Google Lunar XPRIZE Selects Five Teams to Compete for $6 Million in Milestone Prizes

http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/media/press-releases/google-lunar-xprize-selects-five-teams-compete-6-million-milestone-prizes

Los Angeles, CA (February 19, 2014) — The Google Lunar XPRIZE announced today the five international teams selected as finalists for Milestone Prizes, with a total purse of $6 million to be awarded this year. After reviewing 33 total submissions, the nine member independent judging panel selected 11 submissions from the following teams: Astrobotic (US), Moon Express (US), Hakuto (Japan), Part-Time-Scientists (Germany), and Team Indus (India).

The Milestone Prizes were added to recognize the technological achievements and the associated financial hurdles faced by the teams as they vie for the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, a global competition to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon by December 31, 2015..

The three categories of Milestone Prizes are as follows, along with which teams are competing:

  • Landing System Milestone Prize: $1,000,000 per team – based on the hardware and software that enables a soft-landing on the moon (Astrobotic, Moon Express, Team Indus)
  • Mobility Subsystem Milestone Prize: $500,000 per team – based on the mobility system that allows the craft to move 500 meters after landing (Astrobotic, Moon Express, Hakuto, Part-Time-Scientists)
  • Imaging Subsystem Milestone Prize: $250,000 per team – based on producing “Mooncasts” consisting of high-quality images and video on the lunar surface (Astrobotic, Moon Express, Part-Time-Scientists, Team Indus)

In order to compete for the Milestone Prizes, teams had to submit documentation to the judging panel, defining the key technical risks they face and how they intend to retire them. Selected teams must now accomplish the milestones outlined in their submissions through testing and mission simulations under the scrutiny of the judges, in order to win the prizes. Teams have until September 2014 to complete the prize requirements and the winners will be announced on an ongoing basis throughout 2014.

“Every strategy presented to us was imaginative, forward-thinking and ambitious, which made it difficult to choose only a handful to proceed to the Accomplishment Round,” said David Swanson, chair of the Google Lunar XPRIZE judging panel. “As there are increasing fiscal constraints threatening the ability of governments to fund exploration, the need to recognize the bold technical achievements of these privately-funded teams is greater than ever.”

Competing for the Milestone Prizes is an optional part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Teams that chose not to participate in the Milestone Prizes are still eligible to win the Grand or Second Place Prizes. The prize money for the Milestone Prizes will be deducted from any future Grand or Second Place Prize winnings of that team. To accommodate the possibility of teams winning Milestone Prizes and not subsequently going on to win the Grand or Second Place Prize, Google has increased the maximum prize purse to $40 million.

XPRIZE is also considering additional Milestone Prizes for technical achievements after lift-off on the way to the moon, to be announced at a later date. For more details on the Milestone Prizes, please visit http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/prize-details/milestone-prizes.

About the Google Lunar XPRIZE:
The $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE is an unprecedented competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth. For more information, go to http://www.googlelunarxprize.org.

For more information:
Eric Desatnik, eric@xprize.org / (310) 741-4892

Media Inquires:
Heather Gordon, heather@finnpartners.com / (310) 552-4123

The Lunar X Prize Heats Up

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/moon-mars/the-lunar-x-prize-heats-up-16278801

A few teams have dropped out of the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, but many more are preparing for 2015 launch dates to send their landers to the moon.

Two years remain. The Google Lunar X Prize, inaugurated in 2007, challenges private companies to put a lander on the moon, maneuver on the lunar surface, and send back messages to Earth. The contest includes a $30 million prize, but the deed must be done by December 31, 2015. Today the X Prize Foundation announced that five teams are pulling out of the race to the moon. So, with so little time remaining, is any one team on track to win the prize?

There are still 18 teams in the running, and X Prize says that several of them have been making good progress toward the first private moon landing. Earlier this month Moon Express, a private company headquartered at the NASA Ames Research Park in Mountain View, Calif., unveiled its lunar lander, which will run on solar power and hydrogen peroxide-based fuel. They have already successfully demonstrated their software control system using NASA’s test platform. X Prize says that it can’t share the details of scheduled launches, but half the teams have shared their launch plans for 2015.

And though five teams have dropped out of the running, that doesn’t mean they’ve left the private space industry. In fact, some are still contributing to Lunar X Prize projects. California-based team Phoenicia, one of the last teams to enter the race, decided their efforts were better spent assisting other teams with launching their crafts into space. They’ll be helping their former competitor, the Penn State Lunar Lion Team, which have already reserved space on the payload delivery rack that was initially developed for Phoenicia’s X Prize attempt.

