We are not now, nor have any intention of becoming a Google Lunar X-Prize team.
Why? you might ask.
Simple, we might answer. First off, We are very excited about the GLXP, and we applaud Google for taking this very forward thinking step. We are also very happy that the XPF is taking this venture on. This really makes our job so much easier. It has allowed the general public to finally believe that space can be for everyone, and that regular people can go to the moon, not just one elite governments entire efforts.
They are helping others believe the dream!
But, simply, they are not for us. We are more than happy to work with GLXP teams, (and indeed are working with GLXP team, "Microspace" and "FredNet") and if something we are working on will benefit them, they can have it. Likewise, if they have something that will help us in our ventures, we would appreciate their help as well.
Why aren't they for us? There are quite a few very good reasons, (and the team personally knows of one team that didn't enter for some of the same reasons, and of at least two teams that left for similar reasons,) and they go, in approximate order of severity; (NOTE! The quotes below are from a draft marked "Draft Copy Only - Non Binding - For Public Comment and Review Only" and does not constitute current management policy or complete their thinking on the subject! You are free to add your own, but be responsible.)
Exclusive rights: "The TEAM shall make the provision of all data ... exclusive to XPF and XPF-identified Partners" (followed by a page and a half of legalese to make sure.) That's the basic reason. They want them all with complete exclusivity. We need some to operate. I understand the need for them to sponsor the prize, but we are not particularly excited about the process, the payout method, the closeness of the system. We are very unhappy about having to give the XPF exclusive rights to footage that all by itself will be worth more than the prize. (all of the initial landing/first day footage.)
Micromanagement: "This total distance [500m] traveled may be ... a series of waypoints approved by the Google Lunar X PRIZE Judging Panel prior to movement." "The TEAM may not purchase heritage hardware when such hardware is unique and non-reproducible." We don't need to be told what technologies we can or can't use. We don't need to be told who are sponsors could or may not be. We don't want to run every decision past this nameless XPF board before implementing them.
1.11.4 Use of Government Resources - Means that our friends in the space agencies can't help. (or we can only use them a little.)
Stability concerns: We don't like the vagueness of the rules and how long it will take to narrow down simple points. The rules are in a constant state of flux, (As of the last published Guidelines "v3", dated 20 November 2008 the guidelines are still marked as "DRAFT COPY ONLY – NON BINDING – FOR PUBLIC COMMENT AND REVIEW ONLY",) and in some cases significantly change the mission requirements. (Change to the description of the Mooncast, Eliminated explicit need for a “mobile” portion of the payload, Additionally, the entire mass of the payload, rather than just the mobile portion of it, is now placed on a sliding scale relative to spacecraft dry mass, Changing of some notification deadlines - For example. NOTE, These were taken from "GLXP_Guidelines_Revisions_Cover_Letter_11_20_08.doc" dated 20 November 2008) We are also concerned that the "Bonus requirements" have not yet been released. This has obvious implications, and will dramatically change the mission profile. The XPF have missed their January 31, 2009 deadline.