Internet search engine giant Google announced Thursday that it will give 30 million U.S. dollars to the first private companies that can safely land robotic spacecrafts on the moon.
"We're thrilled to be sponsoring the Lunar X-PRIZE, which will award a total of 30 million dollars to teams competing around the world to land privately funded spacecraft on the Moon," said Alan Eustace, Senior VP of Engineering of the company in a statement on Thursday.
The rules call for a spacecraft to roll at least a quarter mile and beam back a gigabyte of images and video to Earth after its safe landing.
Whoever accomplishes the task by the end of 2012 will receive 20 million U.S. dollars. There is also a 10-million-dollar second- place prize to teams that go beyond the minimum requirements.
Why does Google love space? "Well, for one thing, we just think it's cool. More seriously, space exploration has a remarkable history of producing technological breakthroughs, and the X-PRIZE, too, could lead to important developments in robotic space exploration," said the statement.
Finally, Google hope the contest will help renew public interest in fields like math, engineering and computer science, especially among the young people on whom "we'll all be depending to tackle tomorrow's technical challenges."