Others might be leaving the moon race, but they are using their tech to take on other projects in the space industry, says Lunar X Prize senior director Alexandra Hall. “I don’t really see this as a downer, actually,” Hall says. “One of the key goals is to stimulate the new space economy. That’s not just about landing on the moon. It’s about all facets: the technology and the supply chain.”

Hall says that another team to drop out of the competition, Team ARCA (which also competed for the Ansari X Prize to build a reusable manned spacecraft), have used their technology development to create a space industry in Romania. “They recently won a contract to test parachutes for the next Mars mission. They’ve become a force to be reckoned with,” she says. ARCA will be working with the European Space Agency to perfect the parachutes for ESA’s ExoMars 2016 mission.

Two other teams are leaving the competition to develop their technology for Earth-based initiatives. Team Selenokhod, based in Moscow, have already adapted their image-processing and navigation systems for use in warehouse-stacking vehicles. And the Baltimore-based Jurban Team withdrew from the race to enter another X Prize challenge: They will try to build a tricorder.

The fact that new technologies applicable on Earth as well as in space have already come out of the race to the moon means the prize competition is beginning to be a success. Many of today’s key technologies came out of NASA research and just found their way into society afterward. X Prize Foundation Founder Peter Diamandis, the winner of PopMech’s 2013 Breakthrough Leadership Award, talked to us earlier this year about how X Prize wants to encourage “intelligent risk-taking” in pursuit of a defined goal like visiting the moon. And even teams that don’t win the prize could stumble upon breakthrough technologies.

The Lunar X Prize will become even more heated in the next few months. For one thing, launch schedules need to be locked down about 18 months ahead of the 2015 prize deadline. And not all the remaining competitors will make it to the end. There were 26 teams still in contention for the Ansari X Prize when it was won—but by the final year only two were making headlines.

“By the time we get to 2015 I don’t think we’ll have 18 teams with launch contracts,” Hall says. “What’s fascinating right now is that it isn’t obvious who will win. There are many permutations and combinations with how this can end up.”

 

Once We Live On The Moon, We’ll Still Be Able To Eat Local

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3023077/futurist-forum/once-we-live-on-the-moon-well-still-be-able-to-eat-local

In 2015, NASA will plant the first moon garden–a tiny greenhouse filled with basil, turnips, and Arabidopsis, a small plant related to cabbage.

“This is fundamental biology,” says Bob Bowman, a research scientist for Lockheed Martin at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “Nobody has grown plants on the moon before. For that matter, no one’s done a live science experiment in deep space before. So we’re on the edge here trying to figure out how to do this.”

The seeds will hitch a ride with a commercial spacecraft to save the government money. Since Google is offering $20 million to the first company that can launch a robotic spacecraft to the moon (and successfully send back two “mooncasts” by the end of 2015), NASA plans to send the garden along with whichever company wins.

Because the moon has a lunar day equivalent to 28 Earth days–14 days of continuous sunlight followed by 14 days of continuous darkness–the first lunar garden won’t last very long. “That continuous darkness is devastating because it’s on the order of 150 degrees Fahrenheit below zero,” explains Bowman. “Our little experiment is going to land somewhere around dawn of the lunar daylight period. We only have 14 days before everything freezes rock solid.” They expect the garden will last four to six days, or perhaps stretch to all 14 days if they’re very lucky.

After the spacecraft’s lander makes it to the surface of the moon and sets up communications with Earth, the scientists can trigger a small reservoir of water to wet the seeds inside a small, sealed growth chamber. Filter paper inside the container provides nutrients, and the air sealed inside should keep the seeds alive as the natural sunlight on the moon triggers growth.

As the experiment goes along, NASA is inviting students to help them run controls back on Earth. Bowman says: “We envision having the pictures available in more or less real time, so students can tune in and see how the plants are doing today. Even if we fail, that’s a very valuable learning experience. It draws young people not just to watch, but actually to participate, and that’s the key element of it right there. They’re doing lunar research just like we are.”

Though the purpose of the moon garden is focused on the actual moon–to understand what lunar life might be possible, as a first step in perhaps sending people to live on the moon someday–Bowman says the results might also but useful for agriculture on Earth. Plants encounter stresses like drought and heat here on Earth, but on the moon, they’ll experience conditions that no living organism has ever encountered. “We’re looking at the fundamental aspects that control how plants grow,” Bowman says.

