Google’s Lunar XPrize competition came to an anticlimactic ending on Tuesday with the announcement that none of the five finalists have progressed far enough in their lunar rover project to make the deadline on March 31.
The contest, which began in 2007, offered $30 million to a grand prize winner who could send a working robotic rover to the Moon. Other prizes, totaling $6 million, were distributed at key milestones. The remaining teams – SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, TeamIndus, and HAKUTO – progressed as far as receiving launch contracts with commercial space companies before the race was called with no one at the finish line.
XPrize founder and Executive Chairman Peter H. Diamandis and CEO Marcus Shingles attributed the cancellation to “the difficulties of fundraising, technical, and regulatory challenges.”
Moon Express made a deal with Rocket Lab to fly their MX-1E probe to the Moon, with an ambition to eventually search for lunar water at the Moon’s South Pole. SpaceIL, the first team to reach the launch contract stage, planned to enable their spacecraft to “hop” across the Moon’s surface.
“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,” Diamandis and Shingles wrote in a Jan. 23 blog post.
The XPrize team has several other competitions running, including teams working on AI development, adult literacy, and producing profitable uses for carbon emissions.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense