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Google Ends “Moonshot” Competition For Private Space Companies

Moon Express is one of a handful of companies planning to do business on the moon. Photo: Moon Express

A $30 million prize earmarked for the first private company to make it to the moon will go unclaimed.

Google announced the end of its Lunar XPRIZE competition saying no companies would launch by the March 31, 2018.

“This literal “moonshot” is hard, and while we did expect a winner by now, due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the grand prize of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed,” said XPRIZE chairmen Peter H. Diamandis and Marcus Shingles.

Cape Canaveral based Moon Express was competing for a slice of the prize by developing a new lunar lander called MX-1E. It’s developing the R2-D2-sized moon robot at a facility at Cape Canaveral. It got federal clearance to send the first private payload to the moon ahead of this mission.

Despite the cancelled prize, Moon Express is pressing on. “The competition was a sweetener in the landscape of our business case, but it’s never been the business case itself,” said founder and CEO Bob Richards. “The existence of the prize has been and will continue to be, an important part of the history of humanity’s permanent return to the Moon.”

The company wants to mine the moon for resources like water and create a fuel depot for future moon missions.

Moon Express will launch on a new rocket being developed by Rocket Lab USA. That company completed a successful test launch from New Zealand this week.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Intersection' Producer

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts "Are We There Yet?", WMFE's space exploration podcast He also helps produce WMFE's twice-weekly public affairs show "Intersection," working with host Matthew Peddie to shape the ... Read Full Bio »