KDDI backs professor-led team in Google moon rover contest


Telecommunications carrier KDDI Corp. will support the sole Japanese team taking part in the Google Lunar Xprize competition, a $30 million race to land a robotic rover on the moon.

KDDI said Wednesday it had signed an official partnership deal with team Hakuto, led by Tohoku University professor Kazuya Yoshida, to provide communications support for its rover quest.

Of the $30 million in prize money being offered by Internet search giant Google Inc., $20 million will be awarded to the first team to successfully land a robotic rover on the moon. The machine must then travel 500 meters on the moon’s surface and send high-resolution images and videos back to Earth.

The second team to achieve this will receive $5 million. The contest has been entered by 16 private-sector teams from around the world. Hakuto is the only team from Japan.

The teams have until the end of 2017 to complete their missions.

Announcing the sponsorship deal at a news conference, KDDI President Takashi Tanaka said, “I want everyone to be excited by the contest.”