for National Geographic News
There's a new race to the moon—and 30 million dollars are at stake.
The heads of Google and the X Prize yesterday announced that they will give 20 million U.S. dollars to the makers of the first privately operated robotic rover to land on the moon and beam video and data back to Earth.
The second-place finisher will get five million, with another five million slotted as a bonus prize.
The new purse is a follow-up to the successful ten-million-dollar Ansari X Prize, which challenged teams to create a private spacecraft.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin and X Prize founder Peter Diamandis said their aim with the new contest is to spark a second space race to animate the scientific imagination and innovation of Internet-generation youths across the globe.
"The Google Lunar X Prize seeks to create a global private race to the moon that excites and involves people around the world and accelerates space exploration for the benefit of all humanity," Diamandis said in a statement.
"When the original Ansari X Prize was launched it was considered unimaginable that private individuals could commercially venture into space, and yet that was accomplished," added Google's Brin on the lunar prize Web site.
"So now, we are here today, embarking upon this great adventure of having a nongovernmental, commercial organization return to the moon and explore."
With a heavy emphasis on the Internet, this new competition, dubbed Moon 2.0, will be entirely different than the battle that sent U.S. astronauts to the moon in 1969, the prize founders say.
Web users throughout the world will be able to track any progress in real time though the Web site www.googlelunarxprize.org.
And because the contest is no longer tied to Cold War politics, independent space-tech designers from across the globe will be able to put their expertise to work, the X-Prize's Diamandis said in a wide-ranging interview before the Google X Prize was unveiled.
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