In the British comedy, “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” (1965), set in 1910, Lord Rawnsley, an English newspaper magnate, sponsors a London to Paris air race, and offers a prize of £10,000 to the winner of the Daily Post contest.
His only grumble against it was this: “The trouble with these international affairs is they attract foreigners.”
More than a century later, a search engine magnate—Google—has announced that it’ll be sponsoring an “unprecedented competition” of a far grander proportion: a race to send robots to the Moon.
The Google Lunar X Prize Foundation has received 29 entries from 17 countries, each competing for a $30 million prize. The winner is projected to emerge by 2015.
The Google Lunar X Prize could do the same thing for the commercial space industry that the $25,000 Orteig Prize—claimed by Charles Lindburgh for piloting the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic in 1927—did for the aviation industry 80 years ago.