Google offers $30m for lunar landing

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Search engine giant Google is offering private firms the chance to compete for a $30 million cash pot and land a robot craft on the Moon.

The challenge is being run with the X-Prize Foundation. To win the cash, firms must not only complete a lunar landing, but complete a series of tasks such as film the event.

The winning firm will be awarded $20 million, with a $5 million bonus on offer for those who exceed expectation and travel further than required, capture images of Apollo hardware or find water ice.

A further $5 million is up as second prize.

Dr Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X-Prize Foundation, said in a statement: “We are confident that teams from around the world will help develop new robotic and virtual presence technology, which will dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration.”

The X-Prize Foundation has issued similar challenges in the past, including private space travel, which was won in 2005. In 2006 the organisation also announced the task of sequencing 100 human genomes in 10 days.

The new prize is up for grabs until 2012, after which the cash pot will be halved. If the challenge goes uncompleted, the competition will end in 2014.

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