Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Google Lunar X Prize

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Google Lunar X Prize
Awarded for  "landing a robot on the surface of the Moon, traveling 500 meters over the lunar surface, and sending images and data back to the Earth."
Presented by  X Prize Foundation (organizer), Google (sponsor)
Reward(s)  US$20 million for the winner, US$5 million for second place, US$4 million in technical bonuses, US$1 million diversity award

The Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP), sometimes referred to as Moon 2.0, is an inducement prize space competition organized by XPRIZE, and sponsored by Google. The challenge calls for privately funded spaceflight teams to be the first to land a privately funded robotic spacecraft on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit back high-definition video and images.


In 2015, XPRIZE announced that the competition deadline would be extended to December 2017 if at least one team could secure a verified launch contract by 31 December 2015. Two teams secured such a launch contract, and the deadline was extended.

As of 2017, 5 teams remain in the competition. SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, Team Indus, and Team Hakuto, having secured verified launch contracts for 2017 (with SpaceX, Rocket Lab, Interorbital Systems, ISRO, and ISRO respectively). All teams must launch by the end of 2017.

Competition summary

The Google Lunar XPRIZE was announced at the Wired Nextfest on 13 September 2007. The competition offers a total of US$30 million in prizes to the first privately funded teams to land a robot on the Moon that successfully travels more than 500 meters (1,640 ft) and transmits back high-definition images and video. The first team to do so will claim the US$20 million grand prize; while the second team to accomplish the same tasks will earn a US$5 million second prize. Teams can also earn additional money by completing additional tasks beyond the baseline requirements required to win the grand or second prize, such as traveling ten times the baseline requirements (greater than 5,000 meters (3 mi)), capturing images of the remains of Apollo program hardware or other man-made objects on the Moon, verifying from the lunar surface the recent detection of water ice on the Moon, or surviving a lunar night. Additionally, a US$1 million diversity award may be given to teams that make significant strides in promoting ethnic diversity in STEM fields.

To provide an added incentive for teams to complete their missions quickly, it was announced that the prize would decrease from US$20 million to US$15 million whenever a government-led mission lands on and explores the lunar surface. The Chinese Chang'e 3 probe landed on the Moon in December 2013, however, in November 2013, as the launch of the probe approached, it was agreed between the organizers and the teams to drop this rule.

In 2015, XPRIZE announced that the competition deadline would be extended to December 2017 if at least one team could secure a verified launch contract by 31 December 2015. Two teams secured such a launch contract, and the deadline was extended.

XPRIZE announced 5 finalists on January 24, 2017. SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon , Team Indus and Hakuto having secured verified launch contracts for 2017 (with SpaceX, Rocket Lab, Interorbital Systems and ISRO respectively). All other teams had until the end of 2016 to secure a verified launch contract, in order to remain in the competition.

The Google Lunar XPRIZE expires when all constituent purses have been claimed, or at the end of the year 2017, whichever comes first. At the time the prize was announced, the last operational vehicle on the Moon had landed in 1976.


Peter Diamandis, the project founder, wrote on the official web page:

"It has been many decades since we explored the Moon from the lunar surface, and it could be another 6–8 years before any government returns. Even then, it will be at a large expense, and probably with little public involvement."

The goal of the Google Lunar X Prize is similar to that of the Ansari X Prize: to inspire a new generation of private investment in hopes of developing more cost-effective technologies and materials to overcome many limitations of space exploration that are currently taken for granted.


The Google Lunar XPRIZE was announced in 2007.

Origin of the prize

Similar to the way in which the Ansari XPRIZE was formed, the Google Lunar XPRIZE was created out of a former venture of Peter Diamandis to achieve a similar goal. Dr Diamandis served as CEO of BlastOff! Corporation, a commercial initiative to land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon as a mix of entertainment, internet, and space. Although it was ultimately unsuccessful, the BlastOff! initiative paved the way for the Google Lunar X Prize.

Initially, NASA was the planned sponsor and the prize purse was just US$20 million. As NASA is a federal agency of the United States government, and thus funded by US tax money, the prize would only have been available to teams from the United States. The original intention was to propose the idea to other national space agencies, including the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency, in the hope that they would offer similar prize purses.

However, budget setbacks stopped NASA from sponsoring the prize. Peter Diamandis then presented the idea to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, at an XPRIZE fundraiser. They agreed to sponsor it, and also to increase the prize purse to US$30 million, allowing for a second place prize, as well as bonus prizes.

