Google Lunar X-Prize announces that it will award no winners

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The Google Lunar X-Prize announced today that none of its five finalists will be able to fly a mission to the Moon before the March 31, 2018 deadline, and thus the prize will be awarded to no one.

With Rocket Lab’s successful Electron launch this past weekend, I thought there might be chance Moon Express might get off the ground by the end of March. They were the only finalist that had any shot at making the deadline. However, the timing of this announcement today suggests to me that Moon Express probably consulted with Rocket Lab after the launch, and probably learned that it was unwise to push for a quick launch. Moon Express then probably contacted the Google Lunar X-Prize to say they wouldn’t be able to win, which in turn resulted in today’s announcement.

The contest however was not a failure. Several of the contestants, most especially Moon Express, have said that they are moving forward as private companies offering the scientific community inexpensive planetary missions. I hope that the foundation these companies laid during the competition will result in real missions in the near future.


One comment

  • Edward

    When the deadline was extended by only three months, I thought that Google (the funding organization) was running out of patience. I am not so much surprised as disappointed at the demise of the prize.

    Because one contestant cannot raise its part of the funds for a launch, the lack of a timely launch is not based upon technical, managerial, or political difficulties but upon financial difficulties. The other contestants seem to have their landers ready for flight, but the affordable launchers are not yet ready. This is a logistics difficulty, or a financial difficulty, as they cannot afford the more expensive launchers.

    The announcement points out six accomplishments of the challenge, and I think that these accomplishments make the attempt worthwhile. The structure of the prize — smaller prizes had been awarded for accomplishing milestones — seems to have encouraged teams to attempt what had been impossible only two decades ago, when Dr. Alan Binder attempted to privately fund the Lunar Prospector satellite around the Moon.

    Binder was unable to raise enough money to complete the satellite and NASA took it over, spending far more than Binder’s budget had been, due to costly bureaucratic methods. The Google Lunar X-PRIZE contestants, like Binder’s privately funded attempt, had forgone the costs of both government and contractor bureaucracies in order to make their landers for much less cost than would be expected if NASA had built them.

    I wish good luck to all the companies that this contest inspired to continue as commercial science providers.

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