend to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE?
- How will teams get their spacecraft to the Moon?
- When will the Google Lunar XPRIZE end?
- Who regulates private lunar missions?
- How does the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE relate to the Google Lunar XPRIZE?
At the XPRIZE Foundation, we believe that no one nation, gender, age group, or profession has a monopoly on creativity or intelligence. Incentive prizes like the Google Lunar XPRIZE work in large part because they generate broad, international interest, especially from groups and individuals not traditionally thought of as important players in that sector or industry. Accordingly, we welcome teams and team members from anywhere in the world, and allow our teams to build and structure themselves to compete. We expect that the Google Lunar XPRIZE will encourage new groups to start thinking about space travel and exploration missions. New teams will form from small associations, universities, and companies both within and outside of the traditional aerospace sector, bringing fresh ideas and innovation to bear on the challenges associated with the prize.
There are only a few exceptions to this rule. In order to ensure that the Google Lunar XPRIZE results in a financially sustainable lunar exploration paradigm, governments are prohibited from participating directly in the Google Lunar XPRIZE and from being the primary financiers of teams. However, we fully support government-led lunar exploration, and we know that civil space agencies will likely be customers of our Google Lunar XPRIZE teams; indeed, in many cases, they already are.
Additionally, nationals and residents of Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria, and other people and entities restricted by US export controls and sanctions programs are not eligible to participate in the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
You can learn about all of the competing teams by visiting “The Teams” section of this website.
NASA, the European Space Agency, and other space agencies around the world stand as the most obvious near term beneficiaries of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. It is expected that the advancements made by the teams competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE will allow NASA and other space agencies to save money and expand the capabilities of its future robotic and human missions to the Moon. Indeed, this has already begun to happen—ahead of schedule—with NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data program, through which NASA will purchase $30 million worth of data from commercial lunar missions.
Overall, we view the Google Lunar XPRIZE and the efforts of our teams as complementary to, rather than competitive with, government space agencies. We believe the world benefits when the unique strengths of both government-led and industry-led programs are both being brought to bear on the challenging yet rewarding field of space exploration.
Three centuries of history have shown that teams competing to win incentive prizes often spend more than the prize value itself. Teams in competitions such as the Orteig Prize, the Ansari XPRIZE, and the DARPA Grand Challenges have spent as much as 5 times the prize purse value to fund their entries; and expenditures of 2.5 times the prize purse value by individual teams are relatively common.
We expect that teams pursuing the Google Lunar XPRIZE will follow these historical trends. A broad range of team expenditures—from as low as $15 million to as high as $100 million—are expected. Past prizes have shown the best funded teams do not necessarily win the prize, however. We look forward to learning from our teams as they pioneer new methods to raise money and to trim costs for a lunar mission.
Teams are welcome to get to the Moon in any (legal) manner of their choosing. For most teams. the journey from the Earth to the Moon can be divided into three steps: 1) launch from the surface of the Earth to Earth Orbit, 2) transfer from an Earth Orbit to a Lunar Orbit; and 3) descent from a Lunar Orbit to the surface of the Moon. Although some of our teams are planning to design and use their own launch vehicle, many others are planning on purchasing commercially available launch capacity to complete that first steps. Teams will then use a combination of custom-built systems, innovative designs and commercial available components to tackle the second and third steps.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE is a ‘first to demonstrate’ competition—meaning that teams can launch their missions at the date and time of their choosing. The first team to successfully complete the Google Lunar XPRIZE mission will be awarded the Grand Prize. If no team is able to do so, the prize will expire at the end of the year 2015.
Although it is difficult to forecast precisely, we anticipate that the first launch will be attempted in or around late 2013.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE rules require teams to abide by the relevant national and international regulations while pursuing the prize. Most teams will need to deal with several government agencies over the course of their mission. For example, teams based in the United States of America will need to acquire a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, permissions to use certain radio frequencies to communicate from their vehicle from the Federal Communications Commission, and potentially permits governing the imaging of Earth from space from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In most cases, space agencies such as NASA play no direct role in any permitting or similar processes, although they may play and advisory role in support of other agencies.
The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE (NGLLXC) was a $2 million dollar prize program offered by the XPRIZE Foundation in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, New Mexico’s Spaceport America, and NASA’s Centennial Challenges program. The Challenge rewarded innovative, private teams for building and flying vehicles that simulate the journey from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and vice versa. More than a dozen teams competed in the competition, and Armadillo Aerospace of Caddo Mills, TX and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, CA claimed all of the program’s prize money as of November 2009.
Although the exact vehicles developed for the NGLLXC are unlikely to go to the Moon themselves, the core technologies and the teams that designed them clearly have a role to play in the new era of lunar exploration, Moon 2.0. Several NGLLXC teams and team members are directly competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE already, and the remainder will serve as an inspiration—and possibly even as suppliers and partners—for the other teams.