Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Robot explorers have ventured beyond low Earth orbit on scientific missions for decades, but it is still an expensive and relatively uncommon undertaking. However, “properly incentivized, the private industry can help make access to [the moon and beyond] low-cost and routine,” says William Pomerantz, the senior director of space prizes at the X Prize Foundation.

The biggest incentives the foundation is offering come in the form of a competition among privately funded teams to launch a lunar exploration robot by 2015. The competition, sponsored by Google, will award $20 million to the first team to land, travel 500 meters, and send images and video back to Earth; $5 million to the second team to achieve those objectives; and $5 million worth of bonus prizes for achievements such as visiting an Apollo mission site. Nearly 30 teams have entered the Google Lunar X Prize competition; their estimated median mission budget is $50 million to $75 million. The prize money won’t cover the costs for most of the entrants (in the original X Prize competition, the winner spent over $25 million to capture a $10 million award for the first private spacecraft), but sponsors are chasing the potential for glory and commercial spin-offs.

Although the competition is focused on encouraging private investment, NASA is paying close attention, says John Olson, a director in NASA’s Exploration Systems Division. “We have a mutual interest in achieving more affordable and sustainable space exploration, and the competition is critical to that,” he says. The agency has agreed to buy mission data from six teams.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me
×

A Place of Inspiration

Understand the technologies that are changing business and driving the new global economy.

September 23-25, 2014
Register »