While many teams thinking of joining the race are planning to use rovers to travel the 500 meters, SpaceIL’s abandoning wheels altogether. [Google Lunar X-Prize: The Private Moon Race Teams in Pictures].
Israeli non-profit space exploration company SpaceIL has announced that it’s become the first company to successfully deliver a launch contract in pursuit of Google’s $30 million lunar XPRIZE payout. “The magnitude of this achievement can not be overstated, representing an unprecedented and monumental commitment for a privately funded organization, and kicks off an exciting phase of the competition in which the other 15 teams now have until the end of 2016 to produce their own verified launch contracts”.
If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9 launcher will take the spacecraft into space, assume a trajectory bound for the moon, and detach from the capsule bound for the lunar surface.
But SpaceIL is the only team so far to initiate the verification process, in which contest organizers review and assess the launch contract and supporting documents, X Prize representatives told Space.com. Under the X Prize rules, at least one team had to verify its contract by the end of this year to allow the Google-backed competition to proceed.
Google’s contest is meant to encourage private industry to create new technologies to reach the moon at lower costs than what governments have spent in the past. The first team to complete this task will win million Dollars, while the second team will bring home a prize of $5 million USD.
Sixteen teams remain in the competition.
SpaceIL’s craft won’t be alone in the Falcon 9, though. Wednesday’s announcement confirms that SpaceIL’s lander will be one of the prime payloads.
During a press conference in Jerusalem today, Israel-based SpaceIL revealed it had secured a “ticket to the moon” on a spacecraft that is expected to launch in late 2017. Eran Privman, CEO of SpaceIL, claimed the group isn’t focused on the competition, but they are confident they can win.
“Only three countries have ´soft-landed´ a rover on the surface of the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China”.