Mostly, Bowman is excited about the possibility to do something that’s never been done before and share it with students. “It’s cool to grow plants on the moon, what can I say,” he says. “I’m an old educator from a long time ago, and if you ask me why do I want to do this, I want to grow plants on the moon, but I also cherish the opportunity to hopefully encourage young minds to think about science.”

As China goes to the Moon, @xprize teams stay in the race

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2414/1

When the X PRIZE Foundation announced in September 2007 the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), there was considerable optimism at the time that the winner, whoever that might be, would be the next entity to soft-land a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon (see “Google’s moonshot”, The Space Review, September 17, 2007). The private sector seemed to be making great advances in spaceflight, as the earlier Ansari X PRIZE for suborbital spaceflight demonstrated, while national space agencies were proceeding much more slowly. Other than NASA’s own Vision for Space Exploration, which likely would have included a robotic lander as a precursor to a human lunar landing planned for no later than 2020, the most promising country was China. Yet, at the time the prize was announced, China was still a month away from launching its first lunar mission, the Chang’e-1 orbiter.

“The decision was made that the government landing penalty no longer served any useful purpose and it was removed,” Hall wrote of the provision that would have cut $5 million from the prize.

That optimism—or, perhaps in retrospect, irrational exuberance—has now all but disappeared. Barring a catastrophe in the next two weeks, China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft will land on the Moon later this month, most likely on December 14. That spacecraft carries a rover, officially named “Yutu” last week; the technical capabilities of the rover are not well known outside China, but it may well have the ability to go more than 500 meters from the lander, one of the key requirements of the prize.

Chang’e-3, of course, can’t win the prize: government organizations aren’t eligible. Nonetheless, the fact that, six years after the prize’s introduction, the first spacecraft that (at least in principle) could technically meet the prize’s requirements was built by a government space agency with access to significant national resources speaks to the difficulty of the challenge that the prize organizers may have greatly underestimated. But, even as the prize rules continue to be tweaked, a few teams remain active with the hope of following in the rover tracks of Chang’e-3 in the next couple of years.

Changing prize rules

When the X PRIZE Foundation announced the GLXP in 2007, one key aspect of the competition was the prize structure. The competition featured a first prize of $20 million, but only if a team won the competition by the end of 2012. Under the original rules, if no team won by the end of 2012, the prize decreased to $15 million through the end of 2014, at which time the prize expired. The original rules also included a $5-million second prize, to encourage teams to continue even after a team claimed the first prize (a flaw in the earlier Ansari X PRIZE), and assorted $1 million bonus prizes, bringing the total prize purse to $30 million.

The foundation changed the rules a few years ago, when it was clear that a winner by 2012, or even 2014, was unlikely. The $20-million grand prize would remain in place through 2015, but would be decremented to $15 million if a government mission got to the lunar surface first: an effort to provide a similar degree of schedule pressure as China’s lunar plans became clearer (see “The Google Lunar X PRIZE at five: can it still be won?”, The Space Review, October 1, 2012). Even that, though, failed to provide the impetus needed to get a private mission off the ground.

Last month, the X PRIZE Foundation announced another change in the prize structure for the GLXP. The “government landing penalty” that had been previously added is no longer in place, just weeks before the Chang’e-3 mission would have triggered it. “The decision was made that the government landing penalty no longer served any useful purpose and it was removed,” wrote Alex Hall, senior director of the GLXP, in a November 13 blog post.

Instead, the GLXP has added a series of “Milestone Prizes” designed to be awarded before any spacecraft is ready to go to the Moon. Up to $6 million of the overall prize purse will be awarded by the end of next September to teams that demonstrate certain developmental benchmarks. “These benchmarks require a showing (via actual testing and analysis) of robust hardware and software that will combat key technical risks in the areas of imaging, mobility and lander systems—all three being necessary to achieve a successful Google Lunar XPRIZE mission,” Hall wrote in a separate blog post last month.

Last year, Hall said that 2012 and 2013 would be “shakeup years” for the teams competing. And there has been a shakeout of sorts: teams have merged or dropped out of the competition, with the X PRIZE Foundation now currently counting only 22 active teams, down from a peak of about 30.

