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Moon Race Roundup #118: The First Prizes!

Moon Race Roundup #118: The First Prizes!

By Nick Azer  on January 20, 2015

This week, on the road to the Moon...  


That’s one big check for a Google Lunar XPRIZE team…and one giant leap for the competition!

The First Prizes

As Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Moon team Astrobotic has claimed the two first-ever awards in the Google Lunar XPRIZE: a $500,000 Mobility Milestone Prize for their Moon robot, Andy, and a $250,000 Imaging Milestone Prize for their lunar camera systems!

John Thornton, CEO of team Astrobotic, with their Griffin Moon lander after their big wins.

This is just the first batch of what will be up to $6 million in 11 total Milestone Prizes, to be awarded to as many as five teams on Monday, January 26th.

But, with a quick pace and awesome technology, Astrobotic was able to jump ahead in the game and lock down those first two awards early!

Andy, the Moon rover.

CNET's Tim Stevens was there live for the tests Astrobotic had to pass in order to claim them, and he provides a great look here.

For more on the Milestone Prizes---and what they mean for the $30 million race to the Moon----catch this video:


And as part of that big announcement for Astrobotic's wins, it was also revealed that the Google Lunar XPRIZE has been extended until 2016!

The teams have shown significant progress---as proven above---but it does, in fact, take a heck of a long time to get a launch contract scheduled! And so, while the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams have been rocking their technology lately, we determined they weren't quite ready to meet that (pretty ambitious) 2015 deadline.

And so, they’ve been given a one-year extension until the end of 2016, as long as any one team provides proof of a launch contract before the end of 2015. When that happens, the competition will be officially extended for all teams until the end of 2016. If no team succeeds in securing a launch contract before the end of 2015, the competition will expire.

While we'll have to wait just a little bit longer to see these epic Moon landings (in 2016), the teams have been doing a heck of a job on their Moon technology & progress lately (#MoonMomentum), and the competition has proven to be deep; there's a ton of teams among the 18 that we're bound to see on the Moon! 

Express Lane

For example, Silicon Valley's Moon Express has been busy in the field the past month with their MTV-1X Moon lander!

The donut-shaped MTV has been completing major tests like the one above at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and this hot-fire test:


This toroidal Moon explorer has been making a big impression, as its team looks to claim several of those Milestone Prizes on January 26th!

Media Darlings

Meanwhile, Japanese Moon team Hakuto has also been out in the field with their dual robots---nicknamed Moonraker and Tetris---and rocking it for both the media & the Google Lunar XPRIZE Judges! As they pursue the $500,000 Mobility Milestone Prize:

Hell Yeah, It's The Milestone Prizes!

Also right up in the Milestones mix are the "Hell yeah, it's rocket science!" Germans, Part-Time Scientists, who took their lovable Asimov, Jr. robot out to the Canary Islands as part of their field runs for their own award attempts (the $500,000 Mobility and the $250,000 Imaging):


The Milestone Prizes weren't the only big news, too, as Astrobotic unveiled MoonMail!

It's a lunar delivery service, and it's available for booking now: send your small items to the Moon, and make history!

There's a price, of course, but if you really want to make a mark for your family, your passions, or even your company (send the logo up there for good PR!), MoonMail's the way to go.

These services are key to the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, as many are looking not just to claim a prize and inspire a bunch of folks, but also establish long-term lunar business in the process! A lunar industry beckons---as does history in the making.

And one school gets to be a part of it---for free!

As Balko Public School in Balko, Oklahoma won Astrobotic's contest for a free MoonMail delivery! Looking forward to seeing something awesome from the Bisons on the Moon in 2016 :)

Brilliant Inspirations

Inspiring the next generation (and, well, this generation too!) is important, and in December we had a great Google Hangout with Prof. Michelle Lavagna of Team Italia!

The brilliant space veteran talked about her team's experience with the Rosetta Comet Landing; womens' role in space exploration; and more, in a wonderful talk hosted by Dr. Pamela Gay of CosmoQuest.

Last Stop: The Moon

And speaking of inspired talks, the Toronto Globe and Mail's Tony Wilson talked about Astrobotic's plans to transport your remains to the Moon---and why he's excited to sign up!

"'We buried Dad on the Moon' will be a showstopper in any conversation my adult kids have about their father. They won't have to feel guilty for never visiting the cemetery; all they'll have to do is look up at the man in the Moon, and roll their eyes knowing I got the last cosmic laugh. My memorial service will be like a launch party celebrating a pending trip." - Tony Wilson

Elon Musk has said he wants to die on Mars (eventually); the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams and their delivery services may be a part of the epic burial sites of the future! (Take that, ancient pyramids?)

The Big Mission

And, last but not least, another Milestones team---Indus, of Bangalore, India---recapped their own 2014 with a beautiful video, as they look to join the big $6 million party January 26th on the way to the Moon:


"Everything is very very exciting when you work on a mission like this." - Team Indus

The #MoonMomentum has been hot, but it's just getting started: tune in January 26th for all kinds of excitement, and stay tuned as all 18 teams forge ahead into this big year of 2015!


I'll be rounding these up every week---as the teams march forward towards history----so keep an eye here for the latest developments from your space race! You can also sign up for the XPRIZE newsletter to get exciting innovation news in your inbox, and follow the #GLXP on Google+Twitter, and Facebook (where yours truly is your community manager for all things awesome happening in space today).

-Nick Azer

[December 7th-January 1st, 2014.] 

[Cover image: Astrobotic after their big wins, by @SpaceAngels on Twitter.]

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