December 17, 2008

Google Announces Additional Lunar Teams

A Google backed initiative to land a privately operated spacecraft on the moon and transmit back to Earth, announced two international teams that will be competing for a $30 million prize.

There are 16 total teams that plan to take part in the Google Lunar X PRIZE.  The teams must land a vehicle on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit a "Mooncast" back to Earth.

Google announced a new Europe based team called "Eurolina". Palle Haastrup will lead the team; he is a founding member and current president of the European Lunar Exploration Association.

Team Euroluna is made up of six people who range from 16 - 60 years old and whose backgrounds span from chemical and mechanical engineering to software and business administration.

The team's early plans indicate they want to use commercial, off-the-shelf technologies that will be downsized and implemented in the design of their craft, ROMIT.

The spacecraft will be powered by solar cells. All control and command operations will be remotely controlled, with only limited computing power on the Moon.

Markus Bindhammer heads the second group, called Team Selene.  Team Selene is based in China and consists of a Chinese and German group of mathematicians, physicists and designers along with aerospace and robotic engineers.

Team Selene's concept of a rocket car as the lunar rover will be driven by a rocket engine and powered by solid fuel, liquid fuel or compressed gas. The ignition system of LuRoCA 1, the working title of the vehicle, will be activated by remote control or by a timer circuit.

Researchers say the cost-efficient craft will also be equipped with four HD cameras and will be known by the simplicity of its operation and insusceptibility to malfunctions.

"The Google Lunar X PRIZE is truly an international competition, and with the addition of Euroluna and Selene, our first teams headquartered in Denmark and China, respectively, the competition continues to grow throughout the world," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. "I'm confident that their participation will inspire others to reach for the stars, and wish both teams the best of luck!"

The $30 million prize purse is broken up into a $20 million Grand Prize, a $5 million Second Prize and $5 million in bonus prizes.

To capture the Grand Prize, a team must successfully soft land a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon, rove on the lunar surface for a minimum of 500 meters, and transmit a specific set of video, images and data back to the Earth.

The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. The Foundation is widely recognized as the leading model for fostering innovation through competition.


Image Courtesy Of Google


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Google Lunar X PRIZE