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Sci-Tech

Sorry, moon fans, no one gets Google's Lunar XPrize

Time's running out on the Google Lunar XPrize moon-landing competition and a lot of money will be left on the table.

The Google Lunar XPrize launched in 2007.

XPrize

March 31, 2018 will be known as the date in history when nobody launched a spacecraft to the moon. 

Google's Lunar XPrize, a $30 million (£21 million, AU$37 million) bounty for landing a craft on the moon's surface, will go unclaimed when the space competition expires at the end of March.

The Google Lunar XPrize site posted an update on Tuesday, saying none of the teams will make a launch attempt before the deadline "due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges." Five teams had each secured contracts to launch spacecraft, but none of them will get to the launchpad in time.

Google and XPrize, a nonprofit organization that promotes public competitions for technological innovations, announced the lunar competition in 2007. The requirements called for more than just touching down on the moon. The winning team's craft would also have to travel across the lunar surface, send back videos and images, retransmit data back to Earth, carry a payload and get there primarily on private funding.  

Even though there will be no actual moonshots, the lunar prize did spark many worthwhile achievements. The XPrize group notes the teams involve created hundreds of jobs and raised millions in funding. The XPrize also distributed over $6 million to teams as they reached development milestones.

Google had hoped the XPrize carrot would "result in cost-effective and reliable access to the moon" as a launching point to access the rest of the universe and for the tapping the moon's abundance of resources, including rare metals.

The XPrize group is exploring options for continuing the lunar-landing push, either with funding from a sponsor other than Google or as a non-cash competition. This sentiment pretty much sums it up: "In conclusion, it's incredibly difficult to land on the moon."