1. What are the objectives of the Google Lunar XPRIZE?
The Google Lunar XPRIZE aims to:
- Foster a NewSpace economy of innovation and entrepreneurship through low-cost, efficient access to the Moon.
- Use the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams’ moonshots to inspire and engage citizens around the world with science, technology and innovation.
2. Why is it important to explore the Moon?
The Google lunar XPRIZE aims to stimulate affordable access to the Moon in order to:
- Open up valuable lunar resources for the benefit of humanity.
- Develop a permanent human settlement and create a staging post for missions to Mars and beyond.
- Carry out science on the surface of the Moon and in lunar orbit.
2.1 What resources are available on the Moon?
The Moon is rich in resources, including oxygen, rare metals, water-ice and helium. If these resources could be processed on the lunar surface, they could provide building materials, power and even life-support systems needed for a permanent human colony on the Moon and for a base to launch missions to explore Mars and beyond.
Any astronauts inhabiting a future Moon base will need to be able to breathe. Oxygen, in the form of silicates and metal oxides, makes up as much as 40% of the lunar soil. As well as being used for life support, oxygen mined from lunar soil and water in lunar craters can provide a source of rocket fuel: liquid oxygen, when combined with hydrogen, is efficient and clean propellant for spacecraft.
Recent missions, such as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, India’s Chandrayaan-1 and the European Space Agency’s SMART-1, have mapped the chemical composition of the Moon’s surface in detail and revealed a treasure-trove of rare metals within the lunar rocks.
Some rocks on the Moon contain as much as ten times more titanium than rocks on Earth. The lunar crust is also richer in iron, magnesium and calcium than Earth. Future miners living and working on the Moon could extract these metals and other materials to build infrastructure on the Moon, as well as spacecraft to explore the solar System.
Water ice has been found in significant quantities in craters at the Moon’s poles that are permanently in deep shadow. The ice could provide drinking-water and irrigation for food production in a future Moon base. It could also be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen for life support and rocket fuel.
2.2 Do you really expect to find water on the Moon?
Yes. In 2009, data from India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission showed that a thin film of water is bonded into the top few millimeters of soil across the entire lunar surface. This comes from hydrogen nuclei from the solar wind (a stream of charged particles thrown out from the Sun’s atmosphere) reacting with oxygen in lunar minerals.
Later that same year, NASA’s LCROSS mission sent a probe crashing into a crater at the Moon’s south pole that had been protected from sunlight for billions of years. The cloud of debris thrown up in the impact included dust, water vapor and particles of pure water ice. Scientists estimate that there are at least 600 million metric tons of water-ice in these dark craters at the lunar poles – potentially enough to support a substantial Moon base.
2.3 Is it worth mining the Moon?
The commercial viability of retrieving lunar resources and bringing them back to Earth remains a matter of debate. However, lunar resources processed and utilized on the Moon could be of infinite value as humanity strives to move beyond the confines of planet Earth and explore Mars and beyond.
The Moon has only one-sixth of Earth’s gravity and no atmosphere, so a launch from the lunar surface requires much less energy than from Earth and is not subject to aerodynamic restrictions. Many people believe that the Moon is an essential staging post for exploration of Mars and beyond into the outer Solar System. The large, complex spacecraft needed to protect and support humans on long-duration missions could be built and launched from the Moon more affordably than launching components from the Earth and assembling them in orbit. Refueling in lunar orbit could also have technical and economic advantages.
Current mission concepts, from commercial as well as governmental organizations, envisage the capture of an asteroid into a stable orbit in the vicinity of the Moon. A crew from an inhabited base on the Moon could then rendezvous with the asteroid for mining or exploration purposes.
Several of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams state lunar mining as one of their long-term goals.
2.4 Could Helium-3 mined from the Moon provide a source of power?
Some people believe that Helium-3, a rare isotope of helium, could be suitable for generating energy in a fusion reactor. Small quantities of helium-3 may be present on the Moon, carried by the solar wind over millennia from the helium-rich Sun’s atmosphere and embedded in the lunar regolith.
However, the average concentration of helium-3 in lunar soil is about four parts per billion. To provide the amount of helium-3 needed to power reactors for just one year could involve strip-mining lunar regolith over hundreds of square-kilometers to a depth of a few meters! There is also some uncertainty as to whether fusion reactions using helium-3 could be made to work in practice, and development would probably take at least 20-30 years. Given the costs and energy required to gather the helium-3, and as lunar helium-3 is not a renewable resource, it is probably more effective to invest in other forms of energy.
