After I learnt about the things that these teams will have to achieve in order to claim the prize, I thought the whole thing was unnecessarily over-ambitious.
The $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE will be awarded to the first privately funded teams to build robots that successfully land on the lunar surface, explore the Moon by moving at least 500 meters (~1/3 of a mile), and return high definition video and imageryIt means the team has to accomplish a number of difficult things like
- launching successfully from earth
- landing safely on moon
- building a rover that can at least move 1/2 km, autonomously or remotely
- communication system with robot for control and video transmission
- robust packaging of the rover during the flight and landing
If a team successfully puts a rover on Moon and fails to drive it, who cares? Driving a robot and recording a video is trivial, compared to landing on moon.
The most important obstacle to space exploration is the exorbitant costs involved in just escaping the gravity well. We need to focus solely on that single portion of the problem first.