Tag: Moon

Who Is SpaceX’s Mystery Moon Passenger?

The moon is essentially grey, no color. Looks like plaster of Paris or sort of a grayish beach sand.

This was how Jim Lovell described the lunar surface in 1968 from his perch about 60 miles above the moon.

Lovell and his fellow NASA astronauts never touched down, but they returned to Earth with memories of what was, at the time, the closest view a human being had ever experienced of the planet’s rocky companion.

Nearly 50 years after the Apollo 8 mission, SpaceX wants to give someone that view again.

Elon Musk’s spaceflight company announced Thursday that it will send a private passenger to fly around the moon on its next launch system, the Big Falcon Rocket. The voyage is “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space,” SpaceX said on Twitter.

SpaceX did not give a potential launch date or other details, but those may come Monday night, when the company said it would reveal the identity of the passenger.

This gives us a full weekend to speculate, and speculate we will. Because this trip, if it indeed moves forward—SpaceX previously announced and scrapped a similar plan—would make history.

And not because the voyage would be developed, funded, and operated by a commercial company, rather than NASA, but because the passenger is probably unlike anyone who has made the journey before.

Only 24 people have been to the moon. They were all American, male, and white.

So, who could this mystery moon traveler be?




In February of last year, SpaceX announced it would send two paying customers on a trip around the moon aboard the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket sometime in 2018.

The plan never materialized, likely because Musk eventually decided not to certify the Heavy for human spaceflight and focused on the development of the BFR instead.

The identities of these private citizens were never revealed, though Musk did say that “it’s nobody from Hollywood.” The passenger SpaceX plans to fly on the BFR may be one of them.

The passenger doesn’t have to be a U.S. citizen.

SpaceX will someday fly Americans, yes, but these will be the astronauts that NASA has chosen to test the company’s crew transportation system, which the space agency wants to use to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Unlike that project, the BFR is not affiliated with or funded by NASA. After the announcement Thursday, when a Twitter user mused whether the lucky passenger may be Musk himself, Musk responded with the emoji for the Japanese flag, prompting some to throw out names of wealthy Japanese individuals with an interest in tech.

Russia, China, and India have all said they hope to put their astronauts on the moon, with India aiming to do so as early as 2022. SpaceX may beat them, and give another country the historic first.

Perhaps the voyage will record another first, for women. The Soviet Union sent the first woman to space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963. Twenty years later, the United States sent Sally Ride.

As of March of this year, 60 women from nine countries have gone to space, and several of them have made multiple trips, according to NASA. But none have been to the moon.

If this concept becomes reality, the mystery passenger—and the flight engineers picked to accompany them—will have plenty of leg room.

Their experience will be very unlike that of Jim Lovell and his fellow astronauts, who were packed like spacefaring sardines in the lunar module.

The view, however, will be the same. The window will fill up with the slate gray of the moon, with the texture of the ridges and craters of its surface.

And then, as the spaceship circles the moon, the Earth will slink into view from behind it. “Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!” exclaimed one of the NASA astronauts 60 years ago when he snapped a photograph of that view, the now iconic “Earthrise” shot.

Whomever the mystery SpaceX passenger is, let’s hope they don’t forget to pack a camera.

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Everything You Need To Know About China’s Ambitious Space Plans

By 2030, China wants to be a major space power. To achieve that, it’s got some out-of-this-world ideas.

From building its own space station, to capturing an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon, China’s space programme is often depicted as ludicrous and unfeasible. But it would be foolish to overlook its potential.

China is quickly becoming one of the most ambitious and pioneering nations when it comes to exploring space.

Our overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world,” Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said in January. So what are its plans?

Dark side of the Moon

One of China’s nearest goals is the plan to land a rover on the dark side of the Moon in 2018.

China’s Chang’e 4 mission is the next in line after Chang’e 3, which saw the popular Jade Rabbit lunar rover named after the Chinese Moon goddess. The plan is to study the geology of the Moon’s far side.

As the Moon orbits Earth, it is tidally locked, meaning the same side always faces us.

The far side of the Moon is not always dark, it is illuminated when the side facing the Earth is in darkness; it is just called the dark side of the Moon because we never see it.Landing there would be a significant first.




Asteroid chasing

China plans to visit the asteroid 2010 TK7 in 2026

China made headlines earlier this year when its plans to capture an asteroid were revealed, and somewhat mocked.

