Contestants in the exciting Google Lunar XPRIZE knew that their mission would not be easy at all; in fact, they knew that their mission has only been achieved by a few space programs that enjoyed significant financial support from powerful governments. Nonetheless, the five teams vying for the $30 million purse offered by Google tried everything they could to show that they could land on the Moon by the end of March 2018.
In a press release published by Google and reported by CNET, the Lunar XPRIZE organization explained that none of the finalists of this competition would be able to complete the mission by the deadline. The organizers recognized that this was not an easy contest not only in terms of technology but also with regard to initial funding and aerospace regulations. The $30 million prize is currently unclaimed, and there are no immediate plans to launch another contest.
The Lunar XPRIZE dates back to 2007; it started off as an idea formulated by venture capitalists to promote aerospace initiatives that would be able to carry out missions without governmental funding. The stakes were high as the mission involved more than just a rocket launch and a successful landing; to win the prize, a robotic or autonomous device was expected to roam the lunar surface and transmit high resolution images to be evaluated by judges on Earth.
In the beginning, more than 30 teams entered the competition in search of the cool $30 million. As years went by, 16 teams made it to the next round until five remained in the end. The teams that made it to the final stage were from India, Israel, Japan, and the United States. According to the judges, a couple of the teams made considerable progress and could very well continue to work on their projects without the prize money. Private aerospace companies such as SpaceX do not have current plans for a Moon landing since they are focused on Mars; however, the Lunar XPRIZE teams showed that they have what it takes to obtain private funding.
A Moon landing is something that United States President Donald Trump has mentioned NASA should undertake. Trump has also stated that a moonshot is something that would restore public confidence in NASA, which he believes to be a government agency that is losing money by continuing to work on the International Space Station.