N.C. team shoots for moon in $30M contest

Posted May 23, 2008 7:08 p.m. EDT

— A North Carolina team is one of 14 groups competing for the $30 million Google "Lunar X PRIZE," officials said Friday.

The international competition involves landing a robot on the surface of the Moon, traveling slightly more than 50 yards over the lunar surface and sending pictures and other information back to Earth.

Team STELLAR, which is short for Space Technology for Exploration, Lunar Landing, and Roving, is a project of the North Carolina non-profit Advanced Aerospace Resource Center Corp. Robotics experts and space scientists from universities and private business comprise the team.

The team's plan calls for tasks to be divided among smaller teams for vehicle design, communications and control, orbital mechanics, and mission control. A team from North Carolina State University, for example, includes faculty experienced with satellites and space navigation.

"We have all the elements for success," Team STELLAR Chief Technology Officer Grayson Randall said in a statement. "We plan to engage university researchers and private industry in the right combination to make this program fly. It's an exciting project for students because it will give them unique opportunities to apply their research to real-world – and out-of-this-world – products."

Teams must be at least 90 percent privately funded and qualify to compete by the end of 2010. The first team to land on the Moon and complete the requirements within the following two years wins $20 million.

If no team wins by the end of 2012, first prize drops to $15 million. Second place will win $5 million, and another $5 million will be awarded in bonus prizes. The competition ends on Dec. 31, 2014.