Commercial space flights and sponsorships will become necessary to continue exploration under President Barack Obama's proposed spending plan for fiscal 2012. (NASA will receive a budget of $18.7 billion, the same as it had in 2010, which would also fund space science and robotics exploration.)
Following the news, Google's Lunar X Prize foundation announced the official roster of 29 teams competing for $30 million that will send a robot to the moon. It will travel at least 500 meters and transmit video, images and data back to Earth. The teams come from a variety of groups, ranging from nonprofits to universities such as Penn State.
The groups will represent 17 nations on four continents. The competition, spearheaded by Google and the X Prize Foundation formed in September 2007, expects to announce a winner by 2015.
"The official private race to the Moon is on," stated Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation. "What I find amazing is when we first announced this competition, we thought there might be a dozen groups talented and bold enough to compete. Instead, we have nearly 30 teams of heroic innovators showing us a new way to the moon."
Aside from Penn State Lunar Lions, the X Prize Foundation also announced seven new teams that were previously unknown. They include Mystical Moon of the U.S.A. and Space II of Israel, two teams trying to improve "scientific awareness," as well as Team Puli of Hungary, which comprises young professionals.
The Google Lunar X Prize takes space exploration from the hands of government agencies and puts it in the private sector, with investors who have the ability to fund projects. NASA recently announced it will purchase data related to lunar missions from six Google Lunar X Prize teams, with contracts worth as much as $10 million each.