In announcing the Google Lunar X Prize on Sept. 13, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin joined a growing brigade of tech luminaries who have put their Web wealth to work in an area where they've little expertise: trying to transform space travel from a largely government affair to a civilian, profitable business.
Like the $10 million Ansari X Prize, the Google Lunar X Prize provides incentive for the emerging private space industry to come up with innovative ways to build space exploration technologies cheaper and faster than ever before.
The $20 million grand prize will be awarded to the team that can land a privately funded spacecraft on the moon, rove on the lunar surface for a minimum of 500 meters, and send a specific set of video images and data back to earth by Dec. 31, 2012. "We believe that these kinds of contests, in setting an ambitious goal like going to the moon, are a really good way to improve the state of humanity and the world and that's why we care about this," Page, who has served on the board of the X Prize Foundation since 2005, said at the contest launch.
I remember 1999 fondly, when these guys settled for three hour Ultimate Frisbee matches at lunch, bringing your dog to work, and Foosball tables in your office as the way to run through the capital they'd accumulated.