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LOS ANGELES — Google Inc. is bankrolling a $20 million out-of-this-world prize to the first private company that can safely land a robotic rover on the moon and beam back a gigabyte of images and video to Earth, the Internet search leader said Thursday.
If the competition produces a winner, it would prove a major boon to the emerging private spaceflight industry and mark the first time that a nongovernment entity has flown a lunar space probe.
Google partnered with the X Prize Foundation for the moon challenge, which is open to companies around the world.
The Santa Monica-based nonprofit prize institute is best known for hosting the Ansari X Prize contest that led to the first manned private spaceflight in 2004.
The race to the moon won't be easy or cheap. Teams have to raise money to build a roaming spacecraft that will be tough enough to survive a landing and have the smarts to complete a set of tasks.
Each rover must also be equipped with high-definition video and still cameras to document the journey.