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Google-sponsored private moon race delayed for the fourth time

The deadline for the Google Lunar X Prize has been pushed backed once again, from the end of 2017 to 31 March 2018. The prize offers $30 million to the first privately-funded venture that puts a spacecraft on the moon.

In order to win the money, competitors’ rovers will have to explore at least 500 metres of the moon’s surface and send back high-definition images and video. However, this new deadline came with additional “milestone prizes” which will let the companies win some money even if they are not entirely successful.

The Lunar Arrival Milestone prize offers $1.75 million to spacecraft that either orbit the moon or try landing. The Soft Landing Milestone Prize will award $3 million to any craft proven to successfully land on the surface. These new prizes aren’t a race; they’ll be split up among all teams which achieve the milestones by the end of March.

The original competition announced in 2007 offered $20 million to the first privately-funded company that reached the moon by 2012. Since then, the prize has been raised and the deadline has been extended three times.

Five teams remain in the game, having secured contracts to launch their moon landers: the Israeli company SpaceIL, Moon Express in the US, TeamIndus in India, HAKUTO in Japan, and Synergy Moon, an international group.