Google’s Lunar Xprize competition, which seeks to reward privately funded missions to the Moon, is adding some incentive for participants, and tweaking the deadline to give teams a bit more time. Eligibility for the top prize now includes only the caveat that they must complete their mission by March 31, 2018 – gone is the requirement that they launch their Moon landing craft before the end of this year.
The prize requires that participants build a lunar craft, using almost entirely private funding, and then land said craft on the Moon. Those landers need to then move about a third of a mile on the surface of the Moon, and relay back images and video of its journey to Earth. Whichever team can accomplish this first gets $20 million from the competition, while the second place finisher gets $5 million.
Xprize is just now revealing this information publicly, but teams have been working with this timeline for a few months now, according to The Verge. The removal of the launch deadline means that teams could conceivably launch early next year and still remain eligible for the top prizes.
In addition to the deadline change, the Lunar Xprize competition is adding bonus objectives that will provide opportunities to pick up an additional $4.75 million in cash prizes. Any team that can complete one orbit around the Moon and begin a descent approach to the surface prior to March will net $1.75 million, and there’s also now a $3 million Soft Landing Milestone prize that will be available to teams that can manage to land on the Moon and send back some data before the competition ends.
There are only five teams still in contention, including Moon Express, Synergy Moon, SpaceIL, Hakuto and TeamIndus. These all have booked passage on rockets, but launch timelines for each, and whether they’ll meet the necessary deadlines, remain in question.