$5.25 million awarded to five Google Lunar XPrize teams with the right stuff
There's still $30 million up for grabs in the Google Lunar XPrize, but five teams have taken home interim prizes totaling $5.25 million to help them on their way.
Tim StevensFormer editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
We're still many moons away from someone blasting off and putting in a proper bid for the $20 million grand prize on offer as part of the Google Lunar XPrize. There are 18 teams still in the running for the competition, and today five of them are receiving a nice bonus that will, hopefully, boost their chances for success.
These five milestone teams completed a series of tests in 2014, demonstrating their ability to successfully complete the three main criteria for the Google Lunar XPrize:
Landing- Demonstrating that they can touch down successfully.
Mobility - Demonstrating that they can cover the required 500 meters on (or above) the lunar surface.
Imaging - Demonstrating that they can broadcast high-definition video back to Earth.
Each of the five milestone teams was deemed by XPrize judges to have completed at least one of those tests, for a combined $5.25 million in prizes. Here's how that breaks down.
Astrobotic -- USA -- $1.75 million
We've visited Team Astrobotic multiple times in 2014, first seeing their lander testing in the Mojave desert, then watching their rover show its stuff at a Pittsburgh quarry. Those tests were deemed successful, and the team takes home a total of $1.75 million for completing all three categories of tests.
Hakuto -- Japan -- $500,000
We recently met with Team Hakuto on the beach outside of Hamamatsu, Japan, where its two rovers were on display. That test was a success, and so the team takes home a $500,000 mobility award.
Indus -- India -- $1 million
Team Indus hails from New Delhi, India, and in late 2014 the team completed a demonstration of its landing systems. That successful test earns the team a $1 million prize.
Moon Express -- USA -- $1.25 million
Moon Express has some of the most aggressive goals of all the teams, including eventually setting up shop on the moon and mining it. That's some years away, but when we visited the team at Kennedy Space Center, they were showing good progress. The XPrize judges thought so, too, awarding the team a combined $1.25 million for successfully demonstrating its imaging and landing systems.
Part-Time Scientists -- Germany -- $750,000
Part-Time Scientists was the first team we visited, as it showed off its rover and high-quality imaging systems. The XPrize judges liked what they saw, awarding the team a combined $750,000 for both imaging and mobility.
Next stop? Why, the moon of course. Teams have until December 31, 2016, to complete the competition. But at least one of the teams must have announced a date for launch before the end of 2015. Otherwise, the competition will expire. The clock is ticking!