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.
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