The idea of taking an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon was reported by state media, but a detailed description of those specific plans is yet to be published.

However, a new study has revealed what China does plan to do in terms of asteroid chasing.

China’s latest proposal involves studying a chaotic asteroid.

A pair of Chinese researchers has published a paper in Advances in Space Research, outlining a plan to send a spacecraft to the asteroid 2010 TK7, which is on a bizarrely eccentric orbit around the Sun.

The mission will follow in the footsteps of NASA’s Rosetta spacecraft, which had a rendezvous with a comet. The plan is to launch the spacecraft in November 2021, with the manoeuvre happening in August 2025.

Space Station

Drawing of China’s large orbital station.

Not content with sending humans to asteroids, the Moon and Mars, China also plans on building its very own space station.

The first part of the Chinese large modular space station is expected to go into orbit around Earth in 2019 with the final sections in place by 2022.

The station will host three crew members, unlike previous efforts which could not support any crew.

The first Chinese space station, Tiangong-1 or ‘Heavenly Place’ launched in 2011, was only supposed to stay in orbit for two years.

Seven years later, and we are being told the satellite is out of control, and will crash into our planet in the next few months.

In 2011 it was decided China was not allowed to be part of the International Space Station (ISS) collaboration, when the US Congress passed a law saying it was concerned about national security.

An artists’s impression of how China’s Mars rover will look.

The ISS is a joint mission between the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and Europe. Plans to collaborate are continuing, as Nasa and Russia announced a deal to work together building a new space station around the Moon.

But this doesn’t rule China out of the picture completely. “The US-Russian agreement is in principle only,” Logsdon sats. “Neither country has a funded program for such a station yet.

If the Trump administration does fund such a US station, partnerships with many countries, not just Russia, will be sought. The issue then is whether Congress will allow Nasa to work with China.

The future of China’s space exploration is diverse and exciting. With many ambitious plans, and a few failures under its belt, it remains to be seen whether China will meet its ambitious goals.

What is clear, however, is the country is not wasting any time trying to become the leader of the next space race.

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Mars Is Spectacular This Month – Here’s The Best Way To Spy The Red Planet

If you look at the sky tonight and spot a very bright star, it may well be a planet. Mars is the closest it has been to Earth for 15 years – and therefore the brightest.

Mars shines through reflected light,” says Robert Massey, the deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society.

That means that when it’s closer to the Earth it appears brighter, because its apparent size is bigger.” It won’t be this visible again until 2035.

So, how best to see it? First, make sure tall trees or buildings are not obscuring the view. Ideally, you want a clear horizon. Then, look south.




It will be obvious, because it’s bright, it doesn’t twinkle and it has a distinct reddish tinge,” says Massey, who suggests Somerset, Devon and Dorset as good locations for spotting it.

The best Mars-gazing time is 1am, but it rises earlier in the evening.

You can see Mars with the naked eye, but a pair of binoculars would help,” says Massey. “If you have a small telescope, you may be lucky to see a polar ice cap.

If you are an amateur with good equipment, the details to look out for are two polar ice caps, mountains or volcanoes, and sunken, crater-like features. Massey suggests contacting your local astronomical society about public viewing events.

Hubble’s views of Mars at two recent oppositions

When is the best time to see Mars?

According to NASA, Mars Opposition begins Friday, July 27 around midnight.

Mars will be visible between Friday, July 27 and Monday, July 30, making its closest approach — 35.8 million miles to be exact — on Tuesday, July 31 at around 4 a.m. E.T.

Mars will be at its brightest Friday night due to an opposition surge that is affected by the planet’s angle of the sun — giving you the clearest view of the Red Planet.

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NASA Is Planning To Make Water And Oxygen On The Moon And Mars By 2020

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins works with a Nitrogen/Oxygen Recharge System tank aboard the International Space Station.

NASA is forging ahead with plans to make water, oxygen, and hydrogen on the surface of the Moon and Mars.

If we ever want to colonize other planets, it is vital that we find a way of extracting these vital gases and liquids from moons and planets, rather than transporting them from Earth.

The current plan is to land a rover on the Moon in 2018 that will try to extract hydrogen, water, and oxygen — and then hopefully, Curiosity’s successor will try to convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen in 2020 when it lands on Mars.

