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Google's $20M Lunar Xprize Will End with No Winner

Google has extended the deadline several times, but this time they're done.

Ten years ago, Google put out a call for the brightest minds in aeronautics to make it to the moon. And there was an incentive – as part of Google’s Lunar Xprize, the private company who emerged victorious would take home $20 million for simply landing a spacecraft on the moon and proving it.

When the 2012 deadline for the Lunar Xprize was drawing nearer, Google cooled the buzzer, extending it to 2014… and then again to 2018. So the March 31st timeline is just around the corner and Google just announced that that’s it. No deadline extension; take it or leave it.

Unfortunately, the four teams that were whittled down from numerous groups way back when are each all-but-certain to fail. One, Israeli nonprofit, SpaceIL, is said to be about $7 million short in its funding. The other three groups, it appears, are just not yet ready to go.

Bob Richards, founder and CEO of Moon Express, told Gizmodo that the prize was a great inspirational tool, but that his company wasn’t really prioritizing the prize money. Richards says they’re still planning to launch a spacecraft, but it won’t likely be ready until next year.

As for why Google decided to throw in the towel? Nobody really knows, but maybe the company doesn’t want to shell out for something that’s cool but doesn’t really provide a direct return to its business.

Or maybe the minds at Google think we’ve all gotten quite a bit out of this already. According to CNBC, the Lunar Xprize spurred the launch of many companies who have achieved scientific feats no one thought possible and that “winning the prize would have just been a bonus” to the company whose chief objective was the make it to the moon.

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