Skip to Content

Robotic Moon Race Heats Up

The ‘Mystery Team’ in Google’s Lunar X PRIZE has revealed its members.
December 17, 2008

At a press conference in Mountain View, CA, this morning, entrepreneur Michael Joyce finally unveiled his team for the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the moon with a $30 million prize purse.

Joyce registered for the competition back in November 2007 but has kept the details of his “Mystery Team” under wraps until now. A year (and some heavy recruiting) later, he has announced his team, dubbed Next Giant Leap. It includes MicroSat Systems, a small spacecraft company formed in 2001 that has mostly built satellites for defense programs; Draper Laboratory, an independent, nonprofit lab that builds guidance and navigation systems for spacecraft (it’s currently working on such technology for NASA’s Orion vehicle and the Ares Rockets); and MIT’s department of aeronautics and astronautics, which includes former astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman and David Miller, head of MIT’s Space Systems Laboratory.

“We believe we will accomplish our goals of not just winning the grand prize, but making a reliable, repeatable transportation system for commercial use,” said Joyce at the conference. The Next Giant Leap team is without a doubt highly qualified for the challenge, but it will not be without tough competition, particularly from Astrobotic. The Astrobotic team is lead by William Whittaker, the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) professor behind the driverless SUV that triumphed on a course of urban and suburban roads in the DARPA’s Urban Challenge last year. Already, the CMU-based team has built a robotic spacecraft called Red Rover, and it’s working with Raytheon and the University of Arizona with the aim of launching within the next two years.

So far there are 12 teams entered in the competition. To win the $20 million grand prize, a team must successfully land a privately funded spacecraft on the moon, rove across the lunar surface for a minimum of 500 meters, and transmit a specific set of video, images, and data back to Earth. There is also a $5 million second prize and $5 million in bonus prizes.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

open sourcing language models concept
open sourcing language models concept

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.