In 2018, NASA hopes to put a rover on the Moon that will carry the RESOLVE (Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction) science payload.

RESOLVE will contain the various tools necessary to carry out in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).




Basically, RESOLVE will sift through the Moon’s regolith (loose surface soil) and heat them up, looking for traces of hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be combined to make water.

There is also some evidence that there’s water ice on the surface of the Moon — RESOLVE will find out for certain by heating the soil and seeing of water vapor emerges.

A similar payload would be attached to Curiosity’s successor, which is currently being specced out by NASA and will hopefully launch in 2020.

This second IRSU experiment will probably suck in carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere, filter out the dust, and then process the CO2 into oxygen.

If either tech demonstration works as planned, future missions might include large-scale ISRU devices that are capable of producing significant amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, and water on the Moon or Mars.

This would probably be the most important advance since we first landed on the Moon in the ’60s. Basically, as it stands, space travel needs lots of hydrogen and oxygen and water.

Water has the unfortunate characteristic of being both heavy and incompressible, meaning it’s very difficult and expensive to lift large amounts of it into space (gravity can be really annoying sometimes).

Likewise, unless we come up with some other way of powering our spacecraft, it’s infeasible to carry the rocket fuel that we’d need for exploration from Earth.

In short, if we want to colonize space, we really, really need some kind of base outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, preferably on the Moon — but Mars would be good, too.

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What If The Moon Disappeared Tomorrow?

Ah, yes, the moon. To it, over it, shooting for it. Blue, green. Pies, faces, shines, lighting. And I haven’t even gotten to all the Luna-based concepts. Earth’s moon plays a significant role in our culture, language and thoughts.

But does it … you know … matter? If it disappeared in the blink of an eye tomorrow (and for discussion’s sake let’s assume it does so nonviolently), would we even notice? Would we even care?

Well, it depends ….

Do you like tides?

Gravity — at least the Newtonian kind — is pretty straightforward: The closer you are to something, the stronger its pull of gravity.

So stuff that’s closer to the moon gets a stronger gravitational tug, and stuff that’s farther away gets a weaker one. Easy-peasey.

When looking at the effects of the moon on the Earth, you can essentially boil it down to three parts: The Earth itself, the ocean-close-to-the-moon and the ocean-far-from-the-moon.

On any given day, the ocean closest to the moon gets a bonus gravitational pull, so it rises up slightly, reaching out in watery embrace to what it can never reach.




And since the ocean is so big, all the water from one horizon pushes up against water from the other, resulting in a fantastic tidal bulge.

OK, tide on one side of our planet, done. But what about the other?

The solid rocky bits of the Earth are closer to the moon than the ocean on the far side, so the Earth too gets a little more snuggly with the moon, leaving the far-side ocean behind.

Result? Tides on the far side. From the perspective of someone standing on Earth, it looks like that ocean is rising up, but really it just doesn’t get to join the party. And there you have it: two tides on opposite sides of the Earth.

If the moon disappeared, we wouldn’t be totally out of tidal luck; the sun also stretches and squeezes the Earth, so our surfing opportunities wouldn’t be completely eliminated.

Do you like 24 hours in a day?

The Earth used to spin on its axis faster than it does today. As in, way faster. After the hypothetical giant impact that led to the formation of the moon, the Earth’s day was as short as 6 hours. How did it get to a leisurely 24?

That’s right, it was the moon! The moon makes some pretty nice tides, but the Earth is also spinning on its axis. That spinning physically drags the tidal bulges around the planet.

So instead of the tides appearing directly beneath the moon, they’re slightly ahead of it, orbitally speaking.

So you’ve got a big lump of extra ocean water in a place where it’s not supposed to be. Since gravity is a two-way street, that lump pulls on the moon.

Like tugging a reluctant dog on a leash, that tidal bulge yanks on the moon bit by bit, accelerating it into ever-higher orbits.

By the way, the moon is slowly getting farther away from Earth.

And that energy to accelerate the moon has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the Earth itself: Day by day, millennium by millennium, the Earth slows down, converting its rotational energy into the moon’s orbital energy.

If you took away the moon, itꞌs not like this process would reverse, but it wouldn’t keep going. That might or might not be a good thing, depending on how much you like the length of your workday.

Do you like seasons?

The Earth’s axis is tilted, and that tilt can change with time. No biggie, all the planets do it; it’s fun. But what’snot fun is when the tilt changes rapidly.

