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Google Antes Up $30 Million For Moon Shot

In conjunction with that announcement, Google released a new version of Google Moon, the company's browser-based moon viewer.

The Space Act Agreement signed by Google and NASA in 2005 isn't just about a plum parking space for the Boeing 767-200 owned by Google's co-founders. It's also about making space more universally accessible.

Alan Eustace, senior VP of engineering at Google, on Thursday announced that Google is sponsoring the Lunar X-Prize, which will award a total of $30 million to teams competing to land a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon.

"Why does Google love space?" Eustace asked in a post on the Google blog. "Well, for one thing, we just think it's cool. More seriously, space exploration has a remarkable history of producing technological breakthroughs, from ablative heat shields and asteroid mining to invisible braces and Tang; the X-Prize, too, could lead to important developments in robotic space exploration, a whole host of new space-age materials, precision landing control technology, and who knows what else."

"The Google Lunar X-Prize seeks to create a global private race to the Moon that excites and involves people around the world and accelerates space exploration for the benefit of all humanity," said X-Prize founder Peter H. Diamandis in a statement. "The use of space has dramatically enhanced the quality of life and may ultimately lead to solutions to some of the most pressing environmental problems that we face on Earth -- energy independence and climate change."

In conjunction with that announcement, Google released a new version of Google Moon, the company's browser-based moon viewer. Taking a page from Google Maps, the new Google Moon offers a Street View option. Street View on the moon offers no streets to view and invades no one's privacy, as a few Google Maps Street View pictures did, but it's still a nice touch.

Eustace said that Google hopes its space initiatives will renew public interest in math, engineering, and computer science. To satisfy curiosity in matters terrestrial and extra-terrestrial, Google also offers Google Earth, Google Mars, and Google Sky.

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