2.5 What are the scientific reasons for exploring the Moon?
The lunar surface is very old – most of it dates back 3.5 billion years, with some areas originating from just after the Moon was formed, 4.5 billion years ago. This surface, which has been bombarded for billions of years by asteroids, comets and the solar wind, is a unique record of the history of the solar system – from the period of intense collisions soon after the Moon was formed through to the more constant flux of impacts we see in the present day.
The origin of the Earth and its Moon remains something of a mystery. Most scientists believe that the Moon was formed in a collision between the proto-Earth and a Mars-sized object, which blasted a cloud of material into orbit around Earth that gradually coalesced to form the Moon. However, recent analysis of lunar rocks shows that they have uncannily similar isotope ratios – chemical ‘fingerprints’ that give clues to where objects formed in the early solar system – to Earth for several elements, including oxygen and titanium. Unless both the Moon’s “parents” had exactly the same make-up (which is almost impossible as the Earth incorporated material from numerous collisions in its early history), it’s hard to explain why the Moon rocks match those from Earth so precisely. Possible scenarios are that the Moon formed a little later than thought, around 95 million years after the birth of the solar system – this timing affects the way that material was distributed between the Moon and our planet after the impact and how much of the impactor was soaked up by the Earth’s molten core – or that the collision was faster and more energetic than originally predicted. However, there are still gaps in our knowledge as we try to explain all of the evidence gathered to date.
The newly-formed Moon is thought to have been covered by a magma ocean hundreds of kilometers deep, which cooled over time to form a crust, mantle and core. However, global maps of the Moon shows that there are very significant geological and physical differences between the side of the Moon that we see from Earth and the far side. The dark ‘mare’ on the near-side of the Moon that give us the “Man in the Moon” features are regions of solidified basaltic rock formed around 3.9-3.1 billion years ago through ancient volcanic eruptions that flooded large impact basins with lava. The far side of the Moon is almost completely free of mare, possibly due to a thicker crust and lower quantities of radioactive, heat-producing elements under the surface. The far side is scarred by the 2,500 kilometer diameter South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system. The seismometers placed on the Moon’s surface by the Apollo astronauts were not sensitive enough to get a detailed understanding of the lunar interior. We could learn more about the Moon’s interior and evolution by placing modern seismometer instruments and heat flow measuring devices on its surface.
The Moon’s surface appears to show evidence of a period of unusually intense impacting around 4 billion years ago. However, there is controversy as to whether this happened in a short space of time or over several hundred million years. The ‘lunar cataclysm’ hypothesis has big implications for understanding when life might have started to emerge on Earth and how quickly it evolved. If the Earth’s surface solidified earlier than the oldest terrestrial rocks suggest, and was subsequently re-melted during the cataclysm, then life might have evolved sooner than we thought… and survived… or been destroyed… or have arisen multiple times… The only way that we will ever know for sure is by studying the evidence locked in the crater record and rocks of the Moon’s surface.
Much of our detailed analysis of the Moon is based on the limited supply of lunar rocks that we have on Earth – the 382 kg (842 lb) collected by the Apollo astronauts, 0.32 kg (0.7 lb) of samples returned by the Soviet Luna missions and about 190 meteorites that have been identified as having a lunar origin. A new era of lunar exploration by robotic and human missions could vastly augment that data-set, giving us a much better understanding of the lunar surface and solve the mysteries of how the Moon formed and whether the lunar cataclysm occurred once and for all.
Future human missions to the Moon will provide an opportunity to gain experience of how humans can live and work on a planetary surface, before we attempt a manned mission to Mars. There are currently nine health-risks rated as unacceptable that would face a crew of astronauts undertaking a 3-year mission to Mars. These include osteoporosis and reduced muscle strength, microgravity-induced visual impairment, radiation exposure, toxicity from the spacecraft environment, as well as risks to behavioral and nutritional health, lack of adequate medical care and response to emergency situations. Establishing a lunar base inhabited by crews for six-month missions would help us understand how the human body reacts to that environment and how we might mitigate some of those risks and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.
