New Teams Join Private Race to Moon
An illustration of a rover from team Independence–X Aerospace from Malaysia, which officially joined the race for the Google Lunar X Prize on October 7, 2008.
CREDIT: Independence–X Aerospace
Two new teams have joined the robotic race to reach the moon and send pictures back to Earth in a bid to win $30 million in cash prizes.
A Malaysian aerospace firm and students from the University of Central Florida make up the latest of 14 registered teams in the hunt for the Google Lunar X Prize offered by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based X Prize Foundation. The announcement this week occurred at the AGI User's Conference in Chicago, where the firm Analytical Graphics Inc. revealed that it will be offering services to teams as a Google Lunar X Prize preferred partner.
"We are thrilled to add our first team from Florida and our second team from Malaysia to the roster of competitors," said Will Pomerantz, senior director for space projects at the X Prize Foundation. "Both these teams will add an exciting element to the competition."
Back in September, the X Prize Foundation announced a $20 million grand prize to the first team that successfully landed a privately-funded spacecraft on the moon, moved it around for just under a third of a mile (500 meters) on the lunar surface and transmitted video, images and data back to Earth. The deadline for teams in the race is December 2012. Competitors can also try to collect a $5 million Second Prize and $5 million more in bonus prizes.
The two new teams include:
Independence-X Aerospace: Independence-X Aerospace is based in Malaysia and lead by Mohd Izmir Yamin, who has extensive experience in rocket propulsion and robotic control systems. They cite their strategic geographical location as one of their primary advantages, which they hope will help to reduce launch costs and utilize abundant direct solar reception. The team has also formed an academic and technical partnership with a Malaysian university, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). The Malaysian Entrepreneurs Development Center (MEDEC) will support the team with business advice.
Omega Envoy: Omega Envoy is led by Ruben Nunez, Jason Dunn, and Justin Karl, all students at the University of Central Florida. Their company, Earthrise Space Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that was founded by a group of students and professionals in Central Florida with the common goal of advancing private and commercial space exploration.
As a preferred partner, AGI is offering almost $200,000 worth of complimentary software and engineering services to each Google Lunar X Prize team.
"AGI's software is unsurpassed and will bring critical new capabilities to the competing teams," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation. "This modeling and visualization software will be a great asset for the teams. We are delighted to welcome AGI as a preferred partner for the Google Lunar X Prize."
The first official team signed up just a few months after Google announced the start of the Lunar X Prize. The X Prize Foundation revealed nine more teams in February 2008, and added four more teams in May. Two teams have since dropped out, leaving 14 including the additions this week.
If no one claims the $20 million grand prize by Dec. 31, 2012, the purse will fall to $15 million through 2014.
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