Tomorrow evening, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to take off at 8:45 Eastern Time. This is not the first Falcon 9 launch, so why is this important? The payload. The rocket will carry a privately-built lunar lander, developed by SpaceIL, an Israeli start-up that originally formed to compete in the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
It will be a momentous day toward extending human ingenuity and entrepreneurship toward the Moon. We cannot overstate the significance of this launch and we hope you will cheer for SpaceIL, and everyone involved in this milestone.
If everything goes according to plan, this spacecraft will make a soft-landing on the lunar surface on or around April 11th, and will make history as not only the fourth nation in history to do so (after the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and China), but the very first private, non-government entity to do so.
XPRIZE, in partnership with Google, launched the Google Lunar XPRIZE in 2007 for two primary reasons: To spur affordable access to the moon and give space entrepreneurs a legitimate platform to develop long-term business models around lunar transportation and to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, space explorers and adventurers. At the time, space exploration had been in the exclusive domain of governments.
After several deadline extensions to accommodate the difficulties of fundraising, unexpected regulatory obstacles, and the sheer scope of the technological breakthroughs required, the Google Lunar XPRIZE officially went unclaimed as of March 2018.
Though it went unclaimed, we are proud to have stimulated a diversity of teams from around the world to pursue, and continue to pursue, such ambitious plans that were deemed impossible when we first launched this competition. If this mission is successful, SpaceIL will be the first, but certainly not the last. We continue to celebrate the success of all former Google Lunar XPRIZE teams and are optimistic about seeing this first domino fall, setting off a chain reaction of increasingly affordable and repeatable commercial missions to the Moon and beyond.
XPRIZE is continuing to explore what role we might play to continue to push the envelope and incentivize breakthroughs that further open up access to space.