Under the revised prize structure, there will be up to four $250,000 prizes for teams that demonstrate imaging systems, up to four $500,000 prizes for mobility system demonstrations, and up to three $1-million prizes for landing systems. The prizes would be deducted from the first- or second-place prizes any of the teams won for achieving the overall goals of the competition.

The restructured prizes, Hall explained, are designed to help teams deal with the near-term challenges—particularly in funding—of developing lunar landers. “Recognizing and rewarding these milestones will not only help the competing teams by allowing them to access financing at a critical point in their mission timeline, but it will also raise public excitement and support for the teams,” she wrote.

Teams press ahead

That restructuring may address one of the criticisms that some teams had about the competition: that the foundation, or Google itself, was not doing enough to help teams in what turned out to be a more difficult than expected environment (see “Still eyeing the lunar prize”, The Space Review, August 8, 2011). Hall, in her blog posts, acknowledged that the 2008 financial crisis and resulting deep recession made it more difficult for teams to raise money, while NASA’s own space exploration policy shift away from the Moon in 2010 made it less likely the space agency would be a major customer, in terms of buying data or payload space, on these commercial landers.

Last year, Hall said that 2012 and 2013 would be “shakeup years” for the teams competing: if teams were serious about mounting a lunar lander mission by the end of 2015, they needed to make serious progress in those two years, including building hardware and making launch arrangements, in order to be ready to fly no later than 2015. And there has been a shakeout of sorts: teams have merged or dropped out of the competition, with the X PRIZE Foundationnow currently counting only 22 active teams, down from a peak of about 30. And many of those teams still officially active have made little public progress that would suggest that they would be ready to fly a lunar lander before the prize expires in 25 months.

A few teams, though, are still serious about pursuing the prize. Last week, one of those teams, Moon Express, carried out a test of its flight software using Mighty Eagle, a lunar lander testbed developed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The Moon Express software controlled Mighty Eagle as the vehicle took off using its hydrogen peroxide engine and flew to an altitude of three meters, hovering there for several seconds before landing.

“Our first goal as a company is just to land on the Moon,” Richards said of the first Moon Express mission, which could allow the company to claim the prize.

“Our collaboration with NASA has been exceptionally helpful, and our friends at Marshall Space Flight Center shared our enthusiasm today for an important step forward in our commercial lunar plans,” wrote Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express, in a blog post after the flight. That test, and earlier tethered tests of the vehicle using the company’s software, took place under a reimbursable Space Act Agreement, with Moon Express paying for the costs of the tests.

Richards has made it clear that Moon Express, while competing for the prize, has a business model that looks beyond simply winning the GLXP. In its long-term plans, the 2015 mission that would allow it to win the prize is just an initial technology demonstration mission. “Our first goal as a company is just to land on the Moon,” he said in a speech at the AIAA Space 2013 conference in San Diego in September. “That would be a great success for us. If we can actually prove some of our operations, serve some of our customers like Google, who want to see some video and some picture brought back, serve some of our other customers who want to send payloads to the Moon during a two-week first mission, that is even better.”

That demo mission would be followed by a mission for the International Lunar Observatory Association, who wants to fly a telescope to the south pole of the Moon that could be operated by the public. The third mission, he said, would be the “Holy Grail” of the company: a sample return mission that would fly between 2018 and 2020. “Everything that we’re doing as a company is building up this capability of being able to bring resources back,” Richards said. That mission, he said, would bring back about a kilogram of lunar materials, something he said would be both profitable and inspiration, and also establish legal precedents for the future utilization of lunar resources.

Moon Express, unlike most other GLXP teams, does have some wealthy backers, including entrepreneurs Naveen Jain and Barney Pell, who serve as the company’s chairman and vice-chairman, respectively. “We’ve been very fortunate at Moon Express to have great backing from our investors,” Richards said at Space 2013. “All the money isn’t in the bank; it never was and it was never intended to be. But it will be, provided the company continues to perform and meets its technical milestones.”

Moon Express is also raising money from others. Last month, Klee Irwin, a health food entrepreneur, announced he had made a “six-figure” investment in Moon Express. “I invested less for financial payoff and more to fund space science and assist in the expansion of Earth-based life and technology into the vast regions beyond Earth,” he said in a press release about the investment.

Moon Express’s emphasis on commercial missions beyond the GLXP is a very different focus than another team that’s made progress in recent months, the Penn State Lunar Lion Team. As the name suggests, the team is based at Penn State University (whose mascot is the Nittany Lion, hence the “Lunar Lion” name) and its Applied Research Laboratory, featuring a mix of lab engineers, university faculty, and students.

