More than three decades after the last Apollo astronauts roamed the lunar surface, disparate universities, open-source engineers and quixotic aerospace start-ups are planning to start their own robotic missions to the Earth’s barren cousin.
The return to the moon is part of the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition sponsored by Google with $30 million in prizes for the first two teams to land a robotic rover on the moon and send images and other data back home.
At Google’s headquarters here Thursday, 10 teams from five countries announced their intention to participate in the competition.
They include a team led by William Whitaker, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a renowned roboticist; an affiliation of four universities and two major aerospace companies in Italy; and one group comprised of a loose association of engineers coordinating their efforts online.
At the event, the new lunar explorers shared some high-minded goals, like reigniting moon exploration and jump-starting an age of space commerce. “This is about developing a new generation of technology that is cheaper, can be used more often and will enable a new wave of explorers,” said Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize Foundation.