For all of you Google Lunar X Prize fans who have spent the last five years on the edge of your seat wondering who was going to win this slow motion race to the moon (and you know who you are), things got a bit clearer after last week’s global team summit in Chile attended by 20 of the 23 competitors.
According to an entry on the prize’s blog, four teams have announced launch contracts for sending their rovers to the lunar surface:
Moon Express mentioned in their presentation that they are planning for a 2015 launch! This puts them in a tight race with a lot of other teams who have largely mentioned early 2015 as a timeline (e.g. Omega Envoy’s planned Q2 2015), with Barcelona Moon having a launch service contract for June 2014 and Astrobotic signed up for a launch with SpaceX in October 2015. The race is on…
In addition, many of the teams expressed interest in collaborating with each other—so expect more to be joining forces as things continue to heat up!
Given the lead time required to arrange for a launch and the Dec. 31, 2015 deadline for winning the prize, it’s likely that any team that doesn’t have a ride by now (or very, very soon) isn’t going to the moon.
Of course, having a ride doesn’t mean a company has the technology or expertise to place a rover on the lunar surface. We’ll see how all this goes.
A number of teams have already folded or combined with other competitors. It sounds like another wave of these moves is expected soon.