#Space News reports that Part Time Scientists, the German-based Google Lunar X Prize team, has acquired a launch contract from a Seattle-based company called Spaceflight Industries. Spaceflight is a broker for secondary payloads on existing launches, in this case likely a SpaceX Falcon 9. To date, three competitors, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, and SpaceIl, the latter an Israeli team, have confirmed launch contracts. