New Teams Join Private Race to Moon

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. (Image credit: Independence–X Aerospace)

Twonew teams have joined the robotic race to reach the moon and send pictures backto Earth in a bid to win $30 million in cash prizes.

AMalaysian aerospace firm and students from the University of Central Florida makeup the latest of 14 registered teams in the hunt for the Google Lunar X Prizeoffered by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based X Prize Foundation. The announcementthis week occurred at the AGI User's Conference in Chicago, where the firmAnalytical Graphics Inc. revealed that it will be offering services to teams asa GoogleLunar X Prize preferred partner.

"Weare thrilled to add our first team from Florida and our second team fromMalaysia to the roster of competitors," said Will Pomerantz, seniordirector for space projects at the X Prize Foundation. "Both these teamswill add an exciting element to the competition."

Back in September,the X Prize Foundation announced a $20 million grand prize to the first teamthat successfully landed a privately-funded spacecraft on the moon, moved itaround for just under a third of a mile (500 meters) on the lunar surface andtransmitted video, images and data back to Earth. The deadline for teams in the raceis December 2012. Competitors can also try to collect a $5 million Second Prizeand $5 million more in bonus prizes.

Thetwo new teams include:

Independence-XAerospace:Independence-X Aerospace is based in Malaysia and lead by Mohd Izmir Yamin, whohas extensive experience in rocket propulsion and robotic control systems. Theycite their strategic geographical location as one of their primary advantages,which they hope will help to reduce launch costs and utilize abundant directsolar reception. The team has also formed an academic and technical partnershipwith a Malaysian university, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). The MalaysianEntrepreneurs Development Center (MEDEC) will support the team with businessadvice.

OmegaEnvoy:Omega Envoy is led by Ruben Nunez, Jason Dunn, and Justin Karl, all students atthe University of Central Florida. Their company, Earthrise Space Inc. is anot-for-profit organization that was founded by a group of students andprofessionals in Central Florida with the common goal of advancing private andcommercial space exploration.

Asa preferred partner, AGI is offering almost $200,000 worth of complimentarysoftware and engineering services to each Google Lunar X Prize team.

"AGI'ssoftware is unsurpassed and will bring critical new capabilities to thecompeting teams," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the XPrize Foundation. "This modeling and visualization software will be agreat asset for the teams. We are delighted to welcome AGI as a preferredpartner for the Google Lunar X Prize."

Thefirst official team signedup just a few months after Google announced the start of the Lunar X Prize.The X Prize Foundation revealed ninemore teams in February 2008, and added four more teams in May. Two teamshave since dropped out, leaving 14 including the additions this week.

Ifno one claims the $20 million grand prize by Dec. 31, 2012, the purse will fallto $15 million through 2014.

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