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The Google Lunar X Prize contest will end without a winner

None of the five remaining teams in the competition will be able to send a spacecraft to the moon by the final deadline set for the end of March, and therefore the X Prize Foundation has announced that the competition will end without a winner. The end of the competition is not the end of the private race to the moon, and several teams, including Israel's SpaceIL, have announced that they will continue with their plans regardless of the competition.

Simulation of the Israeli spacecraft to the moon. Source: SpaceIL.
Simulation of the Israeli spacecraft to the moon. Source: SpaceIL.

The X Prize Foundation announced yesterday that the five remaining teams in the competition to send a private spacecraft to the moon, including the Israeli team SpaceIL, will not be able to complete the competition's goals by the "deadline" set for March 31, 2018, and that none of them will win the cash prize worth up to 30 million dollars .

"After close consultation with the five finalists in the Google Lunar X Prize competition over the past few months, we have come to the conclusion that no team will make a launch attempt to reach the moon by the deadline of March 31, 2018," they said in a joint announcement Founder and chairman of the X Prize organization Peter Diamandis and CEO of the organization Marcus Shingles.

"Although we did expect that there would be a winner by now, due to difficulties in raising funds, and technical and regulatory challenges, there will be no winner of the grand prize of $30 million in the Google Lunar X Prize competition," wrote Diamandis and Shingles. They stressed, however, that although the competition ends without a winner, it succeeded in promoting the idea of ​​sending private vehicles to the moon. "We started a discussion and changed the expectations regarding who can land on the moon. Many now believe that this is not limited to only a small number of government agencies, but may now be carried out by small teams of entrepreneurs, engineers and innovators from around the world."

The financial prize was supposed to be awarded by Google, which sponsored the competition. Now, the organization has said that it will look for another party that will agree to donate a financial grant to the team that will still complete the competition's goals: "X Prize is looking at several ways to continue from here. One of them may include finding a new sponsor that will provide a monetary prize and continue Google's generous way, or continue the Lunar X Prize as a competition without a monetary prize, in which we will follow the teams, promote them and praise their achievements."

Google Lunar X Prize Contest Was announced More than a decade ago, in 2007. It was a continuation of the Ansari X Prize competition, in which Won In 2004 the spaceship Space-Ship 1, when it became the first private spacecraft in history to cross the border of space in a suborbital flight.

In order to win the competition, the teams were required to land a vehicle on the moon, drive it to a distance of 500 meters, and transmit high-resolution photographs of the surface of the moon back to Earth. The first winner of the competition was expected to receive $20 million, the second place winner $5 million, and an additional $5 million would be awarded as a bonus to those who performed additional feats, such as a complete orbit around the moon before landing on it.

The original target for the completion of the competition was the end of 2012 (or the end of 2014 with a lower monetary prize) but the deadline has since been postponed again and again - to the end of 2015, the end of 2016 and the end of 2017. Last August, the X Prize organization announced another and final postponement of the deadline to March 31, 2018.

The lander developed by the Indian TeamIndus group, on which the Hakuto rover will reach the moon. Source: TeamIndus.
The lander developed by the Indian team TeamIndus, one of the competitors in the competition. Source: TeamIndus.

Out of over 30 registered teams, only five remained in the competition: the Israeli SpaceIL, the American Moon Express, the Indian Team Indus, the Japanese Hakuto and the international Synergy Moon.

Despite the significant progress they have made in recent years, the teams encountered many and difficult challenges:

  • SpaceIL Has announced two months ago because it needs to raise 30 million dollars by the end of 2017 to continue its activities;
  • The Indian team Team Indus also ran into financing difficulties, and announced Because he must raise an amount of 35 million dollars. by number reports, his launch contract on an Indian Space Agency (ISRO) launcher was canceled due to non-payment;
  • The Japanese team Hakuto has completed the construction of a small lunar rover, but it is supposed to be launched to the moon on the lander of the Indian team, which as mentioned encountered difficulties;
  • The Moon Express company has been downplaying the importance of winning the award for a long time;
  • The Synergy Moon team has not released any updates on his condition. Also, the launcher that is supposed to bring his vehicle to the moon, Neptune, is still inactive

Even without the competition - the race to return to the moon will continue

The end of the competition in this way is indeed quite disappointing, but it does not necessarily herald the failure of the principle behind it, according to which not only large governments can reach the moon, but also private and small companies.

