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More competitors for Google Lunar X Prize

X Prize Foundation will introduce two new teams and reveal the identities of the blogging "Mystery Team" next week.

More scientists and engineers are about to join the international race to the moon sponsored by Google and the X Prize Foundation.

The foundation announced Thursday it will introduce two new Google Lunar X Prize teams to its already weighty roster of 14 competitors. The announcement will be made Tuesday via a teleconference from Google headquarters. Although the X Prize Foundation organizes a number of innovation competitions, the Google Lunar X Prize is sponsored in conjunction with Google.

Team LunaTrex will also have an announcement to make at that time, according to the foundation.

Then on Wednesday, Google and the X Prize Foundation plan to reveal the "true identities" of the "Mystery Team," whose members have been blogging about their competition experience. The team members will appear in person from an event at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

"The countdown has begun and soon the nameless faces of the Mystery Team members will be unveiled. But I must admit, it's been fun attending events such as Airventure and the AGI conference 'incognito.' I think I speak for all the Mystery Team members when I say, we are ready for what's next!" founding Mystery Team member who goes by the screen name MikeJ said on the Lunar X Prize blog.

The Google Lunar X Prize was officially announced at Wired's Nextfest in September 2007 and began to welcome teams in December of that year. It's a race to design, build, and send a robotic spacecraft "safely" to the moon, have it drive around on the surface of the moon for a minimum of 500 meters, and have the communications capability to send data, images, and video of its mission back to Earth.

The first team to land on the moon and complete several tasks put forth by the Lunar X Prize rules by December 31, 2012, will win $20 million.

Just to make it a little more exciting: if no one makes it by that date, the grand prize drops to $15 million.

The second team to reach the moon and complete the objectives will win $5 million. There will also be a total of $5 million in "bonuses," though it's unclear how Google will decide to distribute that money among the remaining competitors.

In order to qualify, competing teams must get 90 percent of their funding to compete from private sources.

Any ideas on who MikeJ and his or her teammates might be? According to the official team roster, the Mystery Team includes "experienced aerospace engineers, research scientists, mathematicians, physicists, university students and a former USAF pilot" all based across the U.S.

I'll take a guess. What about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg? He has the private funds, has been a supporter of the X Prize Foundation, and the inventor-turned-businessman-turned-politician is a techie at heart. He holds a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University.