To win the grand prize of the Google Lunar Xprize ($20 million), private teams (with no more than 10% in government funding) must:
* Land a robot safely on the Moon
* Move 500 meters on, above, or below the Moon’s surface; and
* Send back HDTV Mooncasts for everyone to enjoy
….And this must all be completed before the December 31st, 2015 deadline! There are other prizes, too, for missions like surviving the lunar night and visiting an Apollo site.
XPRIZE and Google have incorporated Milestone Prizes into the Google Lunar XPRIZE in order to reward teams who achieve key milestones on their way to ready their subsystems for launch.
The Milestone Prizes, totalling US$6 million, are for demonstrating (via actual testing and analysis) robust hardware and software to overcome key technical risks in the areas of imaging, mobility and lander systems — all three being necessary to achieve a successful Google Lunar XPRIZE mission. Milestone Prizes are available in each of those three categories and the prize value and maximum number of winning teams for each are summarized below.
There are still 16 active teams. There are five leading teams who are finalists for at least one of the milestone prizes.
Astrobotic and Moon Express would be considered the leaders are they are finalists in all three milestone prizes. Astrobotic also has booked a rocket launch on a Spacex Falcon 9 for October 2015. They are the primary payload and have sold secondary payload space to defray costs. If Astrobotic and Moon Express succeed they plan to perform lunar missions for NASA and other space agencies.
In April 2011, Astrobotic received a $599,000 two-year contract to develop a scalable gravity offload device for testing rover mobility in simulated lunar gravity under NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR).
On April 30, 2014 NASA announced that Astrobotic Technologies was one of the three companies selected for the Lunar CATALYST initiative. NASA is negotiating a 3 year no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA). The Griffin Lander may be involved
Astrobotic Griffin Lander
Moon Express is working with Autodesk Moon Express will send a series of robotic spacecraft to the Moon for ongoing exploration and commercial development. The opportunity is simply driven by advances in technology. What used to require the unlimited budgets of a superpower, are now within reach of private enterprise.
On June 30, 2011, the company held its first successful test flight of a prototype lunar lander system called the Lander Test Vehicle (LTV) that was developed in partnership with NASA.
In mid-2012, Moon Express announced that it will work with International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) to put a shoebox-sized astronomical telescope on the Moon. Additional details were released in July 2013, including that there would be two telescopes: a 2 meters (6 ft 7 in) radio telescope as well as an optical telescope. The preferred location is 5 kilometers (3.1 mi)-high Malapert crater, with current plans to land the mission no earlier than 2018.
As of November 2012, MoonEx has 20 employees, plans to stage a public demonstration in the fall of 2013, and has announced that they will be ready to land on the Moon by early 2015.
In December 2013, MoonEx unveiled the MX-1 lunar lander, a toroidal robotic lander that uses high-test hydrogen peroxide as its rocket propellant to support vertical landing on the Lunar surface.
On April 30, 2014 NASA announced that Moon Express Inc. was one of the three companies selected for the Lunar CATALYST initiative. NASA is negotiating a 3 year no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA)
Moon Express MX-1 Lunar Lander
Landing Milestone: The landing system includes all hardware and software that support a soft-landing of the Google Lunar XPRIZE spacecraft on the Moon. Judges will monitor teams as they test items such as the following: Attitude control en route to the Moon Systems for tracking and orbit determination en route to the Moon Guidance Navigation and Control (GNC) for the lunar descent (including sensors) Avionics Propulsion Landing legs or touchdown devices Thermal control (e.g. related to GNC or propulsion) Onboard autonomy Interfaces to other subsystems Mobility Milestone: Judges will monitor teams as they test items such as the following: Primary mobility actuators (e.g. wheels, thrusters, etc.) Mechanisms for pointing, driving, throttling the primary mobility actuators Mechanisms for deployment from primary craft (if relevant) Avionics for surface navigation including sensors for the mobility system (e.g. attitude, speed, position) Hardware and software for distance verification, including any on‐ground processing steps Lunar surface--‐to--surface telecommunications (if a separate vehicle is used as a telecommunications relay to Earth for mobility--related telemetry and command) Interfaces to other subsystems Camera Milestone: Judges will monitor teams as they test items such as the following: Optics (e.g. lenses, mirrors) Detectors and associated electronics Mechanisms (e.g. pointing, hold down & release, shutter, focus) Image processing capability needed to meet GLXP image specifications Lunar surface--‐to--‐surface telecommunications (if a separate craft is used as a telecommunications relay of the Mooncast) Camera thermal control Interfaces to other subsystems
Milestone Prize Finalists
Astrobotic has been selected to compete for three of the Milestone Prizes: the Landing Prize, the Mobility Prize, and the Imaging Prize. They aim to deliver affordable space robotics technology and missions for a new era of planetary exploration, science, tourism, resource utilization and mining. The company was established in 2008 as a spin-off from the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute. The team’s lander has a mass of more than half a metric ton and is about the size of a small SUV. It will release a rover about the size of a go-cart. The team’s rover will explore a lunar skylight thought to be an entrance to a subsurface cave network.
Hakuto has been selected to compete for one of the Milestone Prizes: the Mobility Prize. Team Hakuto’s mission is to trail-blaze non-governmental space missions, highlight Japanese robotics technology and inspire people through the dream of reaching the Moon. Hakuto’s rover is small, around 20 cm tall and 30 cm wide with a mass of 2 kilograms. It will be able to carry about 100 grams of scientific instrumentation and will use two wheels to move across the lunar surface. The micro-rover design highlights a strength in Japanese engineering – the miniaturization of complex machines.
Moon Express has been selected to compete for three of the Milestone Prizes: the Landing Prize, the Mobility Prize, and the Imaging Prize. Moon Express Inc. is a privately funded company created to develop new commercial space activities and to open up the resources of the Moon for the benefit of humanity. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Moon Express combines lean start-up principles with expertise in aerospace engineering and planetary sciences. Moon Express plans to send a series of low-cost robotic missions to the Moon, starting with its Google Lunar XPRIZE mission. The MX-1 will launch in 2015 and land in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.
Team Indus has been selected to compete for two of the Milestone Prizes: the Landing Prize, and the Imaging Prize. The team is managed by Axiom Research Labs Private Limited, an aerospace startup company, and is headquartered in India’s IT industry hub, Bangalore. Through its lunar mission, Team Indus aims to showcase the creativity and capability of Indian entrepreneurs, promote higher scientific education, develop new home-grown space technologies and inspire an entire generation of young people.
Part Time Scientists
Part Time Scientists has been selected to compete for two of the Milestone Prizes: the Mobility Prize, and the Imaging Prize. The Part-Time Scientists team consists of dozens of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs from countries around the world. The team’s goal is to create a foundation for the future of private space exploration. Their lander, Isaac, will weigh approximately 250kg with up to 50kg of payload space (of which 25kg will be the Asimov rover). Asimov has a four-wheeled design that uses a vector control system, which means it can move easily in any direction with no ‘front’ or ‘back’ to the rover.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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