“I don’t see who’s going to win this if we don’t, given the position we’re in right now,” said Penn State Lunar Lion team leader Michael Paul.

Although a university-based team might seem to be at a disadvantage to commercial teams, the Lunar Lion team has achieved several milestones in recent months. In September, it announced a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) to test methane/liquid oxygen rocket engines developed at JSC that could be used for the Lunar Lion lander. The small engines—each generates about 90 newtons (20 pounds-force) of thrust—were designed for roll control, but team leader Michael Paul said in a September interview a cluster of them could serve as the descent engine for their lander.

Last month, the team announced it had paid a “launch reservation fee” for its mission. The team is working with Team Phoenicia, a company that originally signed up for the GLXP but dropped out the competition to focus instead on arranging secondary payload opportunities. Lunar Lion paid a $100,000 fee, although the total cost—and on which launch they would fly on—weren’t disclosed.

The university-based nature of Lunar Lion means different funding models, and also a different degree of transparency about those financing efforts, than commercial teams. Paul, speaking to university trustees last month, said they have raised more than one third of the estimated $60-million cost of the mission. Like many other, albeit more terrestrial, university projects, Lunar Lion is relying on donors, in the form of corporate sponsors and individual donors. Penn State itself is providing $8 million.

Paul, in a September interview, said that in addition to its pursuit of large individual and corporate donors, the team was considering a crowdfunding campaign to raise small amounts of money from larger numbers of people, and to connect with a broader audience as well. He acknowledged, though, there was no certainty they would have all the funding in hand in time to win the prize. “Fundraising takes a long time, and there’s always the risk that the end of 2015, the end of the prize, is going to come and go we’re not done,” he said.

However, he said the university is taking a big-picture view of the Lunar Lion effort, regardless of their ability to win the GLXP. “The university sees the value in what we’re doing so far beyond a $20-million endowment, which is what the prize would become when we win it,” he said. “The university sees the value in a research center at Penn State that is for leadership in space exploration, and that’s what we’re building at Penn State through this effort.”

Asked what he thought were the odds of winning the GLXP, Paul said it was difficult to measure their probability. “We’ve done everything that we can strategically to align ourselves with the best aerospace companies in the world, people of significant means, and the Penn State community at large, to make this a reality,” he said. “But I don’t see who’s going to win this if we don’t, given the position we’re in right now.”

It is, of course, possible that no one will win the prize purse before it finally expires at the end of 2015 (unless Google and the X PRIZE Foundation change the rules again.) But, if it stimulates companies like Moon Express and university labs like Lunar Lion, it still might be a success in the long run regardless of whom if anyone, gets that $20-million check.


Jeff Foust (jeff@thespacereview.com) is the editor and publisher of The Space Review. He also operates the Spacetoday.net web site and the Space Politics and NewSpace Journalweblogs. Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not represent the official positions of any organization or company, including the Futron Corporation, the author’s employer.

Recognizing Giant Leaps: Google Lunar XPRIZE Establishes Milestone Prizes (Op-Ed)

http://m.space.com/23503-google-lunar-xprize-milestone-prizes.html

Alexandra Hall, senior director of the Google Lunar XPRIZE, contributed this article to SPACE.com’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Back in 2007, building upon the successes of the Ansari XPRIZE for suborbital spaceflight and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, XPRIZE and Google launched the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the largest incentivized competition to date. The concept was easy to explain: land on the moon, move 500 meters and send back video, images and data. The prize requirements were conceived to demonstrate the minimum useful capability a spacecraft would need for future uses in space exploration and scientific research.

Thirty teams signed up for this audacious challenge by the close of registration in 2010 — three times as many as the initial concept study had suggested. Going back to the moon had clearly struck a chord!

This week, XPRIZE and Google announced a series of Milestone Prizes available to competing teams. The reason for introducing these prizes deserves a little background.

Over the past decade, XPRIZE has successfully launched and awarded a number of competitions, learning a great deal about what makes for optimum prize design. We’ve learned that success is more likely if we continue to keep our eye on the entire ecosystem surrounding a prize, and when we address any significant challenges to that ecosystem that may arise.

