06 June 2012

Moon Express Acquires Next Giant Leap: Now 25 Teams Competing for Google Lunar X Prize

The Google Lunar X Prize is the largest incentive prize in history -- a reflection of the vast technological and financial challenges of landing a spacecraft on the Moon. First prize of $20 million (£13m) will be awarded to the first company to land a robotic rover on the Moon, travel 500 metres and transmit video, images and data back to Earth.

Although the NGL acquisition removes a competitor there are still 24 other teams competing for the $30m (£20m) prize pot. The runner-up gets $5 million (£3.2m) and the remaining $5m prize money will be made available to teams that go beyond the basic requirements -- such as travelling five kilometres, capturing images of relics of the Apollo programme, verifying the presence of water, or surviving a lunar night. But there is a time limit. Whoever makes it to the Moon must do so by the end of 2015 when the prize fund expires. _Wired
The Google Lunar X First Prize of $20 million will go to the first team to safely land a robot on the moon, have the robot travel at least 500 metres on the lunar surface, and send images, video, and data back to Earth. As noted above, this feat must be achieved on or before December 31, 2015.

The acquisition of Next Giant Leap by Moon Express, Inc., reduces the number of competing teams to 25. Don't be surprised if their are more acquisitions and mergers over the next year or so, as teams become pressed by the deadline and attempt to combine their strengths.

More about the recent acquisition:
Moon Express Inc, a company set up to explore and mine the Moon for precious resources, has acquired Next Giant Leapto advance its plans to be the first company to land a spacecraft on Earth's natural satellite.
The Next Giant Leap acquisition gives Moon Express access to additional technology and scientists, as well as the benefit of several strategic partnerships with companies such as Sierra Nevada Corporation, The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, MIT Space Systems Laboratory, Aurora Flight Services, Jolted Media Group, The Centre for Space Entrepreneurship (eSpace) and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.
The company plans to send its first robotic lander to the Moon in late 2014, to be launched atop of either SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket or other commercial launch vehicle._Wired
As noted, the Moon Express team plans to launch in 2014, possibly using a SpaceX booster.

It is interesting to see the list of strategic partners that the Next Giant Leap team brings to the table. Such partnerships can be extremely valuable in terms of sharing experience and research, and in facilitating necessary product deliveries etc.

If this competition is successful, we may see a proliferation of similar prizes meant to spur visionary and potentially disruptive technological developments.

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