Google launches new space race to the moon

When Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, he uttered unforgettable words. But the next visitor to roam the lunar landscape may send back e-mail instead.

Welcome to a new kind of space race, where the earthly guest will be a machine and the goal is as much exploration as seeking out new business ventures.

The quest is part of the Google Lunar X Prize, which will put $20 million into the hands of the first privately funded team that can land a rover on the moon, have it travel on the surface for 500 meters or more, send back data, photos and video, and do it all by December 31, 2012.

The prize drops to $15 million after that date and goes away altogether after 2014.

One of the main requirements is to have as little government involvement in the project as possible.

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