Google Lunar X Prize: Five Finalists Race To The Moon By Year's End

Five finalists have qualified for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize after months of developing their own spacecraft. The privately funded teams have obtained verified launch contracts to launch their robotic spacecraft toward the moon by the end of the year, contest organizers announced today. The remaining teams from different countries have previously battled eleven other teams vying for the prestigious prize.

The finalists are Florida-based Moon Express, India's Team Indus, Israel's Space IL, Hakuto of Japan and the international outfit Synergy Moon. Other teams in the running had been disqualified as they failed to secure a verified launch deal. The deadline had been on Dec. 31, 2016.

"It's a diverse group with different approaches, and the fact that it's five — we couldn't be happier," GLXP senior director Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer says. Organizers running the Google Lunar X Prize, and eight other technology stimulus contests, announced that they have until Dec. 31, 2017 for the finalists to land their spacecraft on the moon, Reuters  reports.

The first private team that lands a spacecraft on the moon , moves it 1,640 feet (500 meters), and sends high-resolution photos and videos back to Earth, will receive $20 million. The second team to accomplish all of these tasks by the deadline will get $5 million. An extra $5 million is available for accomplishing various special tasks such as visiting an Apollo landing site or finding water on the moon, bringing the total purse up to $30 million.

According to the Scientific American , the contest, along with eight other technology competitions, are designed to stimulate big technological leaps in aerospace, education, medicine and other fields by attracting new participants and private capital with cash prizes. The original 2012 deadline has been extended thrice. Google Lunar X Prize organizers stated that they will stand by the current deadline which requires teams to launch their space crafts on or before Dec. 31.

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