Extensions of the deadline

The prize was originally announced as "a contest to put a robotic rover on the Moon by 2012," with a $20 million prize to the winner if the landing was achieved by 2012; the prize decreased to $15M until the end of 2014, at which point the contest would conclude. The five-year deadline was optimistic about schedule, and Foust commented that as the end of 2012 approached, "no team appeared that close to mounting a reasonable bid to win it." In 2010, the deadline was extended by one year, with the prize to expire at the end of December 2015, and the reduction of the grand prize from $20 million to $15 million changed from originally 2012 to "if a government mission successfully lands on the lunar surface."

On 16 December 2014, XPRIZE announced another extension in the prize deadline from 31 December 2015 to 31 December 2016. In May 2015, the foundation announced another extension of the deadline. The deadline for winning the prize was now December 2017, but contingent on at least one team showing by 31 December 2015 that they have a secured contract for launch. On 9 October 2015, team SpaceIL announced their officially-verified launch contract with SpaceX, therefore extending the competition until the end of 2017.

Objections to the Heritage Bonus Prizes

Some observers have raised objections to the inclusion of the two "Heritage Bonus Prizes," particularly the Apollo Heritage Bonus Prize, which will award an additional estimated US$1 million to the first group that successfully delivers images and videos of the landing site of one of the Apollo Program landing sites, such as Tranquility Base, after landing on the lunar surface. Such sites are widely regarded as archaeologically and culturally significant, and some have expressed concern that a team attempting to win this heritage bonus might inadvertently damage or destroy such a site, either during the landing phase of the mission, or by piloting a rover around the site. As a result, some archaeologists are on record calling for the Foundation to cancel the heritage bonus and to ban groups from targeting landing zones within 100 kilometers (62 mi) of previous sites.

In turn, the Foundation has noted that, as part of the competition's educational goals, it hopes these bonuses will foster debate about how to respectfully visit previous lunar landing sites, but that it does not see itself as the appropriate adjudicator of such an internationally relevant and interdisciplinary issue. This response left detractors unsatisfied. The Foundation points to the historical precedent set by the Apollo 12 mission, which landed nearby the previous Surveyor 3 robotic probe. Pete Conrad and Alan Bean approached and inspected Surveyor 3 and even removed some parts from it to be returned to Earth for study; new scientific results from that heritage visit, on the exposure of manmade objects to conditions in outer space, were still being published in leading papers nearly four decades later. However, as Surveyor 3 and Apollo 12 were both NASA missions, there was no controversy at the time.

In January 2011, NASA's Manager for Lunar Commercial Space noted on Twitter that work was underway to provide insight and guidelines on how lunar heritage sites could be protected while still allowing visitations that will yield critical science.

Many of the Apollo astronauts themselves have already expressed support for the bonus, with Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin appearing at the Google Lunar XPRIZE's initial announcement and reading a plaque signed by the majority of his fellow surviving Apollo Astronauts.


Registration in the Google Lunar X Prize closed as of 31 December 2010. The complete roster of teams was announced on 17 February 2011. As of 24 January 2017, there are 5 officially registered Google Lunar X Prize teams involved in the competition (not including teams that have left the competition or merged into other teams): Initially 32 teams had registered, thereafter finally 16 teams actively participated in all activities, however as per rule that teams must get a verified launch contract by 31 December 2016, this feat was only achieved by 5 teams.

Shortly after the announcement of the complete roster of teams, an X Prize Foundation official noted that a total of thirty one teams entered a partial registration program by filing a "Letter of Intent" to compete; of these, twenty did indeed register or join other registered teams, while eleven ultimately did not register.


In November 2013 the X-Prize organization announced that several milestone prizes will be awarded to teams for demonstrating key technologies prior to the actual mission. A total of US$6 million could be awarded throughout 2014 for achieving the following milestones:

  • $1 million (for up to 3 teams) for the Lander System Milestone Prize to demonstrate hardware and software that enables a soft-landing on the moon.
  • $500,000 (for up to 4 teams) for the Mobility Subsystem Milestone Prize to demonstrate a mobility system that allows the craft to move 500 meters after landing.
  • $250,000 (for up to 4 teams) for the Imaging Subsystem Milestone Prize for producing "Mooncasts" consisting of high-quality images and video on the lunar surface.
  • Selected teams

    In February 2014, a judging panel selected five teams which can compete for these prizes based on their proposals on how to achieve the respective goals. The nominated teams are:

    The selected teams were required to accomplish the milestones outlined in their submissions through testing and mission simulations, in order to win the prizes. The teams had until October 2014 to complete the prize requirements. The winners were officially awarded on 26 January 2015 in San Francisco.


    A few of competitors who were unable to get a verified launch contract by 31 December 2016, leading their disqualification from Google Lunar X Prize, are however planning to launch their crafts independently


    Google Lunar X Prize Wikipedia