Rivals in Google’s Lunar XPrize Teaming Up for Moon Trip

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Two rivals battling it out in Google’s $30 million competition to land a private spacecraft on the moon are teaming up for a joint trip to the lunar surface.

Hakuto, the only Japanese team competing in Google’s Lunar XPrize competition, and Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic on Monday announced they are partnering for a moon journey during the second half of 2016. The plan is that Hakuto’s twin rovers — dubbed “Moonraker” and “Tetris” — will “piggyback” on Astrobotic’s so-called “Griffin” lander to reach the moon.

Astrobotic will launch the mission next year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. After touching down, Hakuto’s rovers will be simultaneously released alongside Astrobotic’s “Andy” rover, developed by Carnegie Mellon University. They will then travel 500 meters on the moon’s surface while snapping high-definition images and video, which will be sent back to Earth.

If successful, the teams will nab the $20 million grand prize.

Google has pledged $30 million in prizes designed to inspire robot-based space transport, but that lump sum $20 million award will go to the team that can accomplish (with 10 percent or less in government funding) a moon landing, 500-meter journey, and HDTV “mooncasts.”

The teams aim to land in the Lacus Mortis region, located in the northeastern part of the moon, which is believed to hold a “skylight” that may be the entrance to a lunar cave.

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SOURCE: PC Mag, Angela Moscaritolo