The Google Lunar Xprize wants to do something that has never been done before in the history of mankind: land a private spacecraft on the moon that can travel at least 500 meters and transmit both high-definition video and imagery back to Earth, once there.
Today, Xprize handed 5 of the competing teams a combined $5.25 million of the $30 million total in prize money for overcoming key technical risks in landing, mobility and imagery.
The prize money is part of a series of interim Milestone Prizes meant to reward teams who meet certain requirements necessary at this stage in the competition. They are an optional reward, designed to recognize advanced progress in each team’s spacecraft.
The United States, Russia and China have been the only countries so far with the ability to compete in the space race since the first unmanned moon landing in 1959 . However, technological advancements and private endeavors have dramatically reduced the cost of going to the moon from billions to mere millions of dollars.
This helps Bangalore-based Team Indus compete against billionaire-backed Moon Express in the Xprize space race. Both teams received $1 million in the Landing category of the Milestone Prizes.
“We believe that we do our best work when we compete and one of the critical elements of any XPRIZE is engaging the competitive spirit that we all feel.” Xprize CEO Peter Diamandis wrote in the Huffington Post. “Just as the NFL playoffs narrowed fans’ focus on the road to this week’s Super Bowl, the Milestone Prizes allow the public to have a routing interest in the competition and know which teams to follow.”
Teams that don’t win the Grand or Second Place prize will be able to keep their Milestone winnings. However the prize money will be deducted from the $30 total if they do win the Grand or Second Place prize.
Each team will be awarded these Milestone Prizes at a private event tonight hosted by XPRIZE and Google at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.