Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Rocket Engines

The official private race to the moon is on! Recently, my colleagues at the X PRIZE Foundation announced the official roster of 29 registered teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE. Included in this new announcement are eight teams not previously known to the public, including teams based in Israel, Brazil, Hungary, Canada, Chile, India, and the U.S.

When we first began this competition, we hoped we would find a dozen teams with the talent and ambition to take on the monumental task of sending a robot to the moon that travels 500 meters and transmits video, images, and data back to the Earth; to end up with nearly 30 is truly spectacular. The roster of teams also reflects this new era of exploration's diverse and participatory nature, as it includes a huge variety of groups ranging from non-profits to university consortia to billion dollar businesses representing 17 nations on four continents.

This competition is more real than ever. Along with the competition teams, our friends at Google, and great partner organizations like LEGO and FIRST Robotics, we are already inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers around the world, and our momentum will only increase from here. Our teams have already signed deals with major customers like NASA, which effectively doubled the size of the prize by offering $30 million in data purchase contracts. Teams have built prototypes and purchased rides on rockets. The moon is almost within our grasp already.

Nearly 50 years ago, President Kennedy told the world that "we chose to go to the moon... not because it is easy, but because it is hard." It most certainly is hard -- but that's not the only reason we go there. We go there because exploring the moon can tell us an immense amount about our solar system and our home planet; we go there because, in the future, the moon will be a source of vital resources to help us support a higher quality of life for a burgeoning population; we go there because the moon is the logical stepping stone from which we can move out into the cosmos.

The reasons why we go the moon are clear; now, these teams will be showing us the way to get there affordably. I hope that you'll join us in wishing all of these teams good luck!