Given the large investment needed to send a robot to the moon, two elements of the Google Lunar XPRIZE ecosystem are critical: potential customers for the technology developed by teams, and investors to help create the businesses to leverage those markets. In both of these areas, much has changed since the Google Lunar XPRIZE was launched. The global economic downturn has reduced an already small pool of investors who are willing to take risks on pioneering new markets. This same downturn has also stagnated or reduced the budgets that governments — usually an early future customer — are willing to spend in space exploration (of note, NASA has changed its focus from going back to the moon to exploring asteroids ).

Two years ago, XPRIZE began a dialogue with teams to better understand the challenges that they were facing and to determine what steps we might take to better nurture and support this prize ecosystem. As a result, we determined that we needed to find a way to recognize and support the teams that were making substantial technical progress toward the requirements of the competition.

Hence the newly announced Milestone Prizes.

Within the next year, there are certain developmental milestones for flight-ready hardware that teams must pass in order to meet the mission requirements and be ready to launch by the deadline of Dec. 31, 2015.

Recognizing and rewarding these milestones will not only help the competing teams by allowing them to access financing at a critical point in their mission timeline, but it will also raise public excitement and support for the teams.

The Milestone Prizes are for demonstrating (via actual testing and analysis) robust hardware and software to combat key technical risks in the areas of imaging, mobility and lander systems — all three being necessary to achieve a successful Google Lunar XPRIZE mission. Teams will submit their proposals to our judging panel, which will select up to four proposals to monitor in each of the imaging and mobility subsystems, and three proposals for the lander system, for a total of 11 proposals. A team may have proposals selected in more than one area.

Provided the team successfully accomplishes the tasks described in their selected proposal in the timeframe agreed, they will win a Milestone Prize. The amounts are $250,000 for the Imaging Subsystem Milestone Prize (for up to 4 teams), $500,000 for the Mobility Subsystem Milestone Prize (for up to 4 teams), and $1 million for the Lander System Milestone Prize (for up to 3 teams), for a total purse of $6 million. The Milestone Prizes can be won through the end of September 2014.

With the introduction of these prizes, 2014 is looking to be a very exciting year for the Google Lunar XPRIZE with critical hardware and software testing and many great opportunities to recognize our teams and their significant achievements. While we cannot fix the global economic downturn, we can at least highlight the ways in which our teams are bringing us closer to a new era of private lunar exploration, taking us back to the moon, for good.

Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration

http://spaceref.biz/2013/07/dramatic-changes-to-google-lunar-x-prize-cash-prizes-under-consideration.html

The plans laid out in this draft document embody a radical departure from the current approach to awarding prizes i.e. one winner, one big prize with several smaller runner-up prizes. Now, multiple teams will be able to get even smaller cash prizes for efforts already completed or near completion – but far short of actually sending a mission to land on the Moon.

If approved, this approach would help inject some much needed cash into the coffers of several competitors. No word yet on whether this plan will be formally adopted or when it will be adopted but a quick turn around time for comments suggests that there is an interest in getting these new rules in place soon.

Editor’s note: This document has been widely circulated among several hundred people inside and outside of the Google Lunar X Prize community for several weeks. No markings were placed on this document to note that it is either confidential or proprietary. Indeed, the cover memo encouraged its wider distribution for review and comment.

Google Lunar X Prize Milestone Prizes Guidelines Draft v0.3 July 10, 2013

Download full document

1 Overview

1.1 Scope

This guidelines document describes a number of milestone prizes that have been established within the framework of the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP). It will form the basis for a requirements document for the Milestone Prizes upon review and decision by the GLXP Judging Panel.

1.2 Objectives

The objectives of the Milestone Prizes are the following:

- Helping teams get past difficult technical milestones on their way to winning the GLXP Grand and Second Place prizes

- Strengthening teams’ business plans by bringing forward some of the prize money for teams that retire key risks

- Provide major public relations opportunities to strengthen awareness of the team and Prize as a whole

The Milestone Prizes have been defined to reward teams for verifiable technical steps, most of which they would anyway need to accomplish whilst preparing or executing their GLXP missions, thus requiring minimal additional work on the part of the teams.

The subsystem designs developed and verified for the Terrestrial Milestone Prizes (see below) are also expected to be useful for future space missions after the GLXP.