Finally, the Moon is a dark, stable, radio-quiet place, with only the most tenuous atmosphere, so could provide a vantage point for astronomical observations. Radio telescope arrays on the Moon could detect the faint, highly-redshifted light from the very earliest structures formed in the universe. The Moon’s low gravity also offers opportunities to build big, exotic structures, such as a telescope at the lunar pole with a spinning, liquid mirror,100-meters in diameter, which could offer extremely deep observations of a small patch of the sky.
Google Lunar XPRIZE team, Moon Express, plans to deliver a 7-centimeter optical telescope to the lunar surface on its mission as a precursor for future missions by the International Lunar Observatory Association.
2.6 How will the Google Lunar XPRIZE speed up lunar exploration?
The aim of the Google Lunar XPRIZE is to create a whole new economy around low-cost access to the Moon. Teams like Moon Express and Omega Envoy intend to build a business around creating a delivery service between the Earth and the lunar surface, opening up the Moon’s resources to humanity. The need for this commercial access to support future human lunar missions is cited in the Global Exploration Roadmap, which has been put together by 12 space agencies around the world, including NASA, ESA, ISRO and JAXA.
Teams Astrobotic and Hakuto are aiming to use their Google Lunar XPRIZE missions to explore caves on the Moon. Recent high-resolution images from lunar orbiters show evidence of lava tubes that formed billions of years ago when the Moon was volcanically active. In 2008, the Japanese mission, Kayuga, discovered ‘skylights’ or entrances to lava-tubes that had suffered cave-ins. These underground cavities are of particular interest in planning future human missions to the Moon because the shelter provided by caves could protect future astronauts from dangerous levels of radiation, particularly during solar storms. Exploring and mapping these caves will help us plan humanity’s return to the Moon and permanently-inhabited lunar bases for the future.
3. How does the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition work and what is the timeline?
- The US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the largest international incentive based prize of all time, is a race to land the first privately funded spacecraft on the Moon.
- In order to win this money, a privately funded company must land safely on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters above, below, or on the lunar surface and send back two “Mooncasts” to Earth.
- Teams that complete the basic mission requirements may also compete for Bonus Prizes such as exploring lunar artifacts or surviving the lunar night.
- Teams can also be awarded prize money earlier by completing certain technical milestones before their launch. All of this must be completed by December 31, 2015.
3.1 How can incentivized prizes accelerate the development of science and technology?
Incentivized prizes can motivate the best minds to solve a problem. Everyone likes a competition and wants to finish first! Having a large number of people simultaneously focus on one issue enables a community to be created, ideas to be shared and discussed, and issues to be identified. XPRIZE believes prizes need to be bold enough to inspire, but not so bold that they are unachievable. Prizes also have the desirable characteristic of liberating a lot of financial resources, often with net worth multiple times the prize value.
3.2 Who is competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE?
At XPRIZE, we believe that no one nation, gender, age group, or profession has a monopoly on creativity or intelligence. Incentive prizes like the Google Lunar XPRIZE work in large part because they generate broad, international interest, especially from groups and individuals not traditionally thought of as important players in that sector or industry. Accordingly, we have welcomed teams and team members from anywhere in the world, and have allowed our teams to build and structure themselves to compete. New partnerships have formed from small associations, universities, and companies both within and outside of the traditional aerospace sector, bringing fresh ideas and innovation to the challenges associated with the prize. As the prize reaches its conclusion, we expect that the Google Lunar XPRIZE will encourage new groups to start thinking about space travel and exploration missions, inspired by the role models of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams.
To ensure that the Google Lunar XPRIZE results in financially sustainable lunar exploration, governments are prohibited from participating directly in the competition and from being the primary financiers of teams. However, we fully support government-led lunar exploration and we know that civil space agencies are likely to be customers of our Google Lunar XPRIZE teams; indeed, in many cases, this is already taking place. You can learn about all of the competing teams by visiting “The Teams” section of this website.
3.3 How much will teams spend to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE?
Three centuries of history have shown that teams competing to win incentive prizes often spend more than the prize value itself. Teams in competitions such as the Orteig Prize, the Ansari XPRIZE, and the DARPA Grand Challenges have spent as much as 5 times the prize purse value to fund their entries, and expenditures of 2.5 times the prize purse value by individual teams are relatively common. We expect that teams pursuing the Google Lunar XPRIZE will follow these historical trends. A broad range of team expenditures — from as low as $15 million to as high as $100 million — are expected. Past prizes have shown the best-funded teams do not necessarily win the prize, however. We look forward to learning from our teams as they pioneer new methods to raise money and to trim costs for a lunar mission.
