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Google sponsors private lunar exploration competition
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09:30, September 14, 2007

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Google announced Thursday to sponsor a 30-million-dollar competition for private lunar explorations, indicating that the ambitious search engine giant is looking for turf beyond the internet, and the Earth.

The Silicon Valley company would partner with a Los Angeles non-profit organization to offer a prize of 20 million dollars to the first private company that lands a robotic rover on the moon and carries out certain tasks.

The competition is organized through the X Prize Foundation, which is famous for issuing multi-million-dollar scientific challenges, and best known for hosting the Ansari X Prize contest that led to the first manned private space flight in 2004.

Peter Diamandis, chief executive of the foundation, said in a statement that the goal of the competition is to stimulate the development of low-cost methods for robotic space exploration.

He said that space exploration has dramatically enhanced the quality of human life and may ultimately lead to solutions to some of today's most pressing environmental problems, like energy independence and climate change.

Google is also offering a second prize of 5 million dollars and bonus prizes of 5 million dollars for teams that meet additional challenges, such as finding lunar ice.

Thursday's announcement came just a few weeks after Google launched its Sky service, an add-on to Google Earth that allows users to look at the moon, the planets and the stars.

Google reportedly has hired Ed Lu, a bona fide astronaut. Although it is not clear what kind of job Lu will do at the company, several former NASA employees are already working on Google's space-related projects.

Source: Xinhua

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