A team from Israel SpaceIL signed a contract to launch its robotic lunar landing module to the Moon aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the second half of 2017. Therefore, the SpaceIL team is the main contender to win the top prize of $ 20 million from the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), the contest organizers said.
“We are proud to have received an officially confirmed and proven contract to launch SpaceIL, which positions them as the first and only Google Lunar X Prize team to demonstrate this important achievement,” said Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of X Prize, in a statement.
“The significance of this achievement cannot be overestimated, as it represents an unprecedented and monumental commitment to a private organization that finances and starts an exciting stage of the competition, in which the remaining 15 teams currently have no contracts until the end of 2016, allowing them to make their own test runs” added Weiss. “It is worth saying that this gives us all on the X-Prize and Google a lot of pride. New space race has begun! ”
SpaceIL is not the only GLXP team planning to lead the race to the moon. For example, in California, Moon Express announced its launch with the space flight company Rocket Lab last week, and Astrobotic based in Pittsburgh signed a contract with SpaceX back in 2011. Moon Express is aiming to launch its robotic MX-1 machine on the Moon for the first time in 2017, while members of the Astrobotic team said they plan to launch their Griffin on board the SpaceX Falcon 9 sometime next year.
But SpaceIL is the only team at the moment that is ready to begin the verification process, in which the organizers of the competition make reviews and evaluate the launch contract and supporting documents, a spokesman for X Prize Space.com said. This stage is a big deal: at least one GLXP team was able to submit a launch contract for verification by the end of 2015 for the competition, which will be extended until December 31, 2017.
Google Lunar X Prize was created in 2007 to encourage the development of the sphere of private space flights, and hopefully will help usher in a new era of accessibility to the Moon and other space directions.
The first is funded by a private team successfully landing a robot on the moon, which will cover at least 1,650 feet (500 meters), and send high-definition video and photos back to Earth by the end of 2017 will win the top prize of $ 20 million. The second team, having achieved these goals, will receive $ 5 million; another $ 5 million was allocated to other participants, resulting in a total prize pool of $ 30 million.
The competition involves 16 teams.
SpaceIL has signed a launch contract with Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries, which recently acquired Falcon 9 from SpaceX. (Falcon 9 is currently selling for $ 60 million.) SpaceIL's Lunokhod will receive a “co-lead spot” to launch, sitting inside a capsule among a number of secondary payloads, representatives of GLXP said. Members of the SpaceIL team announced a pact today (October 7) at a press conference in Jerusalem, Israel, during which they also showed their new 1100-pound design. (500 kilograms) of the descent vehicle, which is approximately 5-6, 6 feet wide (1, 5 - 2 m).
“Last year, we achieved significant success on the way to the landing on the Moon, both in terms of project financing and design, and now we are happy to finally secure our launch agreement,” said SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman in the same statement. “It takes us one big step closer to understand our vision of recreating the Apollo effect in Israel: to inspire a new generation to study science, technology, technology and mathematics.”
To date, only three individuals have succeeded in gently landing a spacecraft on the surface of the moon — the governments of the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China.