The next generation in space exploration is one in which private companies are leading the way. Since its inception in 1996 (inspired by the Orteig Prize of 1919 in which teams were challenged to complete the first non-stop flight between New York City and Paris), the XPrize has encouraged private innovation, particularly, but not solely, when it comes to space travel. What had started as a noble nerd’s pursuit of pushing humanity forward through the creation of a private space travel, has evolved into something much more, a private space industry, just ask Elon Musk or Richard Branson.
Google’s decision, then, to sponsor the ambitious Lunar XPrize makes a lot of sense. To be the brand linked to innovation and exploration on the scale of such a venture, for an organization like Google, is priceless, or at least in this case – priced at $30,000,000. That’s what’s at stake for the team who successfully completes the lofty goals set out by XPrize: place a spacecraft on the Moon’s surface, travel 500 meters, and transmit high definition video and images back to Earth. Bonus points if you’re able to transmit back video and images of the original Lunar Lander.
“Welcome to the New Space Race,” the tagline for the Google-sponsored Lunar XPrize, evokes a sense of adventure and competition. It reminds those present for the first Space Race of a past era of exploration and discovery, one in which the righteous West was battling the ever increasing existential and physical threat and power of communism and the Soviet Union. So when on July 20, 1969, America had successfully landed a man on the Moon, the free market prevailed, sort of, since it was indeed a government-funded venture, and not one of private enterprise. Semantics.
Google isn’t the only brand to associate itself with XPrize, Shell and IBM have also partnered into challenges in which teams are developing new ways to explore our oceans and pushing the limits of artificial intelligence. At a time in our lives when the world seems to be in regression, with headlines abound detailing the transgressions against women, the collapsing trust in political institutions, and the increasingly dangerous storms wreaking havoc on our shorelines, humanity is in need of some feel-good stories. Brands that link themselves to positivity, growth, and innovation will stand out as leaders, not only in their respective industries, but in the hearts and minds of people desperate for a hopeful future.
Google hasn’t just slapped their name on the XPrize and called it a day either. A quick visit to their page shows just how far the X-Prize brand, itself, has grown since originally making headlines in 1996. In fact, Google has partnered with Bad Robot and J.J. Abrams to produce a goose-bump inducing documentary following this new race to get to the Moon. This isn’t your mom’s XPrize anymore. This isn’t a blurry black and white broadcast on the news to the enthralled masses.
With 2.5-million views on YouTube, the Lunar XPrize Trailer has piqued the interest on a new generation of explorers and curious onlookers. 42-million tuned in to view Red Bull’s Space Jump – these types of associations, when executed properly, are big wins for brands. And while 600-million people watched the original Moon Landing live in 1969, it’s possible that this, New Space Race, Moon Landing generates viewership in the billions. Only this time, it will be from their smartphones, or through their Facebook feed during a lull at work. It’s not entirely impossible. If Justin Bieber can get 3-billion views for his music video, Despacito, one can only hope. It’s only the progression of humankind, after all. And brand Google will be there for every step of the ride.