Private Moon Lander
Next year, robots will land on the moon, competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The contest offers $40 million in rewards, including a $20 million grand prize. Winning is fairly straightforward: Safely land a privately funded spacecraft, move it a third of a mile, and beam back HD-video “mooncasts.” Completing the challenge by December 31, 2015, however, is anything but easy. Organizers have already extended the deadline by a year, and of the 33 teams that initially registered, only 18 remain. Astrobotic, an offshoot of Carnegie Mellon University, survives as a leading contender. The group has finished a two-spacecraft design—Griffin, a car-size lander, and a surface explorer called Red Rover. It has also booked space aboard a rocket that’s scheduled to launch in October 2015. Here’s how Astrobotic plans to take home the prize.