Exploration Prize Group

The goal of the Exploration Prize Group is to expand the use of space, the ocean and other unexplored frontiers in order to improve life on Earth and extend life beyond the confines of land. We believe we can achieve these objectives by researching space and Earth's oceans, accessing and conserving their resources, catalyzing private, non-governmental activity, and tapping into our innate wonder about the Earth, the Universe and our place within each.


Google Lunar XPRIZE

The $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE is igniting a new era of lunar exploration by offering the largest international incentive prize of all time. A total of $30 million in prizes are available to the first privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon and have that robot travel 500 meters over the lunar surface and send images and data back to the Earth. Since its launch, NASA has also offered a complementary $30 million in contracts to those who successfully land on the lunar surface and meet certain scientific objectives. To learn more, click here.

This prize is made possible by a generous grant from Google.

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Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE

Our oceans are currently in the midst of a silent crisis. Rising levels of man-made carbon dioxide are causing catastrophic changes in our oceans’ chemistry, which may lead to our waters becoming unsustainable for the coral reefs that protect our coasts, phytoplankton that produces our oxygen, and the sea life we depend upon for food.

The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE is a $2 million global competition that challenges individuals and teams around the world to build the innovative technology necessary to develop accurate, affordable, and robust ocean pH sensors that will advance our understanding of ocean acidification. These breakthrough sensors are urgently needed for scientists, managers, and industry to turn the tide of ocean acidification and improve ocean health. Visit the competition website to learn more.

This prize is made possible by a generous grant from Wendy Schmidt.

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Awarded October 2004

The $10 million Ansari XPRIZE was a competition to build a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth's surface twice within two weeks. The $10 million purse was won by famed aerospace designer Burt Rutan and his company, Scaled Composite. Together, 26 teams from seven nations spent more than $100 million to win the prize. Since SpaceShipOne won the prize, there has been more than $1.5 billion dollars in public and private expenditure in support of the private spaceflight industry. To learn more, click here.

This prize was made possible by a generous grant from the Ansari family.

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Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE

Awarded November 2009

The $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE, offered as a unique partnership between NASA, Northrop Grumman, and the XPRIZE Foundation, was the foundation’s first “XCHALLENGE”. The competition offered a total of $2 million in prizes for companies who could safely and repeatedly demonstrate vertical takeoff and landing of rockets here on Earth while following a flight path that demanded the same capabilities and control as a rocket-powered voyage from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and back. Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace each claimed prize money through the program, which marked the largest incentive award made by NASA in history. To learn more, click here.

This prize was made possible by generous grants from Northrop Grumman and NASA Centennial Challenges.

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Concepts Under Consideration

Asteroid Deflection XPRIZE

Thousands of asteroids and other Near Earth Objects (NEOs) exist, but worldwide efforts have only been able to catalogue and track a fraction of these objects. Historical impacts with the Earth have had collision forces exceeding a nuclear bomb, causing massive destruction and climate change. While the likelihood of future events is not large, there have been some relative near misses and the ramifications of collisions could be devastating.

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Ocean Mapping XPRIZE

We currently lack high-resolution maps of nearly 75 percent of the planet’s surface and know more about the surface of Mars than about the floor of Earth’s oceans. Improved knowledge of the ocean floor improves exploration, navigation, basic geological discovery, and economic development.

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Orbital Debris Removal XPRIZE

Tens of millions of pieces of debris are currently orbiting Earth at altitudes that pose a danger to satellites and human spacecraft. The threats from such debris are predicted to rise 50 percent in the coming decade and quadruple in the next 50 years. Large object collisions are particularly dangerous, due to the ensuing creation of additional debris. The threat is both to spacecraft in orbit and to those that need to pass through the gauntlet of debris to reach their intended orbit. This XPRIZE seeks a low-cost, scalable method to safely and efficiently dispose of orbital debris.

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Sub-Orbital XPRIZE

Space research costs today are dominated by expensive launches, precluding many interested researchers, students, and companies from engaging in the field. Developing a very low-cost, robust capability to take scientific instruments to the edge of space (200,000 feet) on a dedicated basis will shepherd in a new era of low-cost flight for academic and corporate R&D.

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Earthquake Prediction XPRIZE

Earthquakes have cost us billions of dollars of damages and millions of lives. Given the massive global sensor networks now in place collecting data, and the near infinite computing power available, it may be possible to predict future earthquakes.

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Self-Replicating Systems XPRIZE

Machine systems that can mimic the behavior of living plants by making nearly complete copies of themselves using local energy and materials can help address large-scale energy and environmental challenges. These self-replicating systems promise to revolutionize manufacturing and enable large-scale renewable energy production, global environmental remediation and ultimately the long-term exploration of space.

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Synthetic Astrobiology XPRIZE

Exponential acceleration of genomic sequencing and manipulation capabilities is quickly bringing us into an era where designer organisms unlike anything on Earth are fully possible. In addition to potential benefits for future human Mars exploration, such a high profile project could be an exciting catalyst for other efforts in synthetic biology.

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