Contenders in Google's U.S. $30 million Lunar XPrize competition must line up a 2017 Moon mission by the end of 2016 to stay in the race. Three teams - Moon Express in the United States, SpaceIL in Israel and Synergy Moon, an international team working in 15 countries - have met the deadline.
Thirteen other teams have made it through the selection process, and are striving to meet the deadline.
The top prize, of U.S. $20 million, will go to the first privately-funded team that develops a spacecraft to land on the Moon, traverse its surface and transmit photos and videos - and complete the mission by the end of 2017. The second-placed team will receive U.S. $5 million, with the same amount again handed out in bonus prizes.
"The prize aims to create a new Apollo moment for this generation and to spur continuous lunar exploration," says Google, and to aid the development of low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.
The Lunar XPrize, which started off with more than 25 teams, is in its final round of 16. Moon Express was awarded U.S. $1 million by Google last year as the only team shooting for the Moon to flight test a prototype of its lander. A Florida start-up company, Moon Express has parallel plans for a mission to land a small payload of scientific equipment on the Moon in 2017. The plans await federal approval.
Astrobotic Technology, a U.S. company that has announced a new design for its lunar lander, along with two new industry partners, is believed to be close to meeting the Dec 2016 deadline.
Date written/update: 2016-11-18