The Google Lunar XPRIZE recognizes that some landers will fail

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Enlarge / Teams now have three more months. (credit: Google Lunar XPRIZE)

The $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE was announced nearly a decade ago, with the goal of landing a privately funded robot on the Moon that travels more than 500 meters and returns high-definition images and video to Earth. It had an ambitious timeline of just five years. But like almost all big projects in aerospace, this deadline kept slipping to the right. In 2015, it was extended to require a launch by the end of 2017.

By this year, five teams remained in the competition—SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, Team Indus, and Hakuto. Each had attained a contract to meet the requirement to launch a mission to land on the Moon by the end of this year to claim the bulk of the prize money. But still, no one seemed quite ready to launch to the Moon just yet.

In recognition of this, the prize organizers have extended the deadline for completion of the mission to March 31, 2018, giving each of the groups an additional three months. Organizers also added incremental prizes along the way, $1.75 million for completing one orbit around the Moon or entering a direct-ascent approach to the lunar surface, and $3 million for a soft landing on the Moon. The overall prize value remains $30 million.

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