3.4 When will the Google Lunar XPRIZE end?
The Google Lunar XPRIZE closes on December 31, 2015. The Google Lunar XPRIZE is a ‘first to demonstrate’ competition — meaning that teams can launch their missions at the date and time of their choosing before the deadline. The first team to successfully complete the Google Lunar XPRIZE mission will be awarded the Grand Prize. If a team has not completed the full challenge of soft-landing on the Moon, moving 500 meters across the lunar surface, as well as send back video and images, then they cannot win the prize. We believe launches will occur in the second half of 2015.
3.5 How will teams get their spacecraft to the Moon?
Teams are welcome to get to the Moon in any manner of their choosing within the rules of the competition. For most teams, the journey from the Earth to the Moon can be divided into three steps: 1) launch from the surface of the Earth to Earth orbit, 2) transfer from an Earth orbit to a lunar orbit; and 3) descend from a lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon. Although some of our teams are planning to design and use their own launch vehicle, many others are planning on purchasing a launch on a commercial vehicle. Teams will then use a combination of custom-built systems, innovative designs and commercially available components to reach lunar orbit and soft-land on the Moon.
3.6 How will teams travel 500 meters on the Moon?
The rules of the Google Lunar XPRIZE do not restrict the teams in how they choose to travel 500 meters: they can rove, hop, roll, fly or burrow their way across the lunar surface, so long as they achieve the required distance. While the majority of teams are preparing wheeled rovers, Moon Express, Penn State and Space IL all plan to ‘hop’ the 500 meters by touching down, taking off again and landing a second time. SpaceMETA is developing an inflatable ball that will roll along, propelled by a shape-memory alloy spring. As well as a wheeled rover, Team Italia is developing robots that can crawl spider-like across the lunar regolith on six legs.
3.7 What are the Arrival and Mission Complete Mooncasts?
Each team is expected to relay two videos, or Mooncasts, back to Earth to confirm that they have landed on the Moon and completed their mission requirements. These videos should be eight minutes in length and meet prize specifications.
Because the videos will be in high-definition, the imagery sent back from Google Lunar XPRIZE teams will be much different than the video transmitted during the Apollo landings. Although any initial imagery, sent soon after landing, will be lower resolution, once the spacecraft has had time to send the much larger recorded high-definition files, people will have the opportunity to watch them and feel like they are personally experiencing the mission, even if it’s from the comfort of their home computer. We are very excited that everyone will be able to share the experience at the same time, all around the world and feel proud of whichever team gets to the Moon.
3.8 How many of the Bonus Prizes can teams win?
The Moon-based Bonus Prizes are only open to the Grand Prize or Second Prize winning teams and comprise a purse of US$4 million. The prizes range in value from US$4 million (for the Apollo Heritage Bonus, awarded for completing a Mooncast showing Apollo artifacts on the lunar surface, and the Water Detection Bonus Prizes), through US$2 million (for the Range Bonus, awarded for travelling more than 5 kilometers, and the Survival Bonus, awarded for remaining operational following the lunar night) to US$1 million (for the Heritage Bonus, awarded for completing a Heritage Mooncast showing evidence of previous non-Apollo missions). Once prizes to the value of $4 million have been claimed, either as a single award (for the Apollo or Water Detection Bonus), or through a combination of the Range, Survival or Heritage Bonuses, the purse will expire.
The Diversity Award will be open to any team competing at the time of judging, whether or not they have won other prizes.
3.9 Is there a risk that by attempting the Apollo and the Heritage Bonus Prizes that teams might damage historic artifacts on the Moon, such as the Apollo 11 lunar module?
Any team attempting the Apollo or the Heritage Bonus Prize must submit a plan for what site it plans to image and how it plans to capture such imagery or video. The plan must then be approved by the Judging Panel, who will, among other considerations, review the potential impact of plan according to NASA’s “Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Lunar Artifacts.”
