A private-sector group of some 100 engineers and other experts is finalizing preparations to launch a lunar probe, hoping to achieve the first feat in Japan's history of space exploration.

The 58-cm rover will be launched aboard an Indian rocket in December for the Google Lunar Xprize, a $20 million inducement prize contest organized by X Prize Foundation, an American nonprofit organization encouraging technological development through public competitions, and sponsored by Google Inc.

In addition to the Japanese team called Hakuto, Indian, Israeli, U.S. and multinational groups will all launch lunar probes by the end of this year as well.