The 'Google Lunar X Prize' aims to extend private space travel well out of Earth's orbit.

The US$20-million prize, sponsored by Google and run by the X Prize Foundation in Santa Monica, California, will go to the first privately funded group that sends a rover to the lunar surface and accomplishes tasks that include roving for at least 500 metres and beaming images and videos back to Earth. In 2004, the foundation awarded $10 million to the team that developed the first private piloted craft that went into suborbital space.

The total prize money is available until the end of 2012, then the purse drops to $15 million until the end of 2014 ? after which the competition will be cancelled.