Press Release

NASA Embraces Commercial Lunar Explorers and Becomes Customer of Google Lunar X PRIZE Competitors

By SpaceRef Editor
October 16, 2010
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NASA Embraces Commercial Lunar Explorers and Becomes Customer of Google Lunar X PRIZE Competitors

Valuable Lunar Mission Data to Be Provided by Private Organizations in Exchange for Millions

Today, NASA, the U.S. civil space agency, announced that it will purchase data related to innovative lunar missions from six Google Lunar X PRIZE teams: Astrobotic, Next Giant Leap (through its team member Draper Labs), FREDNET, Omega Envoy (through its parent organization Earthrise Space), the Rocket City Space Pioneers (through their team member Dynetics), and newcomer Moon Express. NASA awarded small, firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts worth at least $10,000 to these companies, making them eligible to make later sales of lunar data worth as much as $10 million through the Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data program.

In exchange, each of these companies will provide NASA with unique and valuable data regarding the demonstration of critical technical components required to mount successful, low cost missions to the lunar surface. To claim the full $10 million, these teams must supply a variety of data packages as they pass significant milestones in the mission planning and operations; initial data packages worth just over $1 million will be from tests conducted here on Earth, but a majority of the available funding will come from spacecraft en route to or already on the lunar surface. These purchases demonstrate clearly that a new era of lunar exploration has begun, one in which government space agencies and commercial firms alike will play an important role in making missions to the Moon participatory and financially sustainable.

“We expect that NASA is going to get great value and great leverage from these purchases,” said William Pomerantz, Senior Director for Space Prizes at the X PRIZE Foundation. “The dollar values may be a relatively small contract by NASA standards, but these contracts send a clear signal to the investment community that NASA is ready to purchase lunar data, even from small, entrepreneurial firms. This will give a huge momentum boost not just to the companies selected today, but to all of the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams and other companies hoping to sell unique lunar data to NASA and other space agencies at competitive rates.”

The Google Lunar X PRIZE teams, which range from non-profits and university consortia to established companies with billions of dollars in revenue, are developing important technologies and capabilities that will allow NASA and other space agencies to accomplish more in less time and for less money. The type of data that NASA is purchasing through the ILDD program has never before been available for purchase, and will come at a substantially lower cost than would be possible through dedicated governmental missions. The program re-establishes NASA as a world leader in the new era of lunar exploration, what the X PRIZE Foundation calls ‘Moon 2.0,’ which derives economic sustainability from an open, participatory relationship between civil and commercial partners from many nations.

“We’re thrilled that NASA has seized this creative opportunity to engage with the commercial space industry,” said Tiffany Montague, Manager of Business Development at Google and the company’s main representative for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. “We’re approaching an era when space will finally become open and accessible for everyone, and it’s exciting to see private and public sectors complement each other.” The ILDD program and resulting contract awards will be managed by NASA’s Lunar Lander Project Office at the Johnson Space Center near Houston, TX. For more information about ILDD, visit NASA’s website for the program,


The $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented international competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters (1/3 of a mile) and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. Teams are also eligible to win a $1 million award for stimulating diversity in the field of space exploration and as much as $4 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks such as moving ten times as far, surviving the frigid lunar night, or visiting the site of a previous lunar mission. To date, more than 20 teams from a dozen countries around the world have registered to compete for the prize. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is available to be claimed until the end of the year 2015. For more information about the Google Lunar X PRIZE, visit


The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize organization whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. In 2004, the Foundation captured world headlines when Burt Rutan, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the world’s first private vehicle to space to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The Foundation has since launched the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, and the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The Foundation is creating and conducting competitions in four prize groups: Exploration (Space and Oceans), Life Sciences, Energy & Environment, and Education & Global Development. The Foundation is widely recognized as the leader in fostering innovation through competition. For more information, please visit

SpaceRef staff editor.