3.8 What are the Milestone Prizes?
The Milestone Prizes recognize teams’ achievements in developing technology required to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE. This interim step will release $6 million funding from the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE purse to help teams complete their mission to the Moon before 31 December 2015. Milestone Prize finalists must convince a judging panel of nine international experts that their technology, described in the initial submission round, works in practice.
Five international teams have been selected as finalists for Google Lunar XPRIZE Milestone Prizes:
- Imaging Subsystem Prize - $250,000
- Astrobotic (US), Moon Express (US), Part Time Scientists (Germany), Team Indus (India)
- Mobility Subsystem Prize - $500,000
- Astrobotic, Moon Express, Hakuto (Japan), Part Time Scientists
- Lander System - $1 million
- Astrobotic, Moon Express, Team Indus
Judges will attend demonstrations of teams’ hardware and technical reviews though September 2014. Winners will be announced on an ongoing basis.
Any Milestone Prize money awarded to a team will be deducted from any subsequent Grand or Second Prize winnings. Teams that do not win a Grand or Second Place Prize will keep their Milestone Prize winnings. There is also a possibility that a team not selected to compete for Milestone Prizes could still go on to win Grand or Second Place Prize, so that the overall prize purse could exceed the US$30 million; in this case, Google has guaranteed that the Prize Purse will be increased to cover any shortfall.
3.9 Why were Milestone Prizes introduced into the Google Lunar XPRIZE two years before the prize deadline?
Google Lunar XPRIZE is not just about getting back to the Moon; it’s also about kick-starting a new era of private lunar exploration and opening up a new space economy. We introduced the new prizing structure to reward the work the likelihood of success as we go into the final two years of the competition. The Milestone Prizes will further incentive the teams to develop advanced systems that can support future lunar missions.
XPRIZE has learned through operating other recent prizes that the key to teams having success in raising funds and making progress is recognition of significant achievements, or milestones. Other prizes that we are currently running all include intermediate steps that provide a showcase for external audiences, including possible future customers, investors and other stakeholders, to see that progress is being made toward the prize. This increases the credibility of the prize and helps teams.
As the Google Lunar XPRIZE was already in process, we needed to find a way to provide some recognition steps while still maintaining the overall rules and prize purse. Devising prizes that would fit within the existing development milestones and timeframe was the solution.
3.10 Are the Milestone Prizes a leader board for the teams competing?
Participation in the Milestone Prizes was optional and not all Google Lunar XPRIZE teams chose to submit proposals. Thus, the list of Milestone Prize Finalists cannot be considered a down-selection or leader board for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The Google Lunar XPRIZE is still open to any of the 18 teams competing.
However, the five teams that were selected for monitoring in the accomplishment round have received a boost in credibility and added visibility that could ultimately help them secure vital financial support from investors. These incentives will most likely lead to further mergers and collaborations between teams, and the emergence of the ‘front-runners’ in the competition.
3.11 Did you remove the government landing penalty in response to the Chinese landing?
No. In 2012, XPRIZE recognized that the circumstances that led to government landing penalty being originally included within the rules had been superseded. When the Google Lunar XPRIZE was launched in 2007, NASA was planning a human return to the Moon, which would most likely have required robotic precursor missions in the timeframe of the competition. The penalty was included to push the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams to complete their missions in advance of NASA’s, thus feeding into NASA’s efforts rather than deriving from them. NASA subsequently decided to change emphasis away from lunar exploration, rendering the rational for the government landing penalty redundant.
It was not removed earlier because any change to rules of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition requires a new legal agreement to be signed with all teams. As the Milestone Prizes were also being planned at this time, which also required a new legal agreement, XPRIZE decided to wait so that both changes could be included in the new contract.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE views any government launch to the Moon, including China’s recent Chang’e 3 mission, as a good thing. It demonstrates that there are potential customers for private industry (government space agencies, researchers, etc.) and it reawakens interest in the Moon.
