The Google-sponsored Lunar X Prize competition will end without anyone claiming the grand prize, the X Prize Foundation announced. The teams had to launch and complete their missions to the Moon before March 31st, 2018 in order to win any grand prize money. The original deadline was set for 2014, but was extended at least four times. Google apparently did not want to grant another extension.
The Google Lunar X Prize was established in 2007 with the intention of helping to lower the cost of getting to space. The teams were challenged to develop and launch robotic lunar landers using mostly private funding. Teams also had to travel up to 1,640 feet on the Moon and be able to beam high-definition photos and video back to Earth.
Up to $30 million in prize money was up for grabs. The first to fulfill all of the requirements before the deadline would receive a prize of $20 million. The second team to succeed would have received $5 million. Teams that were able to complete special tasks, like as completing an orbit around the Moon would have been awarded smaller purses. The X Prize Foundation did award more than $6 million throughout the competition for achieving certain milestones or objectives.
Only five finalists remained in the competition. The five finalists were SpaceIL from Israel, Moon Express from the U.S., TeamIndus from India, Hakuto from Japan, and multinational team Synergy Moon. The competition started with more than 30 registered teams.
All five finalists had secured launch contracts with rocket companies to send their vehicles to space. However, no team is ready to launch with only two months until the deadline. Only Hakuto had completed their spacecraft. Team Moon Express even received regulatory approval from the U.S. government for its mission, becoming the first ever for a private mission the Moon.
A Google spokesperson said that the company is “thrilled with the progress made by these teams over the last ten years.” Many teams say they will still pursue their missions. Google will keep the prize money, but says the X Prize Foundation is considering ways to help these teams continue working. The five finalists had already raised a combined $300 million for their missions.