1.3 Types of Milestone Prizes

The following Milestone Prizes are available:

- Camera Milestone Prize – $750,000 per team for up to 4 teams

- Mobility Milestone Prize – $750,000 per team for up to 4 teams

- Launch Milestone Prize – $7,000,000 purse split (using a % of launch cost formula with a cap) between teams making the earliest successful launches

- Lunar Arrival Milestone Prize – $1,000,000 for first team to reach a specified distance from the moon

The first two prizes are for technical verification of the respective subsystems (camera or mobility) needed to complete the GLXP mission requirements. These two types of Milestone Prizes will be available prior to launch of the team’s GLXP mission and shall be collectively referred to as the “Terrestrial Milestone Prizes”. There is no obligation to award a specific number of Terrestrial Milestone Prizes in either category (camera or mobility).

The latter two prizes shall be collectively referred to as the “In-Space Milestone Prizes”. The Camera Milestone Prize also includes a complete simulation of the GLXP Mooncasts (both “Arrival” and “Mission Complete”) in addition to the technical verification of the camera system’s design.

1.4 Milestone Prizes Schedule and Validity

The Terrestrial Milestone Prizes will consist of two rounds as follows:

- Terrestrial Milestone Definition Round: August 1st – December 31st, 2013

- Terrestrial Milestone Accomplishment Round: January 1st – June 30th, 2014

Extension of the Milestone Definition Round or Milestone Accomplishment Round is at the discretion of the Judging Panel. The In-Space Milestone Prizes will be available during any GLXP mission that is on track for completion by the end of December 2015 (or “Termination Date”).

1.5 Who Can Participate?

The Milestone Prizes are open to all registered and eligible GLXP teams. Refer to MTA Section 3.2 for more information about eligibility.

Each registered and eligible GLXP team can compete in one or both of the Terrestrial Milestone Prizes – Camera and Mobility.

All teams become automatically eligible for the In-Space Milestone Prizes upon XPRIZE’s acceptance of the corresponding team’s Notification of Launch Attempt.

Download full document

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Google Lunar X Prize Proposing New Cash Prizes to Help Struggling Teams

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/07/glxp-new-prizes/

Teams struggling to raise money to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize may get an influx of cash from proposed new prizes worth a combined $14 million.

The Lunar X Prize, established in 2007, offers $20 million to the first private team to land a robot on the moon, have it travel 500 meters, and send pictures and video. They have until 2015 to do this, and the prize drops to $15 million if a government entity reaches the moon first, something China expects to do later this year. There also is a $5 million second-place prize. Google is putting up the money, and the competition is organized by the X Prize foundation, which previously held a contest to produce a private suborbital rocket for tourism that was won by SpaceShipOne.

Alas, things aren’t going as well as the X-Prize folks had originally hoped, so they’re considering offering additional prizes. This could include $750,000 each for as many as four teams that present completed designs, power consumption plans, navigation, hardware, and operational details on how they’ll complete the mission. A similar prize could be awarded to as many as four teams that complete designs for a camera subsystem and create a video with realistic mockups or simulations showing their probe’s lunar mission.

But wait. There’s more. The new prizes could include a $7 million purse divvied up among the first teams to successfully launch. And one last suggestion is to pay $1 million to the first team to get within 500 kilometers of the lunar surface.

draft document with the proposed changes was published online Wednesday by Parabolic Arc, a website devoted to commercial space news. The document notes the new rewards include things that teams “would anyway need to accomplish whilst preparing or executing their GLXP missions.”

According the NASA Watch, which also keeps tabs on commercial space activity, the draft proposalhas been circulating for weeks inside and outside the GLXP community. X Prize spokesman Eric Desatnik told WIRED the document is still in draft form and the foundation is exploring a range of ideas for augmenting the prize.

This would not be the first time that competition rules have been changed. The original plan was to award a winner in 2012, but that date was pushed back when teams didn’t show enough progress. There has once again been skepticism that any team could actually win the prize, especially with the new deadline to secure a rocket launch swiftly approaching. Though 2015 is a ways away, launches typically are scheduled two years in advance, meaning any team without a secured place on a rocket by the end of this year is probably out of luck.

NASA Watch’s Marc Boucher suggested the changes, if implemented, “could energize a competition which seemingly has stalled.”

There are around 23 teams left in the competition. Though many have secured funding, Boucher notes that none of the teams has raised all the money needed to launch and land a robot. Many of the smallest teams have struggled to get even a fraction of what they need. The cost of such a mission has been estimated to cost between $60 and $100 million.

Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express, one of the teams competing in the Lunar X Prize, welcomed the proposed changes.

“It’s a long way to the moon, and the Google Lunar X Prize is largest X Prize challenge of all time, so providing some prize incentives for early milestones is helpful to the competitors,” he wrote in an email.