You’ve got to hand it to Google. The company did everything in its power to push private companies into space with its Lunar X Prize — a competition that tasked participants to build and launch a robotic spacecraft to the Moon and snap some footage — including putting $30 million in the prize pool and extending the deadline by years when it was clear that all the companies were well behind schedule. Now, over a half decade removed from the contest’s original end date, the company is finally throwing in the towel and declaring that there is no winner.
At the moment, the final deadline for the competition is March 31st, 2018, but it’s already clear that none of the remaining participants will be able to complete a launch by that date. The closest team is still several months away from even preparing a launch, and has stated that it wouldn’t be ready until much later this year at the earliest. The $20 million first prize and $5 million second prize will go unclaimed, while an additional $5 million set aside for various milestone accomplishments has already been given out.
“Google does not have plans at this time to extend the deadline again, however we are so thrilled with the progress made by these teams over the last ten years,” Google told CNBC in a statement confirming the true end of the competition.
You really have to give Google a lot of credit here, despite the unfortunate outcome. The company has been incredibly accommodating, extending the deadline from its original “end of 2012” window to 2014, 2015, 2017, and finally early 2018. Unfortunately, the participants faced countless setbacks with the vast majority bowing out years ago. The handful that remain have managed to secure launch contracts but are still months away from actually seeing their creations head skyward.
“After close consultation with our five finalist Google Lunar X Prize teams over the past several months, we have concluded that no team will make a launch attempt to reach the moon by the March 31, 2018, deadline,” the independent xX Prize organization said in a statement. “X Prize is exploring a number of ways to proceed from here. This may include finding a new title sponsor to provide a prize purse following in the footsteps of Google’s generosity, or continuing the Lunar X Prize as a noncash competition where we will follow and promote the teams and help celebrate their achievements.”