New Poll: Will Anyone Win the Google Lunar X Prize?

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The latest deadline to end all deadlines for winning the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize is Dec. 31, 2017. Barring a further extension of a drop dead date that has already been extended five years from 2012, the 16 remaining teams have just under 17 months to land a vehicle on the moon and have it travel 500 meters across the surface.

Can any of them do it in time?

I have my doubts. Without going into the specific circumstances of any of the teams, it seems clear that most of them will not produce anything capable of roving around on the lunar surface. (This is not unusual for an X Prize competition;  of the 26 competitors in the Ansari X Prize, only Burt Rutan’s team flew to space. Most of the rest of them produced vaporware, then disappeared after the prize was won.)

There are a handful of teams being mentioned as likely to mount a mission to the moon: Moon Express, SpaceIL, and Astrobotic (which would carry rovers produced by two competing teams along with its own).

I’m skeptical. Landing on the moon is hard. And there are so many moving pieces to a mission — funding, talented personnel, technology development, mission planning, proper ground testing, professional project management — that have to function together in a flawless manner.  There’s little margin for error.

Looking at all these things 16+ months out, it doesn’t appear that any of the teams are remotely ready to try this mission. And I’m not sure they will be before the window closes.

Of course, some team could surprise me. I’ve been wrong before. And it would be nice to see someone claim the prize.

Well, I’ve told you what I think. What’s your opinion? Vote in our new poll.

Remember. Vote early! Vote often! Just vote, dammit! Vote! And no wagering.

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  • JamesG

    Surveyor was built on the experience of Ranger and all the various MSF and robotic projects NASA, JPL, and… pretty much the entire scientific and industrial capacity of the United States at the time.

  • John_The_Duke_Wayne

    “With the exception of SpaceX. None of the previous Newspace launchers panned out even after metal get bend..”

    Well that means they will all fail right? There are at least a few customers (including MoonEx) that think Electron will be flying soon and have booked flights.

    “FYI it is doubtful any rideshare payload with propulsion will be allow to be co-manifested with GEO comsats.”

    You don’t need everyone to let you fly on your GTO/GEO missions. If you can show enough safety measures and high enough reliability on your subsystems then it is a different story. Primary payloads and insurers don’t want someone who has never built a satellite or some college students putting propellant up under their multimillion dollar comm sat.

    “Again the 0.5 kg payload only allow a static mounted Go-Pro camera. Which have very limited scientific value.”

    Which is all they need to win the GLXP and that $20M is roughly enough to buy the next two launches/spacecraft to round out their demo flights. Also NASA has bigger pockets and could afford to buy and entire F9 to launch 2-3 MX-1 to maximize the payload through direct TLI. Again MX-1 (and MX-1E) are only their first spacecraft. If there is enough interest and the business model works out then they can begin working on a second generation spacexraft that is roughly 10x bigger.

    “To expand on my previous post about not needing the GLXP prize if you can raised enough money for a mission.”

    So you wouldn’t take free money someone is offering you to do the job today instead of tomorrow? Even if Google is keeping some of the money, MoonEx is not looking at the GLXP purse to make a profit they are trying to build a viable business. Their interests are further down the road making money in the long run