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Google Lunar X Prize Race to the Moon

The new international group of teams will compete to land a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon that can roam the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth.

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, announced the cooperative teams at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The ten teams are:

Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA): Based in Valcea, Romania and led by Dumitru Popescu, ARCA was also a contender in the Ansari X PRIZE. Two of ARCA’s most innovative projects to date have been the Demonstrator 2B rocket and Stabilo, a two-stage manned suborbital air-launched vehicle. The craft they plan to enter in the Google Lunar X PRIZE will be called the “European Lunar Explorer.”

Astrobotic: Team Astrobotic, led by Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, was formed to coordinate the finest efforts of Carnegie Mellon University, Raytheon Company and additional institutions. One of Carnegie Mellon’s specialties is autonomous navigation through stereo vision and other technologies. This enables Carnegie Mellon’s robots to automatically avoid obstacles and select their own route across unmapped terrain. Astrobotic will compete for the prize using their “Artemis Lander” and “Red Rover.”

Chandah: Chandah, meaning “Moon” in Sanskrit, was founded by Adil Jafry, an energy industry entrepreneur. He is now chairman and CEO of Tara, the largest independent retail electricity provider in Texas. Jafry’s goal is to catalyze commercialization of space, and bring advances in space travel, tourism, sciences, and technology to the general public at large. Team Chandah’s spacecraft will be named ” Shehrezade.”

FREDNET: Headed by Fred J. Bourgeois III, this multi-national team is comprised of systems, software, and hardware developers who serve as the leaders and overall coordinators of an international group of Open Source developers, engineers, and scientists. Their goal is to bring the same successful approach used in developing major software systems (such as the Internet, and Linux) to bear on the problems associated with Space Exploration and Research.

LunaTrex: Led by Pete Bitar, LunaTrex is comprised of several individuals, companies, and universities from all over the United States, some of whom were also competitors for the Ansari X PRIZE. Each team member brings their own history to the mix: rocket science, high-altitude near-space R&D, defense directed-energy technology, aviation design and development, robotics, trajectories, and non-conventional propulsion expertise. The name of their competing craft will be “Tumbleweed.”

Micro-Space: Helmed by Richard Speck and based in Colorado, Micro-Space, Inc. has a 31-year history of producing world class, high tech products. Since focusing on the ongoing development of spaceflight systems, they have flown 17 innovative, bipropellant liquid fuel rockets, three near- hover rockets with vectored thrust guidance, scores of flights with telemetry and radio tracking, and several innovative life support systems. Micro-Space has been a competitor in the Ansari X PRIZE as well as the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Their “Human Lunar Lander” will compete for Google Lunar X PRIZE.

Odyssey Moon: The first team to register for the competition, Odyssey Moon is a private commercial lunar enterprise headquartered in the Isle of Man and founded by Dr. Robert Richards. Odyssey Moon’s business plans are actively in development for a series of missions to the Moon during the International Lunar Decade in support of science, exploration and commerce. Their Google Lunar X PRIZE craft is titled “MoonOne (M-1).”

Quantum3: A U.S.-based team, Quantum3 is led by Paul Carliner, a senior executive in the aerospace industry. They propose to field a small spacecraft launched from an East Coast range using launch- coast-burn trajectory for a propulsive soft landing on the surface of the Moon at the Sea of Tranquility. Quantum3 is taking a partnership approach to the spacecraft mission, utilizing the unique capabilities of the private sector and academic communities. Their craft will be called ” Moondancer.”

Southern California Selene Group: According to team leader Harold Rosen, the practical approach taken by the Santa Monica Selene Group can be succinctly summarized as “an elegantly simple design that is relatively inexpensive to implement.” The architecture for their “Spirit of Southern California” spacecraft will combine the control and communication systems used in some of the earliest communications satellites with the latest in electronic and sensor technology.

Team Italia: Based in Italy and led by Prof. Amalia Ercoli-Finzi, Team Italia is a collaboration between several universities. The team is currently running a prototype of its system at Politecnico di Milano. The architecture of the robotic system is under study: a single big rover or a colony of many robots, light and mobile, with many legs and wheels, able to be compacted in the lander and distributed quickly on the Moon’s surface with cameras and sensory support.

The X PRIZE Foundation has also announced that Space Florida will be a new preferred partner and the first preferred launch site for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. Each preferred partner offers additional prizes or strategic services at a discounted rate to all competition teams. As the first preferred launch site, Space Florida will award an additional prize of $2 million to the Grand Prize winner of the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, provided the lucky winner launched the winning flight from the State of Florida and upon confirmation that the winner has complied with all competition rules.

Space Florida was created by the Florida Legislature to sustain Florida’s desired position as the global leader in space exploration and commerce, and is the principal organization charged with promoting and developing Florida’s aerospace industry.