|By Aaron Sims | 7 years ago|
When Google announces a multimillion dollar bounty for a company to create the first privatized lunar transport module, people listen. Many corporate teams are competing for the Google Lunar X prize, but Pennsylvania-based Astrobotic has (so far) the earliest planned launch date. Their payload? A can of the appetizingly named sports drink “Pocari Sweat,” which they intend to deliver on behalf of Singapore-based firm Astroscale.
Other teams are seeking payload and sponsorship deals, but Astrobotic’s October 2015 launch date makes them frontrunners in the competition. “There have been a number of offers and potential deals mooted, but it is the first commercial deal that’s been publicly announced,” says Greg Sadlier of London Economics. The moon delivery market is valued at over $2.6 billion over the next 25 years, so the potential ROI is huge.
The competition parameters are strict, to say the least. To be eligible, each entrant must have their probe ready to launch by December 31, 2015. The grand prize winner will be the first team to successfully move their module 1,650 feet across the surface of the moon, while beaming video and images back to Earth. Non-winners get the honor of saying they put a somewhat functional device on the lunar surface.
By removing some of the financial burdens from the competitors’ shoulders, Google hopes they’ll open doors for new, innovative solutions that might not be possible when projects are ruled by their budgets.
“Because we have teams from such diverse backgrounds, they are often able to think of a solution that a company that may have grown up in the more traditional space engineering sense may not be even aware exists,” said Google Lunar X Prize senior director Alexandra Hall. “They may not think about, ‘Well, we can take this that functions like this in this environment and use it here.’ That’s the stuff that I think is really exciting and, ultimately, that’s possibly quite game-changing.”
Astrobotic’s shipping fees start at the low, low price of just $2 million per kilogram. To deliver a payload to the surface of the moon that maxes out their lander’s surface payload of just under 600 pounds, it would set you back a cool $540 million.
If things proceed as planned, this will not be Pocari Sweat’s first trip to outer space – it was featured in a TV ad shot on the International Space Station in 2001. There are currently 18 teams working toward winning the $30 million prize.