Google Lunar X-Prize extends deadline


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Capitalism in space: The Google Lunar X-Prize has announced that it has extended its contest deadline from the end of 2017 to the end of March 2018 for the finalists to complete their lunar rover mission and win the grand prize of $30 million.

They also announced several additional consolation prizes that all of the remaining five contestants can win should they achieve lunar orbit ($1.75 million) or successfully achieve a soft landing ($3 million), even if they are not the first to do it.

At least one team, Moon Express, will be helped enormously by the extra three months. This gives Rocket Lab just a little extra time to test its rocket before launching Moon Express’s rover to the Moon.

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3 comments

  • Orion314

    That is good news, although I thought putting a drop dead date on it was a bad idea, especially for such a lofty and difficult goal.

  • Edward

    Orion314 wrote: “although I thought putting a drop dead date on it was a bad idea, especially for such a lofty and difficult goal.

    Deadlines always seem like a bad idea, because they inevitably end in a rushed job and sub-optimal results. However, deadlines motivate the participants to find a way to meet the challenge with an adequate result. In addition to motivating participants, a deadline can also determine whether the technology and finances are capable of the accomplishment.

    The current use of prizes to meet various challenges, such as the Google Lunar X-Prize, were inspired by the successful Ansari X Prize, and that was inspired by the Orteig Prize that was eventually won by the Spirit of St. Louis. The Orteig Prize was originally put forth in 1919, but the technology was not ready for transatlantic flights. Eventually it was reinstated in 1925, and after a few people were killed attempting the challenge, it was finally won by Charles Lindbergh, who came close to losing his own life during his flight.

    Neither the Orteig Prize and the Ansari X Prize generated a product that was capable of commercial use (sub-optimal result), but both demonstrated that the technology was ready and inspired several companies to try to develop commercial craft (better result). The success of the Ansari X Prize may also have inspired NASA to allow commercial companies to attempt cargo transport to the ISS, which also led to NASA’s contracts to develop manned transport to the ISS (optimal results).

    Although for half a century we have had the technology and the money to put rovers on the Moon, it was only governments that were able to do it. Many of the current challenges have had the goal of moving space exploration and transportation from the government world to the commercial world, and few people have had confidence that organizations that do not have billions of dollars for research and development can do what only large governments have done.

    The commercial space world is littered with failed companies and failed projects. We saw Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites perform yet another miracle, and we thought that manned suborbital flight was easy, just four to six years away, but it was not. Kistler and Armadillo are two other companies that tried to do what SpaceX was finally able to do. Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, and Rotary Rocket all failed to produce single stage to orbit, two decades ago. Dr. Alan Binder tried to make Lunar Prospector from only private funds, but when he could not find the final $10 million to complete the satellite, he turned to NASA, which spent $35 million to finish it.

    It looks like getting a rover to the moon is harder to do than Google first estimated. They originally gave a five-year deadline, but have had to extend it a few times in order to keep enough participants participating.

    It sure would be a shame if after all the effort a failure to achieve the goal came not from failure of the rovers but from failure to develop an affordable rocket ride.

  • Orion314

    “In terms of awarding the prize money if the goal was successful by the original date set”, when I first read that, years ago, I thought it had zero chance of success. Hell , they still cant do flying cars….maybe 5 yrs more

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