WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) -- Just a week after Google announced its Lunar X competition, teams of engineers and scientists are racing to build a robotic spacecraft that can successfully land on the moon. A prize of $30 million awaits the first to accomplish the feat -- and so does television stardom.
Now, thanks to both the Discovery and Science Channels -- which are owned by the same media conglomerate -- thousands of Americans will be able to enjoy the competition on television. As the private race to the moon heats up, both channels will offer coverage of the testing phases of various teams, and eventually of the liftoff and subsequent live lunar landing too.
There are currently 18 teams competing for the $30 million prize, including several U.S. teams: Astrobotic, Moon Express, Omega Envoy and the Penn State Lunar Lion.
To win, the teams must do more than just land a craft on the moon -- no small feat. Their space craft, once on the lunar surface, must travel at least 1,650 feet and transmit video, images and data of its lunar conquests back to Earth. All this must be accomplished by December 31, 2015.
Several smaller $1 million prizes will be awarded for intermediate milestones throughout the competition.
"More than half the world's population has never had the opportunity to experience a live broadcast from the moon," Robert K. Weiss, Lunar X's vice president, said in a statement. "Partnering with Discovery Channel and Science Channel will allow us to engage the public around this milestone event, creating an ‘Apollo Moment’ for the next generation.”
Eileen O’Neill, the vice president of the group that owns Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Velocity, is also excited about the opportunity. “The $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE offers all the ingredients of fantastic television; stakes, competition, big characters and mind-blowing visuals," she said.