Two startup companies are taking the concept of ride-sharing to space after agreeing to team up in order to reach the moon by 2017.
Google Lunar XPRIZE competitors Team Hakuto and Team Indus revealed on Tuesday, Dec. 20, that they have decided to have both their moon rovers share a ride onboard a rocket made by the Indian Space Research Organization.
The agreement was made to make sure that both teams will be able to take part in Google's competition, which requires all participants to secure a launch vehicle to the moon before the end of this year.
"We're proud to verify Hakuto's launch agreement and are pleased to see two Google Lunar X Prize teams collaborating on this mission to the moon," XPRIZE Foundation senior director Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer said. "The purpose of this prize was, in part, to foster collaboration in the private sector and this is a great demonstration of teams coming together in the next giant leap in space exploration."
Google Lunar XPRIZE
Ever since Google announced the Lunar XPRIZE competition in September 2013, several space companies have expressed their intention to join in. The premise of the race is to have the first privately funded team land a rover on the moon and send back high-quality images and videos to Earth.
Google said the first team to make it to the moon and accomplish the task will win the grand prize of $20 million. The second group to do so will earn $5 million as second prize.
The competition also involves other tasks for participants that will earn them additional prize money.
These include having their lunar rovers travel more than 5,000 meters (3 miles) - 10 times farther than the baseline requirements set by Google for the grand prize winner - to capture images of the Apollo program's remains or other hardware, confirm the existence of water ice on the moon, and survive a lunar night.
Google is also setting aside a $1 million diversity award for teams that will help promote ethnic diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through their achievements in the competition.
Team Hakuto And Team Indus Ride-sharing
Team Hakuto's ride-sharing partnership with Team Indus comes at an opportune time for the Japanese startup after a similar deal with American team Astrobotic didn't push through.
The lunar rovers of both teams will board an expendable Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle developed by ISRO. The rocket is scheduled for launch in December 2017.
Despite making plans to take part in the competition, Astrobotic announced that it will have to drop out of the XPRIZE race. The company, however, will continue to develop its lunar rover for its planned commercial mission in 2019.