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Four New Teams Join Moon Rover Race

Four newteams have joined a $30 million race to land a privately built rover on themoon and beam images back to Earth, the contest?s organizers announcedWednesday.

The newcontestants make for a total of 14 registered teams from around the world competingfor the GoogleLunar X Prize offered by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based X Prize Foundation.

?I?mdelighted that we have four new teams joining the competition,? said PeterDiamandis, the X Prize Foundation?s chairman and CEO. ?

Announced lastSeptember, the Google Lunar X Prize is a cash-prize contest that offers a $20million grand prize to the team that successfully soft lands a privately fundedspacecraft on the moon, moves it about on the lunar surface for just under athird of a mile (500 meters), and transmits video, images, and data back toEarth by December 2012. A $5 million Second Prize and an additional $5 millionin bonus prizes are also up for grabs.

?Ourfourteen teams are not only geographically diverse, but have an astoundingdiversity of ideas and plans,? Diamandis said. ?We are thrilled to announce thefirst Asian X Prize team, the first mystery team for the Google Lunar X Prize,and the first X Prize team from a Historically Black Colleges and Universitiespartnership.?

A team summitheld Wednesday at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, revealed some details about each of the new teams except the mystery team. Google Lunar X Prizeteams have the option of officially registering but remaining anonymous untilJuly 20, 2009.

The fournew teams include:

  • Advaeros: Team Advaeros is led by Hanidy Yusof, founder of the Malaysian company Advanced Aerospace Industries, a small Research and Development company dealing with smart systems for navigation, robotic application, aeronautical and space related activities. The team plans to design its own launch vehicle, focusing part of its effort on craft design, and the rest on launch vehicle design.
  • JURBAN The Juxtopia Urban Robotics Brilliant Application National (JURBAN) challenge is a program developed by the Juxtopia Group, a non-profit research organization. The JURBAN Challenge Program trains underserved and disadvantaged students to build autonomous service robotic systems that have significant impact in their community. The JURBAN team will be made up of professional and student engineers and be led by Juxtopia founder Jayfus Doswell.
  • STELLAR: Based in North Carolina and led by Dick Dell, Team STELLAR includes team members from Insight Technologies, the Advanced Vehicle Research Center and North Carolina State University. The team plans to highlight educational outreach, and includes volunteers from two schools that participate in the FIRST Robotics competition, which is a national high school competition based in the United States.
  • Mystery Team: This team has opted to keep its identity and details secret until the July 2009 deadline, X Prize officials said.

The firstofficial Lunar X Prize team signedup just a few months after the competition announcement. The X PRIZEFoundation then unveilednine more teams in February 2008. If the full $20 million grand prize isnot won by Dec. 31, 2012, the purse will drop to $15 million through 2014, XPrize officials said.

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