Four new teams have joined a $30 million race to land a privately built rover on the moon and beam images back to Earth, the contest?s organizers announced Wednesday.

The new contestants make for a total of 14 registered teams from around the world competing for the Google Lunar X Prize offered by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based X Prize Foundation.

?I?m delighted that we have four new teams joining the competition,? said Peter Diamandis, the X Prize Foundation?s chairman and CEO. ?

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

?Our fourteen teams are not only geographically diverse, but have an astounding diversity of ideas and plans,? Diamandis said. ?We are thrilled to announce the first 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 Universities partnership.?

A team summit held 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 Prize teams have the option of officially registering but remaining anonymous until July 20, 2009.

The four new 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 first official Lunar X Prize team signed up just a few months after the competition announcement. The X PRIZE Foundation then unveiled nine more teams in February 2008. If the full $20 million grand prize is not won by Dec. 31, 2012, the purse will drop to $15 million through 2014, X Prize officials said.