The latest version of the X Prize is backed by Google: $20 million to the first private enterprise that can land a robotic rover on the lunar surface, send back images and data, and travel at least 500 meters--with more rewards if it can find artifacts from the early days of lunar exploration, when only the U.S. and Soviet governments could afford to send probes.
The Apollo landings and the probes that preceded them were, to the X Prize managers, "Moon 1.0"--done by Cold War powers in an expensive rush, with no long-term plan to stay and mine the moon for whatever it had to offer. Now comes Moon 2.0.
"The Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented international competition that will challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration." say the backers.
"The Moon is a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system and a source of solutions to some of the most pressing environmental problems that we face on Earth -– energy independence and climate change. Moon 2.0 will begin with robotic explorers that will deliver new knowledge about the Moon and the Earth. They will be followed by people with the goal of permanently integrating the Moon into Earth’s economic and social spheres, creating a two-world system for human growth and prosperity," says Odyssey Moon.
In the meantime (using a lot of NASA imagery), Odyssey Moon has produced a very pretty eight-minute video, which can be found HERE on YouTube.
Will any of this happen before NASA's Constellation Project reaches the moon with similar goals to mine the soil and explore beyond? Google's offer expires in 2014, about the time Constellation expects to launch astronauts.