GLXP Update: Chinese Moon Success Would Reduce Prize Money

a full moon rises over Half Moon Bay in California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Attention, Google Lunar X Prize competitors! China is looking to take $5 million out of one of your pockets. And they may not be anything you can do about it.

China has announced definitive plans to launch its Chang’e-3 lunar mission during the second half of 2013. The mission includes a lander as well as a six-wheeled rover that will explore the lunar surface.

If the mission is successful, then the first prize in the  Google-sponsored private moon race will decrease from $20 million to $15 million. There are also a $5 million second prize and several bonus prizes for achievements on the lunar surface.

Given what is currently known about the GLXP competitors, it seems unlikely that any team is in a position to beat the well-funded Chinese program to the moon by the end of next year.

Teams have until the end of 2015 to claim the prize before the competition turns into a pumpkin.

  • Dave Huntsman

    If the intent of the GLXP is to spark private sector exploration of the moon, what sense does it make to reduce the incentives just because a national government does it? After all, two national governments have already done it. It’s non-sensical, and is against the purpose of the prize to begin with.

  • You are absolutely correct. This was a bad decision (maybe not the only one, as media rights are also contentious) and based on a very flimsy premise to begin with – just that there should be an incentive to go as quickly as possible. While I support the ideas behind the X Prize Foundation’s efforts, and GLXP in particular, I don’t agree with everything they do. Let’s not forget that, smart though they may be, the XPF people don’t have a long track record here – only a few competitions – and the first one nearly caught them out without a prize to give away. If I were asked I would advise Google to over-ride the XPF on this.

  • Bohdan

    … terrible decision

    China vs small private ventures??

  • William Pomerantz

    I don’t know why you’d assume this was an X PRIZE decision that Google might want to overrule, rather than vice versa. In any case, though, this step down does have some logical motivations: the inspirational value of the story derives in part from the fact that nothing has operated on the lunar surface since the 70s, and therefore does diminish if there are new photos and videos from the lunar surface only a year or two before the prize winner(s). I’d also say that the deadline has had a real and important impact both on the team registration process (got more teams started earlier in the process) and on media coverage.

    I definitely understand and sympathize with the argument that this makes entrepreneurial firms and a big state agency competitive, but on the whole, I think the impact has been net positive. Do you think that the prize purse decrease is going to make a team that was actually likely to win the prize any less likely to pursue it?