With an end-of-the-year deadline looming for the Google Lunar X Prize to continue, the $30 million competition to land a private rover on the moon has shrunk in half to 16 teams from the original 33 or 34 (more on that later).
At least one of the teams has to demonstrate that it has a firm launch contract in place by Dec. 31 for the competition to continue. If at least one team can show a contract this year, then the remaining teams in the competition will have until the end of 2016 to secure contracts in order to stay in the race.
The deadline for winning the prize is the end of 2017. This date is five years beyond the original end of 2012 deadline.
The remaining 16 teams represent Asia, Europe, North America and South America, Europe and Asia. Several of the competitors are international teams based out of Europe.
|AngelicvM||Chile||Mauricio Guerrero||Working with Omega Envoy|
|Astrobotic||United States||Dr. William “Red” Whittaker||Will carry HAKUTO’s Moonraker and Tetris/Griffin rovers to lunar surface; won $1.75 million in GLXP Terrestrial Milestone Prizes (landing, mobility, imaging)|
|HAKUTO||Japan||Takeshi Hakamada||Formerly White Label Space; wiill fly Moonraker and Tetris rovers on Astrobotic’s Griffin lander; won $500,000 for GLXP Terrestrial Milestone Award (mobility)|
|Independence-X||Malaysia||Mohd Izmir Yamin|
|Moon Express||United States||Bob Richards||Acquired former GLXP teams Next Giant Leap and Rocket City Space Pioneers; won $1.25 million in GLXP Terrestrial Milestone Awards (landing, imaging)|
|Omega Envoy||United States||Ruben Nunez||Working with AngelicvM|
|Part-Time Scientists||Germany||Robert Böhme||Won $750,000 in GLXP Terrestrial Milestone Awards (mobility, imaging)|
|Plan B||Canada||Alex Dobrianski|
|SpaceMETA||Brazil||Sergio Cabral Cavalcanti|
|Synergy Moon||International||Nebojša Stanojević|
|Team Indus||India||Rahul Narayan||Won $1 million for GLXP Terrestrial Milestone Award (landing)|
|Team Italia||Italy||Amalia Finzi|
|Team Puli||Hungary||Dr. Tibor Pacher|
|Team SpaceIL||Israel||Eran Privman||Former GLXP team Odyssey Moon merged into this team|
Of the remaining teams, Astrobotic and Moon Express are considered by many to be the most capable of landing a rover on the surface and having it travel at least 500 meters.
The question is whether they can raise the funding to launch the mission. This has been a problem all along. The Great Recession began a year after the prize was announced. Even with economic recovery, many of the teams have struggled to raise enough money to pay for a launch and mission operations.
The competition actually evolved from a failed business called BlastOff! Corporation run by X Prize Foundation Founder Peter Diamandis. That venture crashed when the bottom fell out of the economy during the tech bust at the turn of the century.
In an effort to help the competition along, GLXP initiated a series of Terrestrial Milestone Awards for ground testing of imaging, landing and mobility technologies.
The teams that were accepted into this sub-competition were allowed to set their own milestones to meet. They were not competing against each other, nor did they have to meet a standardized set of criteria established by GLXP.
The Terrestrial Milestone Award winners included:
- Astrobotic — $1.75 million — landing, mobility, imaging
- Moon Express — $1.25 million — landing, imaging
- Team Indus — $1 million — landing
- Part-Time Scientists — $750,000 — mobility, imaging
- HAKUTO — $250,000 — mobility.
There are 17 or 18 teams that have dropped out of the competition, depending upon how you count them. One team, LunaTrek, appears to have entered the competition but never formally registered.
|Barcelona Moon Team||Spain|
|C-Base Open Moon||Germany|
|LunaTrex||United States||Entered competition but never officially registered|
|Mystical Moon||United States|
|Next Giant Leap||United States||Acquired by Moon Express|
|Odyssey Moon||United Kingdom||Merged into Team SpaceIL|
|Penn State Lunar Lion||United States|
|Rocket City Space Pioneers||United States||Acquired by Moon Express|
|Team Phoenicia||United States|
A total of 11 American teams are no longer in the competition. Eight U.S. competitors (including LunaTrek) have dropped out. Two other American teams were acquired by Moon Express, while a third merged with SpaceIL.