The Google Lunar XPrize has had an unfortunate history. The competition, which was designed to push independent companies and inventors to create a vehicle which could land on the lunar surface and take some pictures, was originally supposed to wrap up by the end of 2012. That date got pushed back to 2014, 2015, 2017, and eventually March 31st 2018. That final date has come and gone with no winner, and Google decided to not award the final prize because nobody actually won.
Now, just days after the final date of Google’s involvement with the project came to an unfortunate end, the XPrize Foundation announced that it is going to continue the competition, albeit in a slightly different manner.
Google’s partnership with the XPrize foundation was a big deal for a number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that the company was funding the $30 million prize pool that drew so many different teams in. The company awarded a number of smaller prizes along the way, but the big payday was never actually awarded, and now that Google has broken off its involvement with the Lunar XPrize, it’s up to the organizers to figure out how to proceed.
In a statement today, the organization announced that it was seeking a new “title sponsor” for the Lunar XPrize competition. That yet-to-be-determined company would presumably step in and fill the financial void Google has left, which means it would need to be a company with some very deep pockets.
“Over the last decade the Google Lunar XPrize teams raised over $300 million through corporate sponsorships, government contracts and venture capital,” Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director of prizes with the XPrize Foundation, explains. “These space entrepreneurs are developing long-term business models around lunar transportation, and we cannot give up on them now. I am confident that one of these companies will land on the Moon in the near future and am excited for the next chapter of this new space race.”
While this might all sound kind of pointless, it makes sense to continue the Lunar XPrize competition, especially for the handful of teams still vying for the shot at landing their own hardware on the Moon. Many of these groups have spent the better part of a decade working towards the ultimate goal of a Moon landing, and throwing in the towel now would mean throwing away years of work.