From the State of South Wales Photo Collection on Flickr
From the State of South Wales Photo Collection on Flickr

The new space race is well under way.  It has been announced that the contest has added 7 more teams to the finals, bringing the total up to almost 30 contestants.  The teams consist of an eclectic mix of private companies, university teams and even a “mystery team.”     For the 29 entered teams the rules are pretty simple but the task is very hard.  The Google Lunar X Prize of 30Million dollars will be awarded to the first team that privately launches a space craft, lands it on the moon, has it rove at least 500 meters and, of course,  send data back to Earth.

The contest was originally announced in 2007 and is expected to have a victor by 2015. It should be interesting to watch this not only as a competition but, honestly, with nearly 30 teams striving for the same goal how much innovation and spin off will this result in? In some respects, we now have almost 30 mini-NASAs out there.

(Also, for the record, Lumpy had an entry idea that was rejected — it involved a very large catapult and Snookie — I don’t think I would have won but it had high entertainment value. Furthermore, I bet you I could have funded it by selling “launch” tickets.

Seriously though, with Discovery aloft, very likely in its last flight, it is a good time for something like this to come to fruition. Personally, I was born into the space race between two nation states. I always wondered if private space flight would occur in my lifetime. Rather nice to see that I may actually live to see space tourism.