Google Lunar XPrize pair team up for ride-sharing mission to the moon

24 Feb 2015

Two rovers are to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the latter half of 2016. Image via SpaceX

Two teams that entered Google’s Lunar XPrize funding competition have set in motion plans to join forces to bring two scientific rovers to the moon during the second half of 2016.

The Lunar XPrize, whose prizes total as much as US$30m, was planned with the goal of landing a privately funded robot on the moon and now US start-up Astrobotic plans to launch its Google Lunar XPRIZE mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the help of one of its original competitors, the Japanese firm, Hakuto.

Last month, both teams were awarded milestone prizes in the competition with Hakuto winning US$500,000 for its mobility technology, while Astrobotic, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, won a total of US$1.75m for innovations in landing, mobility and imaging with all of its rovers demonstrating the ability to move 500m across the lunar surface and withstand the high radiation environment and extreme temperatures on the moon.

The Japanese company arguably have more to gain from the deal by getting the chance to take their drone to Earth’s satellite and Astrobiotic securing Hakuto’s long-term service as part of the former’s plans for establishing a long-term Earth-to-moon delivery service.

The rovers have an exciting mission ahead of them with the planned landing site being in the Lacus Mortis region, which has an entrance to a lunar cave created during the moon’s ancient volcanic past.

“Stimulating new business ecosystems is one of the core goals of any XPrize competition, and this joint venture is an excellent example of how humanity’s commercial and economic interests will expand into space in the coming years,” said Andrew Barton, director of technical operations, Google Lunar XPrize.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic