Google Lunar XPRIZE diversity prize split among 16 teams, 5 going to the moon

While NASA has its eyes set on Mars and beyond, Google still has its crosshairs on the moon. Despite its relatively proximity, a lunar mission is still something only large and well-funded governments are able to pull off. Well, not anymore. Through Google's Lunar XPRIZE campaign, it is showing that even private groups, with the right contracts, can go to and land on the moon. Now it is formally announcing five such groups who will be, or should, by the end of the year launch their mission, for science and profit!

But before it goes "loony" on those five teams, Google has announced a rather surprising change in the rewards. The $1 million diversity prize, which was to be awarded to teams that make strides in promoting ethnic diversity in the STEM field, is being split among all 16 teams. The reason, Google says, is that it and XPRIZE were awestruck by how all teams fulfilled those goals.

Think of it as a sort of consolation prize, because not all 16 were able to make the 31st December 2016 cut, which required them to have a launch contract by then. Only five of the 16 were able to grab those and, as such, only five are going to the moon. In theory, that is. They have until 31st December this year to initiate a launch, which is a change from the previous deadline which required the mission to have been completed by that time.

Each of the five (or rather four) teams have signed contracts with different private companies and have different goals in mind as well. Israel-based SpaceIL, for example, will ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 to inspire generations of Israelis to look to the skies. Moon Express from the USA has signed three lunar missions with Rocket Lab to investigate potential commercial activities. Synergy Moon, with members from all over the world, is partnering with Interorbital Systems to launch a NEPTUNE 8 rocket carrying a lunar lander and rover. India's TeamIndus and Japan's HAKUTO have entered into a ridesharing arrangement with the Indian Space Research Organization to use its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.