Google is offering R27 million for landing a privately funded craft on the Moon and sending back data and footage of lunar exploration – before 2015. Here are 4 of the contenders…
Team: Moon Express, USA
When you’re shooting for the Moon, money helps – and Moon Express has loads of it. Backed by billionaire cofounder Naveen Jain and other Silicon Valley investors, the team bought out tech-savvy co-competitor Next Giant Leap in May 2012 and will use its advanced algorithms to drive the spacecraft and enable it, post-landing, to hop towards the south pole.
Update: The team continues to raise funds, but is cagey about actual progress and launch dates.
In this video, CEO Bob Richards discusses Moon Express enterprise with Forbes…
Team: Astrobotic, USA
Led by Carnegie Mellon university robotics professor William “Red” Whittaker, the Astrobotic team will try to land at the Moon’s north pole with a spacecraft built on code adapted from the team’s winning 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge robot car.
Update: The team has secured funding for a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch.
Team: Barcelona Moon, Spain
Collaboration is Barcelona Moon Team’s modus operandi. Its partners include space tourism startup Galactic Suite, managing the project and raising money; EADS CASA Espacio, building the team’s lunar lander; and Politechnical University of Catalonia, helping to build a separate rover that will deploy without ramps after touchdown.
Update: In August 2012 the team announced it had contracted a Chinese long march rocket for a launch.
Team: SpaceIL, Israel
SpaceIL’s craft will also hop around the lunar surface to save weight and simplify development. The team wants its craft to be the smallest and cheapest to ever land on the Moon. Essentially a _ ying fuel tank, the craft weighs a mere 100 kilograms.
Update: Unlike other teams, this competitor has the blessing of a national government.
– By Michael Belfiore