What would happen if Antarctica pointed straight at the sun for 24 hours a day, plunging North America and Europe into permanent darkness?

And then a few hundred thousand years later it flipped over? We take the long-term regularity of our seasons for granted, and we might have the moon to thank for it.

Those kinds of crazy wild swings in the axial tilt are due to resonances, or unlucky interactions with distant objects in the solar system.

For instance, letꞌs say that one day in its orbit the Earth’s axis just happens to point away from the sun, and Jupiter is hanging out in that direction at the same time.

And let’s say that happens again … and again … and again. Every time Earth’s axis and Jupiter line up, it gets a super-tiny gravitational pull. At first it’s nothing.

But over millions of years it can add up. Before you know it, the accumulation of tugs has flipped the Earth over like a pancake.

What might stabilize this is the moon: it’s really, really big, and orbits us pretty fast. All that angular momentum prevents the other planets from playing any axial shenanigans.

Or not. The moon may actually be hurting us in the long term, since it’s slowing us down, which makes us more susceptible to the intrigues of the outer planets.

But that’s a billion-year problem anyway, and if the moon disappeared tomorrow, our seasons would still be seasonal for a really long time.

So, besides the tides, would we notice a disappeared moon? Well, yes, because it’s really big and bright, and there’d be nothing to howl at anymore. But would it affect us? Not really. So as for the moon … I’m over it!

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The March 31 Blue Moon Is The 2nd Blue Moon Of 2018

We had a Blue Moon on January 31, 2018. It was a supermoon, too, and underwent a total eclipse.

And another full moon that carries the name Blue Moon this weekend, last Saturday night, March 31. Both the January and March 2018 Blue Moons are blue in name only.

Both are the second of two full moons to fall within a single calendar month. Two Blue Moons in a year is indeed rare.

We haven’t had a year with two Blue Moons since 1999 and won’t have one again until January and March, 2037.




In recent years, people have been using the name Blue Moon for two different sorts of moons. The first can be the second of two full moons in a single calendar month, as with the January 31 and March 31 Blue Moons.

An older definition says a Blue Moon is the third of four full moons in a single season.

Meanwhile, the month of February 2018 had no full moon at all.

Someday, you might see an actual blue-colored moon. Meanwhile, the moon you saw last Saturday night does not look blue at all.

Blue-colored moons in photos are made using special blue camera filters or in a post-processing program such as PhotoShop.

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Titan Could Have “Crystals” On Its Surface That Can Support Alien Life

Scientists say there may be crystals on Titan that could provide food for some forms of alien life, according to a study published in the journal ACS Earth and Space Chemistry.

Known as “co-crystals”, they are thought to be the result of ammonia and acetylene creating a salt-like compound, caused by Titan’s methane rain and ethane flooding.

Co-crystals are basically salts that are made of two or more molecular compounds. This allows for some unique properties, such as a different melting point to the original compounds.

However, there is some disagreement over what exactly one is.




The importance of these co-crystals is that they could provide food on Titan’s surface for microbial life.

Some composed of benzene and ethane have been proposed before, but this new type of co-crystal forms more quickly and should be able to survive Titan’s weather.

These co-crystals, or ‘organic minerals’, are an exciting new class of compounds for Titan’s surface,” Morgan Cable from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the study’s lead author said.

The crystals would be extremely small, just a few microns in size – which is smaller than the width of human hair.

They may grow larger under the right conditions, with Cable noting they could look like fresh snow. What’s more, they could be food for certain types of microbes.

Titan has been a bit of a hot topic lately, with NASA currently considering sending a quadcopter to the surface, flying over the ground to study dozens of sites – including the moon’s lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons.

It would launch in 2025 and arrive in 2034.

A recent study also found that Titan’s oceans may be suitable for a submarine at some point in future.

Replicating the temperature and pressure of Titan in the lab, they found that despite the tough conditions, we could feasibly explore these regions.

Titan is the only place other than Earth with known bodies of liquid on its surface. Coupled with its thick atmosphere, it looks like quite an enticing environment for life in one form or another.

Whether it’s truly habitable we might not know for a while, but perhaps these crystals on the surface could help play a part.

