Five teams competing in the Google Lunar XPrize to land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon by 2015 have been announced finalists in a ‘milestones’ competition.
The teams from the USA, Japan, Germany and India have impressed the judges with their designs of landing, mobility and imaging systems and will now compete over the $6m (£3.6m) award.
The Milestone Prizes are a voluntary complement of the main Google Lunar XPrize competition, launched in 2007, which has about 30 teams from all over the world competing for the final $40m pot of money. The teams have until 31 December 2015 to build, launch and land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon's surface.
The teams wishing to participate in the milestones competition had to submit documentation defining key technical risks related to their projects and the proposed mitigation strategies.
The five finalists, including the Astrobotic team (US), the Moon Express (US), Hakuto (Japan), Part-Time-Scientists (Germany), and Team Indus (India), will now have to demonstrate their concepts in testing and mission simulations under the scrutiny of the judges.
“Every strategy presented to us was imaginative, forward-thinking and ambitious, which made it difficult to choose only a handful to proceed to the Accomplishment Round,” said David Swanson, chair of the Google Lunar XPRIZE judging panel. “As there are increasing fiscal constraints threatening the ability of governments to fund exploration, the need to recognise the bold technical achievements of these privately-funded teams is greater than ever.”
Teams not competing in milestones prizes are still eligible to win the Grand and Second Place Prizes.
The $20m Grand Prize requires a team to land a robotic rover on the Moon and have it travel at least 500 metres while transmitting a high-resolution video to Earth. The second team accomplishing the same task will claim the Second Place Prize.
XPRIZE is also considering additional Milestone Prizes for technical achievements after lift-off on the way to the Moon, to be announced at a later date.