“Back To the Moon for Good” is a film from XPRIZE documenting the developments made in space travel and exploration since the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“It is an amazingly well-produced planetarium show that basically goes over the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which was a prize put forth by Google and the XPRIZE Foundation,” Omega Smith, planetarium manager, said. “To win the prize, you had to get some kind of robot to the moon, send back high definition video footage to earth, and be able to travel across at least 500 meters on the lunar surface.”
According to Smith, the one stipulation of winning the prize was that teams could not accept any government funding during the competition.
“It has kind of inspired a new generation, but the biggest thing that has come out of it is more economic. These teams actually started private companies and the reason they were not able to win the XPRIZE is not because they didn’t have the funds, but they didn’t have the time,” Smith said.
The show is being hosted at the UAA Planetarium for its final showing after the recent announcement that the Google Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed due to technical, regulatory and fundraising difficulties from competing teams.
“It’s disappointing but not unexpected. The first attempts to reach the north and south poles also failed,” Travis Rector, astronomy and physics professor at UAA, said.
Teams from all over the world competed in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition before it was determined that it was going to go unclaimed. Through this, the teams have raised over $300 million. Hundreds of jobs were created all over the world, and some of the first commercial space companies were established in several countries, among those being Israel, and Hungary.
“While the Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed it’s still interesting to learn about the groups that tried. As the XPRIZE organizers said, ‘If every XPRIZE competition we launch has a winner, we are not being audacious enough,’” Rector said.
The $30 million prize was started with the intention of giving an incentive for groups to start their own company to fly to the moon and collect data.
“Everyone loves the majesty of space. I’ve never met anyone who isn’t into astronomy. People often come to the planetarium for the ability to see the universe on our dome in visually stunning detail, but they are usually most appreciative of what they learn at the shows,” Rector said.
What makes the UAA planetarium unique is not so much the shows that are presented there, which can be seen at any other planetarium, but the experts that come in to talk about the field that was presented, who are there to help expand further on the topic and answer any questions the audience may have.
“Our planetarium is also a visualization theater, so we don’t just use it for entertainment, we use it for research as well [to] visualize data,” Smith said.
Even though no team will be able to claim the grand prize, over $6 million has already been awarded to some of the competing teams for their contributions towards the newest space race.
“We are still a ways off, but the progress made by the different groups is impressive. Someday we will soon be driving again on the moon. Maybe it’ll be in a Tesla Roadster,” Rector said.
The final showing of “Back to the Moon for Good” will be held on Feb 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the UAA Planetarium. Tickets are available through UAATix.com, and are $10 for the general public, $5 for students and for youth (12 and under).