The rover race is on

Lunar XPRIZE teams join forces to reach moon in 2016

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The December 2016 deadline for Google Lunar XPRIZE competitors to reach the moon and traverse its surface is approaching, and with $2.25 million in prize money already in their pockets, two teams have decided to pair up. Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic announced Monday that it will carry Japanese team Hakuto‘s two rovers to the moon, where they can compete for the $20 million grand prize.

The Lunar XPRIZE opened in 2007, when it challenged private firms to be the first non-governmental organization to reach the moon. The competition’s extended deadline now sits at the end of 2016, by which time the winning team needs to reach the moon and traverse its surface.

Astrobotic plans to launch its lander, rover and cargo aboard a SpaceX rocket in late 2016. It has been busy advertising the mission’s cargo space, which is open to anyone willing to pay between $45,000 and $909,000 a pound. Along with Hakuto’s rovers, it will deliver a time capsule containing popular Asian sports drink Pocari Sweat.

Once they reach the moon, Astrobotic and Hakuto’s rovers will compete to travel 500 meters and send video back to Earth. The winner will receive $20 million.

Google awarded a series of “milestone prizes” to the remaining XPRIZE competitors this year, recognizing advancements in the team’s landers, rovers and imaging systems. Astrobotic was the only team to win all three categories. Hakuto received $500,000 for its rover, perhaps indicating why it is choosing to forego building a lander.