No One Was Able to Win Google's Decade-Long, $20 Million XPrize Moon Shot Competition
After 10 years (including on extension) and 16 original contenders, it looks like Google's Lunar $20 million Xprize will go unclaimed by the March 31 launch deadline. None of the five remaining teams (TeamIndus,Team Hakuto, SpaceIL, Moon Express and Synergy Moon) are ready to complete the terms of the project, which includes landing a spacecraft on the Moon's surface using a soft landing, traveling 1,600 feet across the Moon's surface using a rover, and sending pictures back to Earth.
In fact, each stage of the journey to the Moon has its own rewards: One milestone for completing one full orbit or making a direct descent, one milestone for making a soft landing, and one for successfully sending out a rover to take pictures. Even if a team isn't the first to make it to a milestone, they have a chance at second or third prizes just for making it. Only one team, however, has a shot at the Grand Prize.
Despite inspirational videos documenting the progress these teams have made, it doesn't look like the "moon shot" will happen—at least not during the timeframe set by Google. It's a shame, considering how much passion these teams put into their work:
Two of the major hang-ups for the teams seem to be finding a launch vehicle and securing funding—at least one team, SpaceIL, needs an additional $7.5 million to continue its work, while the rest are struggling to find a way to get their landers into space by March. Despite the previous deadline extension and the fact that these teams may be ready to launch next year, Google has announced that there will be no extension to the March 31st deadline.
Still, it's heartening to know that dozens of other private companies are shooting for the stars—last year was called "the year of [the] private launch" due to the huge rise in companies launching new rockets and building new tech to explore space. Though the Xprize will go unclaimed, the Moon will not be out of humanity's reach.