Google On The Moon

Google launched Google Moon, a page on its site with images mapping out stretches of the orb's pock-marked surface. They are compiled from photographs taken by previous moon missions including the historic first landing by the Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong and crew in 1969.Now Google is offering $US30 million in prize money for companies to land a robot camera to roam on the moon and send back high-resolution snaps and data.The site is aimed at encouraging companies interested in the challenge, giving them visuals of the moon "so the teams can scout locations" for a robot camera, Google joked in a blog announcing the competition, launched jointly with the X Prize Foundation which promotes technological innovation.It offers a $US20 million top prize for a vehicle that can move around automatically and transmit data back to Earth and a second prize of five million for a stationary device that sends data.A $US5 million bonus is offered for a robot vehicle that discovers ice or water, that can travel further than five kilometers or captures images of space vehicles abandoned there from old missions.The prizes are offered until December 31, 2012, after which a lowered grand prize of $US12 million can be won, the company said.Google's challenge recalls rewards for earlier achievements in flight, such as the $US25,000 paid to Charles Lindbergh who in 1927 became the first person to fly across the Atlantic.The prize is counting on just a handful of competitors for what the foundation describes as "a global private race to the moon."It hopes private companies can develop simpler spacecraft than the heavy duty equipment used by big space agencies such as NASA, which plans another moon landing by 2020.Several major entrepreneurs have shown an interest in space travel and rockets, such as the co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, and Virgin boss Richard Branson who aspires to run a space tourism agency.