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Saturn’s Moon Wears The Weirdest Mountain Range In The Solar System

photo by Cassini Imaging Team/SSI/NASA/JPL/ESA

SallOf all the moons in the solar system, Iapetus has to be among the weirdest. Named after a spear-wielding Titan, the strange Saturnian satellite is less than half the size of Earth’s moon.

But it’s a cluster of enigmas: Squished at its poles, the moon is walnut-shaped, has a face as black as coal and a bright white backside, and wears a big, spiky mountain range as a belt.

Even its orbit is weird: Iapetus is roughly three times farther from Saturn than its closest neighbor, Titan.

And the path it takes around the planet is tilted, meaning it swings up and down as it orbits, rather than staying in the plane of Saturn’s rings like the rest of the “normal” satellites.

In other words, it’s kind of like the rebel of the Saturnian system, a moon who’d prefer to hang out behind the dumpster and cut class rather than play ball with the other kids.




Among the strangest of Iapetus’ unsolved mysteries is its super-chic, spiky mountain range.

Running straight as an arrow along three-quarters of the moon’s equator, the thing is huge: Roughly 20 kilometers tall and up to 200 kilometers wide.

There’s nothing else like it in the solar system.

Scientists first spotted the ridge in 2004, and since then, they’ve been trying to figure out how such a thing formed.

Early theories suggested geologic activity within the moon itself – maybe something akin to Earth’s plate tectonics or volcanism had forced the ridge to rise up along the equator.

But that didn’t make a lot of sense. The moon’s crust wasn’t spongy when the ridge formed, the evidence for active geology tepid.

Then, scientists thought maybe the ridge had formed as a result of the moon’s rotation period abruptly slowing down. Some early simulations suggest a day on the moon used to last for a mere 16 hours.

Now, though, a day on Iapetus lasts 79 Earth-days – the same amount of time it takes the little guy to shuffle once around Saturn.

photo by Cassini Imaging Team/SSI/NASA/JPL/ESA

Maybe, teams said, a giant impact had knocked Iapetus into its current rotation state, and the resulting braking action caused the crust to buckle.

But most of these theories also predict other strange geologic features (which aren’t observed), or hinge upon the crust being a certain thickness.

As the moonlet broke up, Dombard said, its pieces formed an ephemeral ring around Iapetus’ equator. The ring eventually rained down upon the satellite and deposited the giant ridge.

In 2011, another team suggested something similar, this time with a giant impact forming both a ring and a moonlet.

The ring would go on to form the mountain range, while the moonlet would smash into Iapetus and create one of its many large impact basins.

Recent evidence, gleaned from the shape of the mountain ridge itself (steep and triangular), suggests that pieces falling from on high could make total sense.

It’s kind of the same shape you get when you take a handful of sand and slowly sprinkle it into a pile. Why the ridge only runs along three-quarters of the equator isn’t explained by this scenario, though.

In short, we still don’t know how Iapetus grew its monstrous mountains. But the idea of a moon with a moon, or a moon with a ring, is strangely compelling. Too bad Iapetus had to go and tear its little friend to bits.

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Universe’s First Stars Detected? Here Are The Facts!

Stars are our constant companions in the night sky, but seas of twinkling lights weren’t always a feature of the cosmos.

Now, scientists peering back into deep time suggest that the earliest stars didn’t turn on until about 180 million years after the big bang, when the universe as we know it exploded into existence.

For decades, teams of scientists have been chasing—in fact, racing—to detect the signatures of these first stars.

The new detection, from a project called EDGES, is in the form of a radio signal triggered when light from those stars began interacting with the hydrogen gas that filled primordial empty space.

If the signal stands up to scrutiny, the detection simultaneously opens up a new line of cosmological inquiry and offers a few conundrums to tackle.

The era of cosmic dawn has been entirely uncharted territory until now,” says physicist Cynthia Chiang of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

It’s extremely exciting to see a new glimpse of this slice of the universe’s history, and the EDGES detection is the initial step toward understanding the nature of the first stars in more detail.




Cosmic Dawn

Shortly after the universe was born, it was plunged into darkness. The first stars turned on when hot gas coalesced around clumps of dark matter, then contracted and became dense enough to ignite the nuclear hearts of infant suns.

As those early stars began breathing ultraviolet light into the cosmos, their photons mingled with primordial hydrogen gas, causing it to absorb background radiation and become translucent.

When that happened, those hydrogen atoms produced radio waves that traveled through space at a predictable frequency, which astronomers can still observe today with radio telescopes.

