Early 2011 Thoughts about the Google Lunar X PRIZE

Well, some practical joker has gone and turned the calendar over to 2011. Surely that can't actually, be the year, can it? Even more unbelievably, we're just crossing the 40% mark in terms of calendar days in the Google Lunar X PRIZE--wow!

As we cross those somehow unbelievable milestones, I can honestly say that I have never been more confident that the Google Lunar X PRIZE will be won than I am today. And that's a pretty great thing to feel, 40% of the way in.

Part of this enthusiasm is born from the massive flurry of new registration applications we received right at the deadline. We're still processing them, so I can't yet tell you how many teams we'll have when all is said and done (soon, my friends, soon), but I'll put it this way: my own private guess in our little guess-the-number-of-teams contest would have been well under, just like many of the actual guesses sent in by our readers. I can also tell you that in addition to many of the "Letter of Intent to Compete" signatories referenced in this December blog post, we also heard from multiple others, including groups that were totally off our radar screen until the very last days of 2010. I'm extremely excited about our final roster of teams, to put it mildly.

Another part of my enthusiasm came after glancing at Michael Doornbos / Evadot's totally unofficial but nevertheless very interesting Google Lunar X PRIZE Scorecard (snapshot of the scorecard at right, but you should really click through to view all of the details and, even better, leave some thoughts and suggestions for Michael). Now, obviously, I'm operating from an overlapping but fairly different set of data then Michael is, so you can imagine that if I had a scorecard, it would look fairly different. But it would have at least one major feature in common: instead of a solitary front runner, there would be a big group--maybe eight or so teams--clustered in a pack towards the front, with the others not even all that far behind. That's hugely important, as it means that even 40% of the way into this competition, we still have a very large number of branches of our 'evolutionary tree' that are thriving. That's a cause for celebration, in my book.

As a closing note, I'll recommend to you all: check out Phil Stooke's awesome map of proposed Google Lunar X PRIZE landing sites, and read Brice Russ's Google Lunar X PRIZE update at Ars Technica. They are both worthy of your time! And lastly, a little suggestion--don't forget about the Flight Plan, our Tumblr micro-blog, which has been a bit more active than the Launch Pad lately.

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