3.12 Where did you source your judges and why do you think they are willing to serve?
The Judging Panel consists of nine thought leaders and industry experts from across the globe with expertise in astronautics, space physics, robotics and space project management. As a member of the Judging Panel, judges will assist in a variety of integral duties including monitoring the teams’ progress in the Milestone Prizes, verifying team launch agreements, payload and mobility plans as well as examining data to confirm mission completion. A trusted asset to the Google Lunar XPRIZE, the Judging Panel is responsible for reviewing competition guidelines and requirements in addition to offering technical advice to the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
The Judging Panel includes:
- David Swanson, senior director for Safety and Mission Assurance and Orbital Sciences Corporation (chairman)
- Elisabeth Morse, space mission systems engineer (vice-chair)
- Alan Wells, vice president of the Network of European Regions using Space Technology (vice-chair)
- John Jay Kurtz, engineering manager at General Dynamics Robotic Systems
- Dr. Derek Lang, space industry consultant
- Dr. Charles Reynerson, industry expert in all phases of space missions
- Derek Webber, director at Spaceport Associates and author
- Professor John Zarnecki, space science professor and researcher at Open University (UK) and part-time chair at the Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics
- Bérengère Houdou, head of the Lunar Exploration Office at the European Space Agency (ESA)
The panel is willing to serve and judge the competition because of their enthusiasm and commitment to goals of the Prize.
(Note: Judges will receive modest stipends commensurate with their efforts and experience so we cannot call them volunteers)
3.13 What are the overarching characteristics you see in competing teams?
While the teams are incredibly diverse in age and experience, among all of our team members we see a shared passion for exploration, a willingness to collaborate, and a shared dream to create a vibrant space economy.
Almost universally, teams believe that success for any one of them is success for all of them because it validates their business cases and models as well as demonstrates that what they are pursuing is achievable.
3.14 Do you expect more teams to drop out of the competition?
As it is the case with most XPRIZEs, teams drop out through the course of competing for various reasons. Teams may merge with another team, lose funding, and/or violate competition guidelines. While it is our hope, we do not expect every team to cross the finish line. We design our competitions to be audacious, yet achievable.
3.15 What happens if no one achieves mission complete by the end of 2015/the prize termination date? Would you still consider the competition a success?
Absolutely! The Google Lunar XPRIZE has already achieved some outstanding successes in stimulating private space entrepreneurship in countries where previously this did not exist. Further, there has been substantial investment in technologies being developed by teams and some teams have even spun off and sold these technologies.
If the prize is not won by the end of 2015, we still expect one or more of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams to eventually launch, and the prize will have dramatically bought forward the timescale of private lunar exploration.
Furthermore, the most important goal of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition from the onset has been encouraging innovation of new space technologies that will ultimately create a revolution in space exploration. We want to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and space explorers to continue the mission and lead us into a new era of space exploration. Landing of the first privately owned craft on the Moon is the next giant leap in space exploration, but it’s certainly not the last. The Moon is a stepping stone to the rest of our solar system, and by reaching it we will demonstrate private industry’s ability to achieve low-cost planetary space exploration, ultimately leading to more opportunities for scientific research, exploration and jobs.
4. How does Google Lunar XPRIZE fit in with government efforts to explore our Solar System?
- We view the Google Lunar XPRIZE and the efforts of our teams as complementary to, rather than competitive with, government space agencies.
- The Global Exploration Roadmap, a coordinated vision for human and robotic exploration of our solar system developed by 12 of the world’s space agencies in 2013, includes commercially available logistic services to the lunar surface as a key part of its scenario for future human lunar surface missions.
4.1 What is the working relationship between these privately funded teams and government space organizations?
We believe the world benefits when the unique strengths of both government-led and industry-led programs are both being brought to bear on the challenging yet rewarding field of space exploration. XPRIZE has a legacy of opening the playing field for innovators to bring new insights to the technical requirements that governments mainly have managed in the past.
NASA, the European Space Agency, and other space agencies around the world stand to be some of the most obvious near-term beneficiaries of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. It is expected that the advancements made by the teams competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE will allow NASA and other space agencies to save money and expand the capabilities of their future robotic and human missions to the Moon. Indeed, this has already begun to happen – in 2010, NASA awarded contracts to six companies, including five teams competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, as part of its Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data program, through which NASA purchased technical data resulting from industry efforts to develop vehicle capabilities and demonstrate robotic lunar landing missions. In 2014, NASA announced its Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) initiative, which seeks proposals from the U.S. private sector for partnerships to encourage the development of robotic lunar landers that can be integrated with U.S. commercial launch capabilities to deliver small and medium class payloads to the lunar surface.
