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Moon soon? Lunar XPrize lives on, minus Google

The Google Lunar XPrize is dead. Long live the not-Google Lunar XPrize, a daring space race competition to put a lander on the moon.

The near side of the moon is still waiting to receive some XPrize visitors.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

The moon is still in reach. Teams that spent years working toward the goal of landing on the moon during the Google Lunar XPrize competition aren't giving up on their dreams of space glory. 

The Google-sponsored $30 million (£21 million, AU$37 million) bounty for reaching the moon went unclaimed when the original competition expired on March 31 after its initial 2014 deadline had been extended several times.  

But XPrize, a nonprofit organization that promotes public competitions for technological innovations, announced Thursday it'll continue the lunar race without Google as the title sponsor. 

"We set out on this journey in 2007, excited by the potential of the prize to spur innovation and discovery in commercial space travel," a Google spokesperson told CNET. "The accomplishments of the teams who have participated in Google Lunar XPrize over the years has made us even more excited for the future of this industry. We hold a deep admiration for all Google Lunar XPrize teams, and we will be rooting for them as they continue their pursuit of the moon and beyond."

Google didn't elaborate on why the company chose not to extend its sponsorship.

The moon contest kicked off in 2007. As of early 2017, five Lunar XPrize teams had secured launch contracts for their lunar landers, but none had actually sent a spacecraft on its way by the time the competition ended.

"These space entrepreneurs are developing long-term business models around lunar transportation, and we cannot give up on them now," said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director of prizes at XPrize.

Team Moon Express is one of the groups that's had success with the Lunar XPrize, having earned $1.25 million in prize money for reaching certain milestones. 

"While we plan to win this moon race and are committed to carrying the Lunar XPrize logo, the real opportunity is in opening the lunar frontier and the multibillion dollar industry that follows," said Moon Express founder Bob Richards.

XPrize is seeking a new title sponsor for the re-launched competition and says it'll set out new parameters for the contest over the next few months. 

First published April 5, 9:27 a.m. PT.
Update, 1:15 p.m. PT: 
Adds Google statement on the Lunar XPrize.