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The competition heats up: The Google Lunar X-Prize has now confirmed two launch contracts for sending a privately financed and built rover to the Moon by 2017.
Moon Express is now the second company to have a launch contract for their lunar lander spacecraft verified by the X Prize Foundation. An Israeli team, SpaceIL, had its contract to launch a lander on a SpaceX Falcon 9 verified by the foundation in October. SpaceIL will be one of the primary payloads on a launch purchased in September by Spaceflight Industries that will carry about 20 other spacecraft. That initial launch contract verification allowed the foundation to formally extend the competition’s deadline to the end of 2017. Teams have until the end of 2016 to submit their own launch contracts in order to continue in the competition.
Sixteen teams remain in the competition, announced in September 2007, to land a privately-developed spacecraft on the moon, travel at least 500 meters across its surface, and return high-resolution videos and other data. Some teams are cooperating with others for launch arrangements.