XPrize ends its $30 million race to moon without a winner
The first privately funded trip to the moon will have to wait.
The XPrize Foundation is ending its Google-sponsored, decade-long competition to land a robot on the moon without choosing a winner.
That means none of the five final teams will get the $20 million grand prize, or the additional $10 million in other prizes. The nonprofit says it’s still figuring out what will happen next, adding that it might find another sponsor to fund the contest instead of Google.
The XPrize Foundation said in a post on its website that it “did expect a winner by now,” but said that none of the teams will try to launch before the March 31 deadline. It added that the competition ended because of “the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges.”
The goal of the competition was to stimulate private space-travel entrepreneurship. All successful trips to the moon have been government funded, and moon-based activity has been mostly scientific in nature.
But private space travel could potentially enable different projects, like moon-based tourism or mining.
To win the contest, a team had to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon, wander around the surface for 500 meters, and beam videos and photos back to Earth. The deadline for doing so had been pushed back a couple times.
According to XPrize, Google’s award offer will become void after March.
Google said in a statement to CNNTech that it is “proud to have partnered with XPrize” over the last decade.
“We set out on this journey in 2007, excited by the potential of the prize to spur innovation and discovery in commercial space travel,” a spokesperson said. “Though the prize is coming to an end, we continue to hold a deep admiration for all Google Lunar XPrize teams, and we will be rooting for them as they continue their pursuit of the moon and beyond. To all teams, thank you for inspiring us to dream big and work hard.”
XPrize added that Google has given out $6.25 million to the teams “in recognition of the significant milestones they have achieved along the way.”
The money also covered the cost of “operating the prize,” said Chanda Gonzales Mowrer, the prize lead.
“For that we are extremely grateful,” Gonzales Mowrer added.
The XPrize Foundation has held contests to help finance ambitious entrepreneurial projects before. One challenge tested teams to create a real-life tricorder, a small device for diagnosing medical conditions. It also once held a contest to create a fuel-efficient vehicle.
But Space has always been the main focus. The organization awarded its first price in 2004 for designing a privately financed space ship that could carry people high above the Earth’s surface.
Since then, the private space-flight industry has grown dramatically because of companies like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s Space X .
The five teams that took part in this latest contest might still find their way to the moon. XPrize said that even without a prize, it “could still promote and support the teams.”
At least one of the teams, Synergy Moon, is still planning a moon mission this year. The team also says it will collaborate with a nonprofit called Space for Humanity, which wants to send people to the “edge” of space by the end of the year.