Press Release

X PRIZE Foundation Announces Three-Year, Multi-Million Dollar Sponsorship with Shell for Prizes Promoting Exploration of Space, Oceans and Land

By SpaceRef Editor
October 6, 2011
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X PRIZE Foundation Announces Three-Year, Multi-Million Dollar Sponsorship with Shell for Prizes Promoting Exploration of Space, Oceans and Land

Kick-off Event Includes Noted Explorers Sharing Achievements, Future Possibilities for Unexplored Frontiers

The X PRIZE Foundation, the leading nonprofit organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, global incentivized competitions, today announced Shell as the exclusive presenting sponsor of the X PRIZE Exploration Prize Group, which aims to foster innovation through exploration to improve life on Earth. During the three-year, nine million dollar sponsorship, the X PRIZE Foundation will address these objectives through its incentive prize model to stimulate innovation, competition and collaboration at the frontiers of space, our earth and its oceans.

“Shell has long been on the cutting edge of innovation, and we are proud to bring them into the X PRIZE family, supporting a prize group that advances innovation, exploration and tomorrow’s discoveries,” said Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. “We are closely aligned in our goals to motivate and inspire brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual capital to explore new frontiers that could result in significant global achievements.”

“Continuous innovation and pioneering spirit is part of Shell’s DNA. As a technology leader in energy, we constantly drive new solutions responding to the global energy challenge,” said Gerald Schotman, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President, Innovation, Research & Development, Royal Dutch Shell. “We are delighted to support the X PRIZE Foundation’s Exploration Prize Group and look forward to the exciting discoveries that come from the next generation of incentivized competitions.”

Shell and X PRIZE announced the new partnership today during an engaging roundtable event at the historic Explorers Club in New York City. At the event, world-renowned explorers shared their remarkable achievements as well as future scenarios for exploration of space, our Earth and its oceans that could lead to breakthrough innovations. These marquis explorers included:

* Richard Garriott, whose space interests began at age four, when his father Owen was named a NASA astronaut, is America’s first second generation astronaut. A leading entrepreneur in computer games and civilian spaceflight, he leveraged his Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement gaming career to become a principal in civilian space exploration via organizations from the X PRIZE through Space Adventures. Says Garriott, “When Columbus sailed to the new world, it opened the first 50 years of government sponsored expeditions. After that, corporations and private citizens sponsored expeditions to discover and create value from the bounty of newly discovered lands. Over the last 50 years, governments led expeditions into the final frontier. If humanity is to return over and over to low earth orbit, private industry must lead the way. Governments can then again focus on pushing the boundaries of human exploration, eventually leading to humanity becoming a multi-planet species, which I believe is the next grand vision for space exploration.”

* Dr. David Gallo, Director of Special Projects, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute is a renowned undersea explorer and among the first oceanographers to combine manned submarines and robots to map the undersea world. He has participated in numerous expeditions, was co-leader of the recent Titanic exploration and project leader in the successful search for missing Air France Flight 447. During the Gulf oil spill, he joined filmmaker and X PRIZE Trustee James Cameron in his Deep Ocean Task Force. “We now know oceans hold clues to understanding human origins, evolution and destiny. Healthy oceans provide us the food we eat, water we drink, and air we breathe. Yet they are largely unexplored and poorly understood. Nearly every time we venture beneath the waves we discover something new, startling and even revolutionary. Few realize that deep beneath the waves we find the world’s greatest mountains, deepest valleys and underwater lakes, rivers and waterfalls. In the sea’s darkest places where we expect to find no life at all, we find communities of animals rivaling tropical rain forests in density and diversity,” Gallo says.

* Global adventurer, mountain climber and filmmaker Mark Synnott has climbed some of the biggest rock faces and ice walls on the planet, ventured into among the least-visited locales on earth and photographed the globe’s most spectacular sites. He believes “the more we explore our world, the more we realize how much is still out there waiting to be discovered. There are still many unexplored mountains, glaciers, jungles and deserts on this planet. We need to keep exploring these places to learn more about the Earth, and in the process, more about ourselves. This knowledge gives us the power to protect our world and all the species that call it home.”

* In a message from the International Space Station, NASA Astronaut Mike Fossum shared that “Exploration is an important part of who we are as a species. Space exploration helps us to learn more about our planet and the wonders of our universe.”

Today’s event commemorates the seventh anniversary of the historic winning flight for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE, a competition to send the world’s first privately funded vehicle into space and back twice in two weeks. To date, more than $1.5 billion in public and private expenditure have supported the private spaceflight industry.

Currently underway in the X PRIZE Foundation’s Exploration Group is the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE–the largest prize ever offered–which challenges privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the surface of the moon that can travel over the lunar surface and send images and data back to Earth.

The X PRIZE Foundation and Shell today also launched a viral video competition designed to inspire the next generation of explorers in improving the knowledge of our planet and the universe. The “Why do YOU Explore?” competition, which runs until April 2012, challenges the public to create their own original and “mashup” videos on exploration, using assets such as interviews with great explorers of the past and present, imagery from NASA and footage from groundbreaking missions across the frontiers of space, Earth and the seas.

To learn more about X PRIZE Foundation Exploration Prize Group; “Why do YOU Explore?” video campaign; or to access a webcast of today’s announcements, visit


Founded in 1995, the X PRIZE Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself. The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity. The X PRIZE Foundation conducts competitions in four Prize Groups: Education & Global Development; Energy & Environment; Life Sciences; and Exploration. Prizes won include the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private, suborbital space flight; the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE for creating safe, affordable, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG energy equivalent (MPGe); and the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE for advanced rocket development. Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco, and the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. For more information, visit


Shell is an affiliate of the Royal Dutch Shell plc, a global group of energy and petrochemical companies with 93,000 employees in more than 90 countries. We deliver a diverse range of energy solutions and petrochemicals to customers worldwide. These include transporting and trading oil and gas, marketing natural gas, producing and selling fuel for ships and planes, generating electricity and providing energy efficiency advice. We also produce and sell petrochemical building blocks to industrial customers globally, and we are investing in making renewable and lower-carbon energy sources competitive for large-scale use. In the U.S., we operate in 50 states and employ more than 20,000 people delivering energy in a responsible manner.

SpaceRef staff editor.