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Google's Lunar XPrize Has Companies Racing to the Moon

The teams must land on the moon, travel 500 meters across its surface, and send high-definition video and images back to Earth by the end of 2017 to win.

by Aaron Aupperlee, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review / January 26, 2017

(TNS) -- Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh-based space startup company, is in line to receive a slice of a $1 million “Diversity Prize” from Google's Lunar XPrize despite formally dropping out of the race to the moon last month.

Google and the XPrize announced Tuesday that it would split the Diversity Prize among 16 current and past teams.

“XPRIZE and Google have been awestruck by the educational outreach activities conducted by all of the competing teams and have decided to split the $1 million Diversity Prize across all 16 teams to recognize each of their unique approaches and initiatives over the years,” Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director of the Google Lunar XPrize, said in a statement. “Each of these teams has pushed the boundaries to demonstrate that you don't have to be a government superpower to send a mission to the Moon, while inspiring audiences to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

Five teams remain in the competition. The teams must land on the moon, travel 500 meters across its surface and send high-definition video and images back to Earth by the end of 2017 to win the $20 million prize.

Astrobotic, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff company headquartered in the Strip District, bowed out of the competition in December when its CEO John Thornton said the company would not be ready for a 2017 launch. Thornton said the company still intends to land on the moon and establish itself as a lunar delivery service.

Thornton said he doubts any of the remaining teams actually will land on the moon by the end of the year.

The five remaining teams are:

  • SpaceIL , an Israeli nonprofit that plans to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket;
  • Moon Express, a Florida-based company flying on a Rocket Lab USA rocket;
  • Synergy Moon, an international collaboration that will use an ocean-launched rocket from California-based Interorbital Systems;
  • TeamIndus, an Indian team launching on the Indian Space Research Organizations Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, and,
  • HAKUTO, a Japanese company whose rover will catch a ride with TeamIndus to the moon.

©2017 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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