Several teams, including SpaceIL, have announced that they will continue their efforts to send a spacecraft to him, even without the financial prize of the competition. "SpaceIL is committed to landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, regardless of the conditions or the status of the [Competition] Lunar X Prize", A spokesperson for the Israeli team told Space.com. "We are at the peak of our efforts to raise funding for this project and prepare for launch."

The SpaceIL team I mean to launch his lander as a payload on SpaceX's Falcon 9 launcher. The lander is planned to make an initial landing on the moon and then use its rocket engine to "jump" and move to a distance of about 500 meters on the surface of the moon.

Another team that has announced that it will continue with its plans is Moon Express, which has long emphasized that the competition is not its main goal. "The competition was a sweetener in the overall picture of our business, but it was never the business itself. We will continue to focus on our basic business plans to bring down the costs of access to the moon, on our partnership with NASA, and on our long-term vision of releasing the resources on the moon and utilizing them for the benefit of life on Earth and our future in space," said the company's CEO Bob Richards recently in an opinion piece on the Space website. News.

A rendering of the lander that Moon Express is developing, the MX-1E. Source: Moon Express.
A rendering of the lander that Moon Express is developing, the MX-1E. Source: Moon Express.

Moon Express Apple iPhone A small lunar lander called MX-1E, which can carry about 30 kg to the lunar surface. The company is also developing a series of more advanced landers, with the goal of bringing a heavier payload to the moon. The company signed a launch agreement with Rocket Love, whose small "Electron" launcher made the first successful flight into space on Sunday this week, in an achievement that opens the way for the launch of the lander on the new launcher.

The Indian team Team Indus He announced Because he will reveal his future plans tomorrow. In the case of the Japanese team Hakuto, the company that operates it, iSpace, Raised 90 million dollars last month, and intends to develop lunar landers and rovers on its own.

In addition, there are several non-competing companies developing lunar vehicles. Among others, we can name Astrobotic, which withdrew from the competition in December 2016, andDeveloping a small lunar lander. Blue Origin of the founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, Apple iPhone A large lunar lander named "Blue Moon", which will be able to carry a payload of about 4.5 tons to the lunar surface.

Not only private organizations are setting their sights on the moon. China Plans Launch this year's first ever mission to the far side of the moon. The mission, Chang'e 4, is expected to launch at the end of the year and will include a lander and rover identical to those of China's previous mission to the moon in 2013. To enable communication with the vehicles on the far side of the moon, a lunar probe will be launched beforehand that will serve as a relay station. India also intends to launch a mission to the moon this year, Chandrian 2, which will include a satellite, a lander and a rover.

NASA also plans to refocus on the moon, andHas released Last year a proposal to build a space station around the moon. The agency though stamping On the memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the construction of the station with the Russian space agency Roscosmos, although there is still no official and budgeted plan for its construction. This lunar space station may be part of the target application on it He declared Last December, President Donald Trump, to return American astronauts to the lunar soil.

All these show that even with the end of the Google Lunar X Prize competition without a single winner, the race to return to the moon is not expected to stop. Despite the many challenges facing them, private companies and government agencies alike, one can expect quite a few new achievements in lunar exploration in the coming years.

See more on the subject on the science website:

2 תגובות

  1. Google gave a funny prize in relation to the cost of developing such a product
    And in addition, Google also set illogical schedules as part of a funny award
    We will take these two parameters and determine that Google actually committed fraud here
    And finally, apart from advertising herself, she didn't take a shekel out of her pocket
    This is called cheating by Google
    This is called charlatanism by Google
    It's called nitpicking by Google

    In the bottom line. Google got advertising. And she didn't spend a shekel here.

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