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Google Lunar XPrize Deadline Extended To 2016

Teams now have a year to prove they have a launch lined up

2 min read
Google Lunar XPrize Deadline Extended To 2016
An artist's rendering of how a Lunar X Prize rover might look
Photo-illustration: Astrobotic

Teams competing for the US $30 million Google Lunar XPrize have another year to make it to the moon.

The contest, which was first announced in 2007, offers a grand prize of $20 million for the first private team to land safely on the lunar surface, move 500 meters, and transmit high-definition images and video back to Earth. Additional money is set aside for second place and for other accomplishments.

Today, the XPrize Foundation announced it has extended the time for accomplishing the feat to 31 December 2016. The announcement cited both technical and financial challenges facing competitors.

This is not the first extension for the lunar XPrize. The deadline was already extended once before, from the end of 2012 to the end of 2015.

But, crucially, this extension comes with strings attached. No team will advance unless at least one of them shows documentation of a scheduled launch by 31 December 2015. The XPrize Foundation tells me no team has shown such proof.

This announcement doesn’t come as a big surprise here at IEEE Spectrum. We selected the Google Lunar XPrize as one of our big 2015 tech stories for our upcoming January issue. A few weeks before we put the issue to bed, the XPrize Foundation informed us that the deadline change was in the works.

In its statement to IEEE Spectrum before we went to press, the foundation said that the prize would be extended “for any teams providing proof that they have signed with a launch provider.” In today’s announcement, the language is more inclusive: if any team shows evidence of such an arrangement, the lunar prize continues and all are allowed to advance.

But it could very well be a moot point. Rockets are expensive. Lead times are long. Launch manifests fill up. And to complicate matters further, some teams are hoping to save money by piggybacking on an existing launch. That requires careful coordination and a primary rocket customer that’s willing to take on a spacecraft that’s packing a good amount of rocket fuel of its own.

With all that in mind, 31 December 2015 will still be the deadline to watch.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.


For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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