4.2 Who regulates private lunar missions?
The Google Lunar XPRIZE rules require teams to abide by the relevant national and international regulations while pursuing the prize. Most teams will need to deal with several government agencies over the course of their mission. For example, teams based in the United States of America will need to acquire a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, permissions to use certain radio frequencies to communicate with their vehicle from the Federal Communications Commission. In most cases, space agencies such as NASA play no direct role in any permitting or similar processes, although they may play and advisory role in support of other agencies. NASA has published recommendations for minimizing the risks of damaging its historical artifacts on the lunar surface, which the teams are required to take into account.
5. How will Google Lunar XPRIZE encourage a NewSpace Economy?
- The Google Lunar XPRIZE provides an incentive and a community for NewSpace entrepreneurs to build a business, share expertise and ideas, and attract investment.
- The legacy of the Google lunar XPRIZE may take 10 years to mature into regular low-cost, commercial access to the Moon.
- Teams participating in the prize have already invested millions of dollars and collectively more than 500 person years of labor in developing their missions.
5.1 What is the value of commercial market opportunities that could be served by teams competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE?
Since the inception of the Google Lunar XPRIZE in 2007 the global financial support for lunar exploration has varied, particularly with the cancellation of the Constellation Program and the global economic crisis. Despite these events, the Google Lunar XPRIZE has remained active in its support for lunar exploration.
The global space economy today in the run-up to the prize deadline is lucrative and growing, with just under 3/4 of its revenue, and the vast majority of the growth, accounted for by the commercial sector. To identify, define, and independently evaluate the value of commercial market opportunities that could be served by teams competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a Market Study was conducted by London Economics’ Aerospace team on the competition.
With an overall estimated market value in the 10 years directly following the competition of $1.9 billion, and $6.4 billion over the 25 year longer term, it is clear that the Google Lunar XPRIZE presents a very significant incentive for teams. Additionally, whilst the market will initially be driven by public sector customers, the private sector will increase in significance and begin to outstrip public sector demand over a longer time period.
5.2 When do you anticipate the technologies developed during the Google Lunar XPRIZE will become mainstream?
As we have seen with the outcome of the Ansari XPRIZE, demonstrating a technology and then maturing it can take time. It would not be surprising if regular private robotic visits to the Moon take a decade to develop after the winning of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. As well as the maturation of technologies to the point where they are reliable enough for customers, there is a massive policy and regulatory framework that still needs to be addressed to provide the structure for this private lunar exploration.
5.3 What have participants in the Google Lunar XPRIZE invested to date?
Collectively, as of the start of 2014, the 18 teams remaining in the Google Lunar XPRIZE currently have more than 200 paid employees and more than 800 active volunteers. Financially, total investment by all teams to date is more than 18 million US dollars and they plan to invest a further 278 million in the next two years, before the prize deadline. In total, more than 550 person years of labor has been put into this competition to date and another millennium of person years will be put in by the end of 2015.
6. How is the Google Lunar XPRIZE engaging people around the world?
- Part of the mission of the Google Lunar XPRIZE is to get a new generation excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
- People around the world can find out more about the competition through our planetarium show (on global release) and the MoonBots 2014 challenge for 9-17 year olds.
- More outreach activities will come online in 2014-15 so people worldwide can become a part of this race to the Moon.
6.1 What is MoonBots 2014 – a Google Lunar XPRIZE LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Challenge?
MoonBots 2014 is an international on-line competition for youth aged 9-17 that emulates the real Google Lunar XPRIZE. The challenge is a two-phased “game of skill” and is designed to help youth teams learn how to produce videos, create digital platforms, program LEGO MINDSTORMS robots and inspire their generation through a variety interactive STEM outreach projects. The Grand Prize is a trip for the winning team to visit Hawaii to test their robot on top of a volcano! In MoonBots competitions to date (2010, 2011 and 2012), more than 500 teams have participated in total from 40 different countries, involving 2000+ team members and 90,000+ views of MoonBots video content. To find out more or to enter, visit http://moonbots.org
6.2 Where can I see the planetarium show ‘Back to the Moon for Good’?
‘Back to the Moon for Good’ is an inspiring, immersive fulldome planetarium show available to audiences in digital planetariums, science centers, museums and entertainment venues. It presents the fascinating story of the first privately-funded competition to land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon. The show includes basic lunar science, speculation about humanity’s future on the Moon, and a glimpse at the endeavors of the international teams who are vying for the prize, to be won by 2015. The show, which premiered in 2013, can currently be seen in 200 venues worldwide and should be screened in over 400 venues by 2015. To find a venue that’s showing ‘Back to the Moon for Good’ near you, visit: http://lunar.xprize.org/education/domeshow
7. What’s the story with incentivized prizes and what is next for XPRIZE?
- For at least 300 years, incentivized prizes have been used to stimulate technology breakthroughs
- The XPRIZE mission is to bring about “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity” through incentivized competition.
