X Prize $30 million private race to the moon is on

X Prize gets 29 teams to compete for $30 million in prizes to get to moon

The master competition masters at X Prize Foundation are at it again.  Today the group announced the 29 international teams that will compete for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, the competition to put a robot on the moon by 2015.

To win the money, 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.   The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million.

Teams are also eligible to win a $1 million award for stimulating diversity in the field of space exploration and as much as $4 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks such as moving ten times as far, surviving the frigid lunar night, or visiting the site of a previous lunar mission, according to the X Prize folks.

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Some of the teams in the contest aren't just along for the ride. A number of them already have contracts with NASA and other space companies such as Space X.  For example, one company,  Astrobotic Technology, has a contract with SpaceX, for a launch on board a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch, targeted to take place in late 2013, will send Astrobotic's robotic lander and rover towards the surface of the Moon, where the team hopes it will explore the lunar surface and send back HD, 3D footage.

Astrobotic also has a NASA contract, along with fellow competitors Moon Express and the Rocket City Space Pioneers.

Some of the other teams (for a full team list go here):

ARCA: Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association which is based in Valcea, Romania and led by Dumitru Popescu, ARCA was also a contender in the Ansari X Prize. Two of ARCA's most innovative projects to date have been the Demonstrator 2B rocket and Stabilo, a two-stage manned suborbital air-launched vehicle. The craft they plan to enter will be called the "European Lunar Explorer."

FREDNET: Headed by Fred J. Bourgeois III, this multi-national team is comprised of systems, software, and hardware developers who serve as the leaders and overall coordinators of an international group of Open Source developers, engineers, and scientists. Their goal is to bring the same successful approach used in developing major software systems (such as the Internet, and Linux) to bear on the problems associated with space exploration and research.

Jurban: The Juxtopia Group is a non-profit research organization that was started in 2000. Its mission is to improve human learning performance with science and technology that adapts to individual learning needs, enhances cognitive performance, and augments human learning capabilities anytime, anywhere, at any-pace, and for anyone. The group focuses its mission on underserved and disadvantaged populations to expose and significantly increase their science, technology, engineering, and math proficiency through empirically researched interventions.

Penn State lunar Lion: The Penn State Lunar Lion mission wants to send a single machine that acts as a  spacecraft, lander and rover.  According to the team: A commercial launch vehicle will inject the Lunar Lion on to its trajectory to the Moon where the Lion's main engine will place the vehicle on a direct approach to the moon. The same engine will provide the necessary thrust for course corrections and landing. After touchdown and transmission of the first mooncast, the Lion's engine will lift the vehicle into a low flight path to a second landing 500 meters (about a third of a mile) away.

Euroluna: The European Lunar Exploration Association (Euroluna) team is a group of friends and relatives with engineering backgrounds who have gathered to compete for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. The team, whose ages span from 16-60, is headquartered in Denmark, with members in Switzerland and Italy. The background of the team spans most of the necessary technical disciplines, from software, through chemical and mechanical engineering, over risk assessment to business administration. According to the team, the members have been discussing moon rovers and lunar bases for at least 10 years now.

Selene: Team Selene was the first Google Lunar X PRIZE team from China. The team is led by Markus Bindhammer, a German-born inventor who lives in Shanghai. Bindhammer's goal is to create a team of young and motivated Chinese students or graduates in mathematics, physics and aerospace engineering. The team's strategy is to create a rover based around the idea of a rocket-car, which they will name LuRoCa 1 (Lunar Rocket Car 1). They are exploring the possibility of launching with SpaceX, but will also look into opportunities with Chinese launch providers.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8   

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