The X Prize Foundation has brought J. J. Abrams aboard — to document the race to send the first privately funded lander to the Moon. Abrams is producing a documentary web series, called Moon Shot. It will feature nine of the 16 teams in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, highlighting the contestants' backgrounds and how each team is building and funding their spacecraft. The teams range from an Audi-backed group of German hackers to a Canadian father and son team working out of a spare bedroom.
From a group of German hackers to a Canadian father and son team
The $30 million Google Lunar X Prize is the largest competition from the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit that sponsors international contests meant to benefit humanity. The Lunar X Prize is meant to motivate people to come up with cheap solutions for sending spacecraft to the Moon. Each team must show that 90 percent of their funding comes from private sources. And the teams' landers must perform specific tasks when on the lunar surface, such as traveling up to 1,640 feet and sending back high-def images and video to Earth.
The competing teams have until the end of 2017 to get their landers to the Moon. The first group to do so will receive $20 million, and the second-place team will be awarded $5 million. Other cash prizes will be given to teams that accomplish certain technical challenges, such as detecting water on the lunar surface.
So far, only two teams have found rockets to take their landers to space. The first to secure a ride was the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL; the team announced in October that it will launch its lunar lander on one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets. Then in December, California-based Moon Express said it would be launching its lander on an experimental Electron rocket, manufactured by fledgling spaceflight company Rocket Lab. (Rocket Lab has yet to launch the Electron, though.) Specific launch dates for SpaceIL and Moon Express haven’t been announced, but both teams expect to launch in late 2017.
Moon Shot will follow these two teams, as well as seven other groups as they try to find rockets rides of their own. The series will premiere on Google Play on March 15th and then on YouTube on March 17th. Check out the trailer for Moon Shot above.