- XPRIZE’s original prize, the Ansari XPRIZE, was designed to stimulate private spaceflight. A decade after the prize was awarded in 2004, that private space industry is worth $1.5 billion dollars.
- XPRIZE currently has four active prizes: the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, the $2.25 million Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE and the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE.
- XPRIZE is developing new prizes in five areas: Energy & Environment; Exploration presented by Shell; Global Development; Learning; and Life Sciences – sectors where bureaucratic, intellectual, or structural roadblocks constrain and stifle investment and breakthrough innovation.
7.1 What’s the story with incentivized prizes?
The XPRIZE mission is to bring about “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity” through incentivized competition. We foster high-profile competitions that motivate individuals, companies and organizations across all disciplines to develop innovative ideas and technologies that help solve the Grand Challenges that restrict humanity’s progress.
The history of incentivized prizes stretches back at least 300 years to the Longitude Act of 1714. The Parliament of the United Kingdom offered a series of large cash prizes created by to determine time with the precision required for ocean navigation. The discovery of how to measure longitude accurately was among the important discoveries of the 1600's and 1700's.
In 1919, Raymond Orteig, a wealthy French hotelier, offered $25,000 for the first nonstop flight between New York City and Paris. In 1927, underdog Charles Lindbergh won the prize in a modified single‐engine Ryan aircraft called the Spirit of St. Louis. In total, nine teams spent $400,000 in pursuit of the $25,000 Orteig Prize.
Inspired by the Orteig Prize, the original XPRIZE was announced in 1996, offering a $10 million prize to the first privately financed team that could build and fly a three-passenger vehicle 100 kilometers into space twice within two weeks. The prize, later titled the Ansari XPRIZE for suborbital spaceflight, motivated 26 teams from seven nations to invest more than $100 million in pursuit of the $10 million purse. On October 4, 2004, the Ansari XPRIZE was awarded to Mojave Aerospace Ventures, marking the dawn of the personal spaceflight revolution and signifying a radical breakthrough in prize philanthropy.
XPRIZE and Google announced the Google Lunar XPRIZE in 2007 with the aim of challenging and inspiring engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. Team registration for the prize closed on 31 December 2010. The prize expires on 31 December 2015.
7.2 How does the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE relate to the Google Lunar XPRIZE?
The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE (NGLLXC) was a $2 million dollar prize program run by the XPRIZE Foundation in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, New Mexico’s Spaceport America, and NASA’s Centennial Challenges program. The Challenge rewarded innovative, private teams for building and flying vehicles that simulated the journey from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and vice versa. More than a dozen teams competed in the competition, and Armadillo Aerospace of Caddo Mills, TX and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, CA claimed all of the program’s prize money as of November 2009. Although the exact vehicles developed for the NGLLXC are unlikely to go to the Moon, the core technologies and the teams that designed them clearly have a role to play in the new era of lunar exploration, Moon 2.0. Several NGLLXC teams and team members are directly competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE already, typically as suppliers and partners.
7.3 After the Moon, what is next for XPRIZE?
The Google Lunar XPRIZE is just the beginning. Once the landing happens, we then begin the process of telling an even bigger story to world economies, investors and markets about building out a larger lunar economy and, eventually, bringing business to the Moon.
Additionally, while getting to the Moon is a great challenge in itself, the future of space exploration lies in researching and developing the appropriate technologies for future missions that will grow the space economy. Much of this R&D will take place on Earth, looking at ways to support space exploration and survival in terms of energy storage, radiation protection, resource discovery and development, and so forth. Plus, many of these new technologies are also extremely useful here on Earth, such as taking volcanic rock to build roads and tarmac in Hawaii, or to create new roads and infrastructure in Africa.
In terms of XPRIZE, we will continue our dedication to prize development and to looking for the next Grand Challenges. XPRIZE tries to identify the barriers that need to be broken and then incentive the processes for doing so.