Big Read: Five Teams Remain as Google Lunar XPRIZE Enters Final Phase

©XPRIZE Foundation

Five Teams Remain as Google Lunar XPRIZE Enters Final Phase

Space is hard. While startups success rates are slowly increasing in low earth orbit (LEO), it's even harder for startups looking beyond low earth orbit. In fact, no company with the goal of operating a commercial enterprise near or on the moon, can call themselves a success, yet. But just maybe we'll the emergence of one as a the result of the Google Lunar XPRIZE.

2017 The Defining Year for the Google Lunar XPRIZE

2017 will be the defining year for the Google Lunar XPRIZE as the deadline for the remaining competitors to launch their payloads to the moon and possibly win the Grand Prize is the end of the year.

For the remaining five teams, the pressure is on. At stake is the $20 million Grand Prize for the winner and $5 million for the second place team. There are also other potential prizes to be won which could increase the overall prize money awarded to $43.25 million. To date, $6.25 million from the Milestone and Diversity Prizes have been awarded.

It's been a long road for the competitors. 31 teams originally filed letters of intent after the competition was announced in September of 2007.

Along the way we've seen team mergers, teams acquiring others, and in the case of Astrobotic, a long-time leader in the competition, they withdrew from the competition last December not wanting to be constrained by the 2017 deadline. During the early stages of the competition they had already won $1.75 million in Milestone Prizes.

One other significant aspect to the competition is the changing of the rules over the course of the competition. The XPRIZE Foundation reserves the right to make changes to the competition and that's just what they've done, including changing a mission requirement in the guidelines this past week.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, January 24th, the Google Lunar XPRIZE updated the guideline related to completing the mission requirements. They said "in recognition of the diverse mission plans of each finalist team, XPRIZE made an update to the guidelines to require that the launch is initiated by the December 31, 2017 deadline, instead of completed." Once again the deadline to win the competition has been changed. Previous to this change teams had to launch and complete their mission by the end of 2017.

SpaceQ contacted the Google Lunar XPRIZE to get a clarification on what they specifically meant by "initiated". We provided the following example; what if competitor A has their payload on the pad and launch is scheduled for December 31 but because of weather or some technical issue with the rocket the launch is delayed into January 2018, are they still eligible to win the grand prize? In response to our query spokesperson Eric Desatnik said "our deadline is December 31, 2017 for the launch to happen. We will work with each team on a case by case basis if a technical issue arises with their launch provider."

That would suggest there is still some flexibility in the deadline date of December 31, 2017. It also means that teams can complete the post launch mission requirements in 2018.

- Read the full story on SpaceQ.

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