The much-publicized Google Lunar X Prize competition, with a goal of landing an unmanned rover on the Moon and sending back high-resolution images, has been called off by its backers two months ahead of its scheduled completion.
In a statement on the contest’s website, the founder and CEO of the program explained:
“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. This literal ‘moonshot’ is hard, and while we did expect a winner by now, due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the grand prize of the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed.”
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
The race had intended to award a US$20-million grand prize to the winner, along with US$5-million to the runner-up, and another US$5-million in “bonus prizes.”
Among the teams still in the running as the competition closed were SpaceIL (Israel), Moon Express (USA), Synergy Moon (International), TeamIndus (India), and Team Hakuto (Japan). The teams from India and Japan had joined together in a “rideshare partnership” for TeamIndus to carry Hakuto’s four-wheeled rover to the Moon.
It is not clear yet whether all of the teams will continue their plans to reach the Moon.
The statement lauded the accomplishments of the competition, which included the creation of the first commercial space companies in India, Malaysia, Israel and Hungary; the raising of more than $300 million by teams through corporate sponsorships, government contracts and venture capital; and “global media exposure” through articles in National Geographic and features on a variety of TV programs.
The closing of the Lunar X Prize challenge opens other opportunities for funding, including the Luna Society’s crowdfunding program, which offers land claims on the Moon, with the funds going to private organizations seeking to explore and develop Luna. The program has pledged to raise more than US$100-million to teams in Korea, India, South Africa and Israel.