“We’re going back to the Moon. For Good.” That’s Google’s aim with the Lunar Xprize. Several competitors for the Google Lunar Xprize recently received milestone prizes ranging from $250,000 to $1 million.

The prizes were awarded in three separate categories – landing, mobility and imaging.

Astrobotic, Team Indus and Moon Express received $1 million each for their work on landing systems. Judges monitored each team as they tested various aspects of this landing system including: propulsion, avionics, attitude control, guidance and more.

The mobility milestone awarded $500,000 each to Astrobotic, Hakuto and Part-Time Scientists. Testing of actuators, distance verification and more were monitored by judges. The picture above is of Part-Time Scientists’ robot during testing.

Astrobotic, Moon Express and Part-Time Sciences were also awarded $250,000 each for their work in imaging. Optics, image processing, camera thermal control and more were tested by each of the three competitors.

“Congratulations to these five talented teams on winning Milestone Prizes. The goal of this unprecedented competition is to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration and these achievements represent a pivotal moment in this important journey back to the moon,” said Robert K. Weiss, vice chairman and president, XPRIZE.

The video below shows off what the competitors did to win these milestone payments.

The Next Step

A $20 million grand prize is up for grabs for the team that makes it to the moon. According to the Lunar Xprize page, one team will have to land a robot safely on the moon, move 500 meters on, above, or below the Moon’s surface and send back ‘HDTV Mooncasts.’ All before December 31, 2016. Oh, and the teams can’t have more than 10% in government funding. No pressure.

The teams have until the end of next year to get to the moon. But, they’ll need a plan by the end of this year. At least one team will have to provide a plan for a scheduled launch by December 31, 2015 in order for the competition to keep going.

If one of the teams does pull it off though, it will be done with minimal amounts of money. We could be looking at the next SpaceX in one of these teams.

Now make a $1 billion grand prize and let’s see if we can come up with hyperdrives.

Image credit: Lunar Xprize


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