There’s a lander on its way to the moon right now, and it wasn’t sent by any government space agency. Instead, it’s owned by SpaceIL, a private company in position to be the first to land a craft on another world. And thanks to a generous decision by the XPrize Foundation, the company stands to be $1 million richer if and when it can stick the landing.
SpaceIL started the moon landing project as part of Google’s Lunar XPrize, which promised $20 million to the first team that could land a craft on the moon’s surface. The original deadline was 2014, but after it became clear that none of the teams were even close, that deadline was pushed back. After more delays, the final deadline became the end of March 2018.
In January, a handful of teams were still in the competition, but still, none of them were on track to reach the goal before the deadline. At the time, Google made the decision to end the contest with no winner, but SpaceIL committed to completing the task anyway. Now, a year later, SpaceIL has a lander en route to the moon and is poised to revolutionize private space exploration.
To reward the company for continuing to pursue the goal, XPrize will give SpaceIL $1 million if it can pull off their moon landing. XPrize is calling this the Moonshot Award, and it’s the first one ever awarded. Specifically, XPrize says the award is intended to recognize a significant technological breakthrough outside an official XPrize competition.
“Though the Google Lunar XPrize went unclaimed, we are thrilled to have stimulated a diversity of teams from around the world to pursue their ambitious lunar missions, and we are proud to be able to recognize SpaceIL’s accomplishment with this Moonshot Award,” said XPrize CEO Anousheh Ansari in a press release.
If everything goes according to plan, SpaceIL’s lander Beresheet should land on the moon on April 11.
Originally published on Popular Mechanics