Japan, Google head for the moon
Everyone is going to the moon. Japan has launched its first lunar probe, Selene, and the X-Prize foundation has persuaded Google to put up a $30m fund to reward any private enterprise that manages to land a probe in lunar-land.
The Japanese space agency, JAXA, watched Selene blast off from Tanegashima, a remote southern island. The rocket carried the craft into Earth-orbit, where it will travel around our planet once before starting its 237,500 mile journey to the moon.
The Japanese craft finally hit the skies some four years after its original launch date. It will drop into lunar orbit before splitting into three parts: a main orbiter and two smaller satellites, which will gather data on lunar topography, geology and environment.
But to win the new X-Prize, a private business will have to go one better and actually land a rover on the moon, and complete a set of objectives.
Firms have until the end of 2012 to claim the top prize of $20m; after that it drops to $15m before the contest closes in 2014. Additional, smaller prizes are available to any private moon mission that hits other goals after landing, such as capturing pictures of the Apollo landing site, or surviving the freezing temperatures of the lunar night.
The X-Prize foundation said rovers should be fitted with high-definition video and still cameras, be capable of transmitting their images back to Earth, and would have to cover at least 500m of lunar surface to win the top prize.
Dr Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X-Prize Foundation said in a statement: "The Google Lunar X PRIZE seeks to create a global private race to the Moon that excites and involves people around the world, and accelerates space exploration for the benefit of all humanity.
"The use of space has dramatically enhanced quality of life and may ultimately lead to solutions to some of the most pressing environmental problems that we face on earth – energy independence and climate change." ®
I won't accept it as real until they can show me the (now heavily ablated) golf balls Alan Shepard hit/left behind.
> ...that's all they want, that their version (Google moon at full zoom) is irrefutable.
... By sending a rover, they're definitely aiming at "Street" View for the moon. :)
Sorry to break this to you mate, but the Japanese have been able to get a rocket into earth orbit for quite a while now. See, they've got a space agency, and the main thing space agencies do is put rockets into space. Otherwise, they'd just be an airforce (Japan has one of those too, by the way).
I can't really see how sending a rover to the moon really confers any military advantage to anyone myself, unless we actually start fighting wars over the moons vast reserves of err, rocks. Seems to me Japan is doing it for the exact same reasons that the US and Russia did back in the day: China is going to the moon, so Japan has to go too.