Google announced its own search today: It will award $30 million to private firms whose robotic spacecrafts successfully reach the moon and perform specific lunar tasks. The BBC reports that the search giant hopes to encourage low-cost space exploration. The first-place winner will receive $20 million, second place gets $5 million, and there's another $5 million in incentives.
If it isn't awarded before 2012, the top prize will shrink to $15 million; it may be withdrawn completely after 2014. Google says the rover must carry high-definition video and still cameras, find water-ice, cover certain distances, and survive the moon’s frigid nights. Rover projects can be formidable, the BBC says, usually requiring the funding of well-heeled national or international space agencies.