Google has called off the multi-million private mission to reach the Moon as none of the finalists of the Lunar XPRIZE have been able to get their act together. The Google Lunar XPRIZE, valued at $30 million (Rs 3 crore), was meant for that one winning team to go to the Moon. But now the prize money goes unclaimed.
As explained by prize administrators Peter Diamandis and Marcus Shingles in the official blog, the literal ‘moonshot’ was hard. “After close consultation with our five finalist Google Lunar XPRIZE teams over the past several months, we have concluded that no team will make a launch attempt to reach the Moon by the March 31st, 2018 deadline,” they announced.
Since the announcement of the prize money by Google about a decade ago, five finalists had been competing for the final run. The company had expected to have a winner by now, however, owing to the difficulties related to fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the program has been now called off.
Today, we announce that after consulting our teams over the last few months, that there will not be a launch by March 31st, 2018, and our grand prize will go unclaimed. We are exploring a number of ways to proceed, to continue to support our teams: https://t.co/n2jQ8lKWcX
— Google Lunar XPRIZE (@glxp) January 23, 2018
For understanding, the Google Lunar XPRIZE is a global competition organized by X Prize Foundation, where different teams build spaceflights with the ability to reach the Moon and send data back to the Earth. The catch here is all the procedures are required to be done within 10 percent or less government funding. Google is the competition’s sponsor.
Even as the official program has been called off, the administrators have gained something positive out of the effort. “As a result of this competition, we have sparked the conversation and changed expectations with regard to who can land on the Moon. Many now believe it’s no longer the sole purview of a few government agencies, but now may be achieved by small teams of entrepreneurs, engineers, and innovators from around the world. We are thankful to the teams for their decade of hard work, and acknowledge that a number of our teams are now, finally building flight ready hardware, contracting with launch providers and are close to being able to make their attempt to land on the Moon,” the blog read.
While the current mission has ended even before the winner was announced, the administrators now plan to explore the mission through alternative methods, which may include finding a new sponsor to provide funding or continuing the Lunar XPRIZE as a non-cash competition.
Over the course of the competition, participating teams raised over $300 million through corporate sponsorships, government contracts and venture capital, including the largest space-related series A investment of $90 million. One of the teams also received the first-ever ‘Mission Approval’ from the US government to send a private spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit.
Lunar missions, which had been so far a domain of the government agencies, have now become a test field for space enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to set up their own projects. Elon Musk‘s SpaceX is the biggest example of this. The space agency has privately tested its potential for space missions. The company’s Missions to Mars is touted to be the first privately-funded cargo mission to Mars. With a projected timeline of 2022 launch, the objectives of the mission is to confirm water resources on the planet. The second mission, which will include both cargo and human crew, is projected for 2024.