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Google Funds $30M Moon Race

Photonics.com
Sep 2007
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Sept. 14, 2007 -- The X Prize Foundation and Google Inc. announced yesterday the launch of the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, an international race to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon and send images and data back to Earth.

"The Google Lunar X Prize calls on entrepreneurs, engineers and visionaries from around the world to return us to the lunar surface and explore this environment for the benefit of all humanity," said Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation. "We are confident that teams from around the world will help develop new robotic and virtual presence technology, which will dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration."

The nonprofit X Prize Foundation, which is based in Santa Monica, is best known for the $10 million Ansari X Prize, which was awarded for the first private manned spaceflight in 2004.

"When the original Ansari X Prize was launched it was considered unimaginable that private individuals could commercially venture into space and yet that was accomplished," said Googel cofounder Sergey Brin on the Google Lunar X Prize Web site. "So now, we are here today embarking upon this great adventure of having a nongovernmental, commercial organization return to the Moon and explore. And I'm very excited that Google can play a part in it."

The first company to land a privately funded spacecraft equipped with high-definition video and still cameras on the moon by Dec. 31, 2012, that can complete several objectives, including roving the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and transmitting a specific set of video, still images and data to Earth, will win the $20 million grand prize. Lesser amounts will be awarded to first and second place teams that reach the moon after the 2012 deadline; the contest is slated to end by Dec. 31, 2014.

The Internet search provider is also offering $5 million in bonus prizes to lunar vehicles that achieve more ambitious goals, such as roving longer distances, imaging objects left behind by astronauts, discovering ice and/or surviving through a frigid lunar night (approximately 14.5 Earth days). Any video and images transmitted will be available for public viewing via the prize's Web site.

"We hope the contest will help renew public interest in fields like math, engineering and computer science, especially among the young people on whom we'll all be depending to tackle tomorrow's technical challenges, whether they're on the Web or among the stars," said Google Senior VP of Engineering Alan Eustace on the company's official blog yesterday.

The announcement comes amidst renewed interest in the moon. Officials with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced today that Japan has successfully launched Selene, the country's first large lunar orbit explorer. Plans call for the spacecraft to orbit the Earth twice and then orbit the moon by the end of October to collect data and get a better understanding of its evolution.

Also, NASA is planning both unmanned and manned lunar missions, China said it plans to launch a lunar probe soon in anticipation of a later moon landing, India's Chandrayaan-1 mission aims to put that country's first spacecraft into lunar orbit, and Russia announced it plans to send a manned mission to the moon by 2025.

For more information, visit: www.googlelunarxprize.org


GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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