X Prize adopts NASA guidelines for protecting lunar heritage sites, Buzz Aldrin punch averted

NASA hopes that one small step by Google's Lunar X Prize will eventually lead to a giant leap in protecting historical sites on the moon. The X Prize Foundation announced that it will adopt guidelines released by the space agency last year to help preserve lunar heritage sites. The move comes at a crucial time as a new space race increases the possibility of an imminent moon landing, according to NASA. Google's Lunar X Prize alone currently has 26 contestants worldwide vying to land a robot on the lunar surface by 2015. NASA stressed that their recommendations aren't law and "do not represent mandatory U.S. or international requirements." Examples include approach and landing guidelines to minimize disturbance, contamination and degradation of Apollo mission sites. That certainly sounds more reasonable than, say, plopping some dude in a spacesuit at a lunar outpost to shoot trespassers with a plasma shotgun while yelling, "Get off my property!" In the meantime, feel free to mosey on over to the PR after the break.

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Washington (May 24, 2012) - NASA and the X PRIZE Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., announced Thursday the Google Lunar X Prize is recognizing guidelines established by NASA to protect lunar historic sites and preserve ongoing and future science on the moon. The foundation will take the guidelines into account as it judges mobility plans submitted by 26 teams vying to be the first privately-funded entity to visit the moon.

NASA recognizes that many spacefaring nations and commercial entities are on the verge of landing spacecraft on the moon. The agency engaged in a cooperative dialogue with the X Prize Foundation and the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams to develop the recommendations. NASA and the next generation of lunar explorers share a common interest in preserving humanity's first steps on another celestial body and protecting ongoing science from the potentially damaging effects of nearby landers.

NASA assembled the guidelines using data from previous lunar studies and analysis of the unmanned lander Surveyor 3's samples after Apollo 12 landed nearby in 1969. Experts from the historic, scientific and flight-planning communities also contributed to the technical recommendations. The guidelines do not represent mandatory U.S. or international requirements. NASA provided them to help lunar mission planners preserve and protect historic lunar artifacts and potential science opportunities for future missions.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE will award $30 million total in prizes. First place will go to a privately-funded team that builds a rover which lands successfully land on the moon, explores it by moving at least one third of a mile and returns high-definition video and imagery to Earth. Additional bonus prizes will be awarded for photographing a Lunar Heritage, Apollo or Surveyor spacecraft site. The contest ends whenever all prizes are claimed or at the end of 2015.

To view the full set of guidelines, visit:

For more information about the X PRIZE Foundation, visit:

For more information about the Google Lunar X PRIZE, visit:

For a lunar exploration timeline, visit:

The $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon's surface that explores at least 500 meters (1/3 of a mile) and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. Teams are also eligible to win a $1 million award for stimulating diversity in the field of space exploration and as much as $4 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks such as moving ten times as far, surviving the frigid lunar night, or visiting the site of a previous lunar mission. To date, more than 20 teams from a dozen countries around the world have registered to compete for the prize. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is available to be claimed until the end of the year 2015.