Internet giant Google announced a 30- million-dollar prize Thursday for a team that manages to send an unmanned buggy to the moon and beam back one gigabyte of images and video.
The competition will be run by the X Prize Foundation, a California-based non-profit group whose 10-million-dollar Ansari X Prize spurred a private-sector space race that was won in 2004 by aircraft designer Burt Rutan and financier Paul Allen for a pair of flights by SpaceShipOne.
The Google Lunar X Prize is open to private industry and nongovernment entities worldwide. The first prize of 20 million dollars will be given to the first group that can land a rover - an unmanned robotic probe - on the moon, take it on a 500-metre trek on the lunar surface and broadcast back video to Earth by December 31, 2012.
The prize falls to 15 million dollars if the landing takes place by December 31, 2014, and expires thereafter.
A second-place winner will receive 5 million. In addition, at least 5 million in bonuses are available for milestones such as finding relics from the US Apollo moon landings or from Soviet lunar explorations, detecting water ice or keeping the rover alive on the lunar surface overnight.
"The Google Lunar X Prize calls on entrepreneurs, engineers and visionaries from around the world to return us to the lunar surface and explore this environment for the benefit of all humanity," said Dr Peter Diamandis, chairman and chief executive of the X Prize Foundation.
"We are confident that teams from around the world will help develop new robotic and virtual presence technology, which will dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration."
"It's a great honour to participate in the Google Lunar X Prize," said Google co-founder Sergey Brin. "We are embarking upon this great adventure of having a nongovernmental, commercial organization return to the moon and explore."
Last Mod: 14 Eylül 2007, 16:22