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Google’s spacecraft challenge offers finalists an extra $4.75m as it extends mission deadline

Key Points
  • Google Lunar XPRIZE unveils additional prize money for completion of in-space challenges.
  • The competition requires entrants to place a robot on the Moon's surface.
  • The deadline for completion has been extended to March 31, 2018.
Night time photograph of a waxing gibbous Moon, taken on November 14, 2013.
Chris Rutter | Digital Camera Magazine | Getty Images

Google Lunar XPRIZE, the space exploration competition sponsored by Google, is offering additional prize money to finalists who can complete two in-space missions as it extends program's deadline to 2018.

Entrants whose space crafts can complete one orbit around the moon or enter a direct descent towards it, can secure $1.75 million, while those that can complete a soft-landing on its surface can win $3 million as part of Google Lunar XPRIZE's wider $30 million competition to place a robot on the moon.

The additional challenges come as the deadline for completion is extended to March 31, 2018. Previously, the guidelines had stipulated a deadline of December 31, 2017.

Google Lunar XPRIZE did not disclose the reason for the extension, but it points to the challenges of the mission. While the teams continue to keep working towards the deadline, technical challenges and financial constraints have in the past led to the extension of deadlines.

Former competition entrant Astrobotics, which withdrew from the competition last year, is forecasting to achieve a similar moon landing but not before 2019.

However, with the additional funding, Google aims to cut down on financial challenges and provide the finalists with extra incentive to embark on this journey.

"XPRIZE and Google are thrilled to offer these additional in-space Milestone Prizes as a further incentive for finalist teams and to recognize the full gravity of these bold technological feats taking place in the race to the moon," Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director, Google Lunar XPRIZE, said in a press announcement Wednesday.

Launched in 2007, the program requires entrants to successfully place a robot on the moon's surface that explores at lead 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to earth.

In January 2017, five finalists were selected to compete: SpaceIL (Israel), Moon Express (USA), Synergy Moon (International), TeamIndus (India) and HAKUTO (Japan). These teams now have until March 31, 2018 to complete the mission.