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Google Lunar XPrize: Big money for winners of Milestone tests

Teams win millions in the Google Lunar XPrize... 15:13

This is the latest in a series of reports by CNET Editor at Large Tim Stevens, who's been traveling around the world to track the progress of teams competing for the Google Lunar XPrize.

For most of the past year, we've been following the progress of some of the leading competitors shooting for the moon in the Google Lunar XPrize competition. There is a $30 million purse of prizes at stake to incentivize 18 international teams in this modern space race. The first team to safely place a lunar lander on the surface of the moon, traverse 500 meters across the landscape and stream high-definition video footage back to Earth will take home a whopping $20 million.

Throughout 2014, five of the teams competed for a set of additional Milestone Prizes. Six million dollars in interim prizes were available to the teams that best demonstrated their ability to get to the moon and accomplish this mission. We traveled around the globe to visit these amazing groups of people trying to do the impossible on a shoestring budget. We've already introduced you to the teams, now it's time to see how they did.

Milestone Test Categories

Landing

The first test is probably the hardest: landing. To win a Landing Milestone Prize, a team must demonstrate significant progress toward developing the systems required to touch down safely on the moon. For the American team Moon Express, this meant actually building a fully-functional lander and flying it. Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic showed off its navigation system by bolting it on top of another company's lander and flying that in the Mojave Desert. Finally, Team Indus of India performed a drop test of a mockup lander. Because of their successful tests, each of these three was awarded $1 million.

Mobility

The next test is mobility, proving that the team has what it takes to cover the required 500 meters on or above the lunar surface. Astrobotic, whose team came out of Carnegie Mellon University, Japanese team Hakuto and German team Part-Time Scientists all successfully demonstrated their rovers covering simulated lunar environments. All three took home $500,000 prizes.

Imaging

The final test is a demonstration of camera systems capable of capturing high-definition footage on the Moon and broadcasting that back to Earth. American teams Astrobotic and Moon Express both successfully demonstrated imaging systems, as did Part-Time Scientists. Each of the three teams took home $250,000.

Totals

Out of a total possible $6 million in prizes available, $5.25 million was awarded to the five Milestone teams. Each team won at least one prize, but the American teams took home the most, Moon Express at $1.25 million and Astrobotic at $1.75 million.

The next step is the moon, and while these five groups are looking good, any of the 18 international teams registered for the Google Lunar XPrize could still win. The clock is ticking, the deadline set for the end of 2016 and that $20 million grand prize is still up for grabs.

Read and watch more:

Complete coverage of the Google Lunar XPrize on CNET.

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