The same process is going on in modern stars as they continue to send light into the cosmos.

But the radio waves produced by those first stellar gasps have been traveling through space for so long that they’ve been stretched, or redshifted.

That’s how astronomers identified the fingerprints of the earliest stars in radio waves detected by a small antenna in western Australia.

From Light to Dark

If the signal is real, it presents a challenge for some scientists who’ve been thinking about how the early universe worked.

For starters, the time frame during which these earliest stars emerged lines up well with some theories, but it’s not exactly bang on with others.

In previous work, Furlanetto and his colleagues started with actual observations of the earliest known galaxies, and then rewound the cosmic clock using computer models, searching for the age at which a signal from the first stars might appear.

The universe’s first galaxies are thought to be small, fragile, and not that great at birthing stars, so Furlanetto wouldn’t expect the signal to peak until about 325 million years after the big bang.

But if the first stars had already furnished enough light to make their presence known 180 million years after the big bang, those early galaxies must be doing something different.

As well, the primordial hydrogen gas is absorbing photons at rates that are at least two times higher than predicted.

That’s problematic for some ideas about the temperature of the early universe. It means that either the primordial gas was colder than expected, or background radiation was hotter.

Dark matter makes up the bulk of the universe’s mass, but it doesn’t behave like normal matter and has proven tricky to understand.

It regularly evades direct detection, and scientists are struggling to pin down, what, exactly it is and how it has influenced the structure of the universe through time.

But, she notes, it’s way too early to accept that conclusion.

An alternate possibility is that there are simply more photons for the hydrogen gas to absorb, though it’s not obvious where all those photons would come from in the early universe.

So she and others are waiting for independent confirmation of the EDGES result before diving too deep into the possible dark matter scenarios.

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Google’s $30 Million Moon Race Ends With No Winner

It’s official: The $30 million Google Lunar X Prize is no more.

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,” X Prize founder and chairman Peter Diamandis said in a joint statement today (Jan. 23) with Marcus Shingles, the organization’s CEO.

This literal ‘moonshot’ is hard, and while we did expect a winner by now, due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the grand prize of the $30M Google Lunar X Prize will go unclaimed,” they added.




The acknowledgement confirms news broken yesterday by CNBC.

The Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) was announced in 2007, with the stated aim of encouraging commercial spaceflight and exploration.

The contest challenged privately funded teams to put a robotic spacecraft on the moon, move the craft 1,640 feet (500 meters), and have it beam high-definition photos and video back to Earth.

The first team to do this would win the $20 million grand prize. The second-place team would get $5 million, and an additional $5 million was available for various special accomplishments, bringing the total purse to $30 million.

The GLXP has awarded more than $6 million so far, for various milestones that teams have achieved. Milestone prizes would count toward, and not boost, the total purse taken home by first- or second-place teams.

So, the money given out by the GLXP would not have topped $30 million.

 

The deadline was originally the end of 2012, but GLXP representatives pushed it back several times, finally to March 31 of this year.

Google apparently did not want to grant another extension — but that doesn’t necessarily mean the moon race is completely off.

X Prize is exploring a number of ways to proceed from here,” Diamandis and Shingles said in today’s statement.

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.

Several dozen teams threw their hats into the ring over the course of the decade-long GLXP competition, but that pool was finally whittled down to five finalists: Florida-based Moon Express, Japan’s Team Hakuto, SpaceIL from Israel, India’s Team Indus and international outfit Synergy Moon.

Several of these teams have stressed that the GLXP, while a helpful spur, was not the main reason for their existence.

And Moon Express CEO Bob Richards wrote the following words earlier this month, as part of an op-ed for Space News: “The competition was a sweetener in the landscape of our business case, but it’s never been the business case itself. 

“We continue to focus on our core business plans of collapsing the cost of access to the moon, our partnership with NASA, and our long-term vision of unlocking lunar resources for the benefit of life on Earth and our future in space.

Team Hakuto may yet have a lunar legacy as well: The company is run by the Tokyo-based startup iSpace, which also plans to exploit lunar resources. iSpace recently raised $90 million in investment funding to help it achieve this goal.

We are inspired by the progress of the Google Lunar X Prize teams and will continue to support their journey, one way or another, and will be there to help shine the spotlight on them when they achieve that momentous goal,” Diamandis and Shingles said in today’s statement.

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