Isle of Man space company teams up for Lunar X-Prize

Buzz Aldrin by Apollo 11 lander The Lunar X-Prizes support Nasa's efforts to reduce the costs of space exploration

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A Manx space company has teamed up with another in Israel in an attempt to win an international Moon explorer prize.

Odyssey Moon Ltd has linked up with SpaceIL to compete in a competition with a prize of $30m (£18.5m).

The Google-sponsored Lunar X-Prize will be fought over by 29 teams from 17 different countries.

The prize will go to the builders of the first robot to send back video as it travels more than 500 metres of the Moon's surface.

The presence of Odyssey Moon on the Isle of Man is thought to be one of the reasons behind a recent assessment showing the island to be the fourth most likely nation to return to the Moon.

Michael Potter, from the company, said: "This team has a tremendously high probability of achieving one of the greatest space challenges of our time, the landing of a private, non-governmental lander on the Moon."

Competition organisers hope to spur the development of low-cost robotic space exploration and believe there could be a winner by 2015.

The teams come from very different backgrounds, ranging from non-profit organisations and university groups to well-funded businesses.

Robotic explorers

Several of the teams have already bought rides on spacecraft to transport their robots.

Astrobotic Technology, a spin off-off from Carnegie Mellon University, has signed a deal with SpaceX - the private space company set up by PayPal founder Elon Musk - to use its Falcon 9 rocket.

Meanwhile, government-backed space agencies are also planning to send craft to the Moon.

Spacecraft from a joint Russian and Indian team and a separate one from China are pencilled to set off for the Moon in 2013.

But the X-Prize's backers think the future of space exploration will be driven by privately-funded groups.

"The most successful and revolutionary discoveries often come from small, entrepreneurial teams," said Tiffany Montague, of Google Space Initiatives.

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