More than 40 years after man first stepped foot on the moon, a new race to that pie in the sky has begun, this time by groups of entrepreneurs looking to cash in on private ventures and $30 million in prizes offered by Google.

Twenty-nine teams signed up for the competition to put an unmanned spacecraft on the moon by December 2015, and their reasons for doing so are varied and, in some cases, odd. Founders of the Moon Express project (essentially a delivery service to and from the moon) say they think the moon represents a massive, untapped market of the future, “probably the biggest wealth creation opportunity in modern history.” –BF

The New York Times:

George Xenofos, manager of NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data program, said he expected one or more teams to make it to the Moon. “It’s definitely not the technical issues that’s stopping them,” he said.

The contestants’ goals do not appear to face legal hurdles. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, ratified by 100 nations including the United States, bars countries from claiming sovereignty over any part of the Moon, but does not prevent private companies from setting up shop. As for mining the Moon, it could fall under similar legal parameters as fishing in international waters.

Although some orbiting spacecraft have crashed into the Moon in recent years, 35 years have passed since anything from Earth made a soft landing there. To some people, this looks like an overdue invitation.

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