Leicester Uni Professor heads judging panel to land robot on Moon
A University of Leicester Professor has been elected to Chair a judging panel in a global $30 million prize competition to land a robot on the Moon.
Professor Alan Wells (right), Emeritus Professor and Founding Director of the University’s Space Research Centre, was this week appointed Chair of the judges for the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
Professor Wells has been a member of the distinguished panel of judges that comprises leading space experts from around the USA and Europe.
To win the grand prize ($20 million), private teams (with no more than 10% in government funding) must:
• Land a robot safely on the Moon
• Move 500 meters on, above, or below the Moon’s surface; and
• Send back HDTV Mooncasts for everyone to enjoy
Professor Wells said: “The Google Lunar XPRIZE lays down an exciting challenge to creative engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs around the world to find new ways to go into space without help from governments with freedom to innovate, explore and find new uses of low cost access space for future generations. It is an honour to be asked to chair the international judges panel who will decide on the prize awards as the competing teams progress with their exciting missions.”
This week XPRIZE and Google announced that a $1 million Diversity Prize will be split among 16 Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, and that five teams have verified launch contracts and are moving forward to the final phase of the competition to land an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the Moon.
All teams had until December 31, 2016 to have a verified launch contract in place. XPRIZE has verified the launch contracts of the following five teams, who are moving forward to the final phase of the competition:
• SpaceIL (Israel), a non-profit organisation, has secured a position on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Their goal is to make an educational impact and to create an “Apollo Effect” for the next generation in Israel.
• Moon Express (USA), signed a multi-mission launch contract with Rocket Lab USA for three lunar missions by 2020. Their directive is to open up the Moon’s vast resources for humanity and establish new avenues for commercial space activities beyond Earth orbit.
• Synergy Moon (International), team member Interorbital Systems will serve as the launch provider, using a NEPTUNE 8 rocket to carry a lunar lander and rover to the surface of the Moon. Synergy Moon is made of up individuals from over 15 countries, with a mission to make manned orbital travel, personal satellite launches and Solar System exploration cost effective and accessible.
• TeamIndus (India), signed a commercial launch contract aboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). TeamIndus’ spacecraft is designed to nestle inside the nosecone of the PSLV and will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
• HAKUTO (Japan), signed a rideshare agreement to have TeamIndus carry its four-wheeled rover to the Moon. Hakuto’s ultimate target is to explore holes that are thought to be caves or ‘skylights’ into underlying lava tubes, for the first time in history, which could lead to important scientific discoveries and possibly identifying long-term habitats to shield humans from the Moon’s hostile environment.