X Prize Admits What Everyone Already Knew: Google Lunar Prize is Kaput

CULVER CITY, Calif. (X Prize PR) — “After close consultation with our five finalist Google Lunar XPRIZE teams over the past several months, we have concluded that no team will make a launch attempt to reach the Moon by the March 31st, 2018 deadline. This literal “moonshot” is hard, and while we did expect a winner by now, due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the grand prize of the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed.

We are extraordinarily grateful to Google for enabling this 10-year journey with us and for having the foresight and courage to support and catalyze the commercial space industry, which was the ultimate goal of this competition.

As a result of this competition, we have sparked the conversation and changed expectations with regard to who can land on the Moon. Many now believe it’s no longer the sole purview of a few government agencies, but now may be achieved by small teams of entrepreneurs, engineers, and innovators from around the world. We are thankful to the teams for their decade of hard work, and acknowledge that a number of our teams are now, finally building flight ready hardware, contracting with launch providers and are close to being able to make their attempt to land on the Moon.

XPRIZE is exploring a number of ways to proceed from here. This may include finding a new title sponsor to provide a prize purse following in the footsteps of Google’s generosity, or continuing the Lunar XPRIZE as a non-cash competition where we will follow and promote the teams and help celebrate their achievements.

Even though we are disappointed that we do not have a winner at this time, we are proud of the impact that the Google Lunar XPRIZE has achieved to date. Over the course of this competition:

  1. Teams and the companies that own the teams have raised more than $300 million through corporate sponsorships, government contracts and venture capital, including the largest space-related series A investment of $90 million;
  2. Hundreds of jobs were created and the first commercial space companies were established in India, Malaysia, Israel and Hungary;
  3. Through educational programs, we have engaged hundreds of thousands of young people across the globe, sparking an interest in exploration and STEM fields;
  4. We have also seen regulatory reform: one team received the first-ever ‘Mission Approval’ from the U.S. government to send a private spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit and to the Moon in their quest to complete their first lunar mission;
  5. We have already awarded more than $6 million in prize money to teams over the course of the competition, in recognition of the milestones they have accomplished; and,
  6. Finally, we have secured global media exposure for our teams, including a recent 32-page feature in National Geographic, a segment on The Today Show, and a 9-part web series, Moon Shot, executive produced by J.J. Abrams, inspiring millions of people around the world with the story of the Google Lunar XPRIZE.

In conclusion, it’s incredibly difficult to land on the Moon. If every XPRIZE competition we launch has a winner, we are not being audacious enough, and we will continue to launch competitions that are literal or figurative moonshots, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. We are inspired by the progress of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, and will continue to support their journey, one way or another, and will be there to help shine the spotlight on them when they achieve that momentous goal.”

Peter H. Diamandis, Founder & Executive Chairman, XPRIZE &
Marcus Shingles, Chief Executive Officer, XPRIZE

Editor’s Note:  What goes unmentioned is the reason the prize is ending: in addition to $6 million in incentives prizes, Google also paid the X Prize every year to run the competition. It’s not clear how much the company spent, but it probably ran into additional millions of dollars for a prize that lacked the payoff of actually sponsoring a winning lunar mission.

Despite no one winning the prize, results are the best they can be for the X Prize. They got a steady funding stream out of it for 10 years.

  • JS Initials

    Yep! Time to move on….But a passing glance at Moon Express indicates they still desire to send hardware (a smaller version of their GLXP lander) to the Moon on their own ‘dime’. I think they still have a contract with RocketLab to use the successfully-tested Electron to send it to our nearest celestial neighbor.

  • ThomasLMatula

    If the teams had raised $300 million there should be a number of landers on the Moon. I wonder how they generated it? As for the hundreds of jobs created by it…

    No, Google goofed. They should have just paid a mission. If they did private industry would have beat the Chinese as the third entity to land on the Moon.

  • P.K. Sink

    Rocket Lab’s commercial phase will see Electron fly already-signed customers including NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.

  • JS Initials

    Thanks for the confirmation. It would be nice to see a non-government spacecraft heading to the Moon’s surface this year. No non-government entity has ever sent any hardware to the Moon that I am aware of.

  • Aerospike

    If I’m correct, Astrobotic is preparing a mission to the moon as well, but the plan is for a 2019 launch, so not this year.

  • Douglas Messier

    Bob Richards of Moon Express wrote an op-ed praising the prize for its incentivizing successes:

    http://spacenews.com/op-ed-applauding-the-google-lunar-x-prize/

  • Robert Sutton

    Was there not the famous case of Asiasat 3?

  • Douglas Messier

    I think there was hope that the mission could be done in the low tens of millions. Turns out the range was closer to $80 to $1

  • Douglas Messier

    For comparison purposes, here’s what Peter Diamandis wrote during his Reddit AMA in October 2013.

    “We can have a winner of the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP). Ultimately the purpose for GLXP is to help create a space economy beyond low- and geo-earth orbit. On the moon we have access to water (H2 & O2), i.e. fuel, and very useful materials. My friend and mentor Gerard K. O’Neill taught me how useful the moon is as jumping point for humanity to become a multiplanetary species.”