The X Prize
The X Prize competition was made to inspire a new space age. It’s not really about winning the prize, for usually completing the contest costs a lot more than the prize. The real reason people try to win the prize is so that they get fame and it benefits their company.
Ansari X Prize
Courtesy of Daniel Hooper (Creative Commons) (link).
The X Prize was thought of by Dr. Peter Diamandis. This competition rather copied the competition to be the first person to fly across the Atlantic ocean, which was won in 1927 by Charles Lindbergh. The X Prize was later renamed the Ansari X Prize because of the huge donations made by Anousheh and Amir Ansari. The Ansari X Prize was the first X prize, and was first announced on October 4, 2004. The prize for this competition was $10 million. The goal was to be the first small, non-government, private, space company to launch a rocket into space, and bring it back and launch it again in the time of two weeks. This prize was won by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen.
Shoot for the Moon
This X Prize was thought of by Larry Page, an executive at Google. Page at the time was brain storming ideas with Richard Branson, of Virgin Galactic, about what the new competition should be. If you win this X Prize you get $25 million, but the X Prize is becoming demanding. The newest competition is sponsored by Google. Google dares you to send a space rover to the moon and bring it back. . . safely. Your rover must survive the take off and landing, and then must try to survive the moon. To win, the rover has to take a gigabyte of pictures and videos of the Earth. It also needs to make a 1,312 foot journey across the moon. There is a bonus for any rover that can withstand two whole weeks on the lunar surface. More bonus points will be given if your rover finds evidence of other landings on the moon. A lot of moon soil is made of silicon, which is the main part of solar cells. What the people who launched this X Prize believe is that the silicon can eventually be mined from the soil and used to power large satellites. These satellites would not hurt the Earth in any way; in fact they would go around space picking up solar energy. If this could work than each satellite would be able to power a large city. This won’t be easy and some think it is not doable without a large company. But you can still try.
About the Journey
To complete the Google challenge, your rover needs a very fuel efficient space craft. You have three choices: you could buy a space craft for about $8 million, you could piggy back off of a satellite, or you could just build and launch your own craft. If your rover made it to the moon, it would land at about 1.6 miles per second. Since the moon has no atmosphere it would not be able to use parachutes to slow down. In the end the rover would have to use something like air bags to absorb the shock.
There are basically two ways to move on the lunar surface. These are to roll or to fly. In the competition, your rover has to send photos and videos to Earth. Probably solar energy would be used to beam these the 238,855 miles back to Earth.
The Lunar Landing Challenge
NASA, Public domain (link).
The Lunar Lander Challenge X Prize was made in 2006. This prize was made, like the other X Prizes, to advance technology further. The goal of this competition is to prepare a space ship for take off and landing on the moon. There are two levels, the first one easier then the second level. In the first level you have to launch a rocket off of a launch pad and make it hover 50 meters up in the air for ninety seconds. Then you land your rocket on a launch pad exactly 100 meters away. The second level is harder. After hovering your rocket for 180 seconds you have to land it on a surface made to feel and look like the lunar surface. There must be craters and boulders everywhere to make it harder to land. The prize for the first level is $350,000.00 and for the second prize it is $2.25 million.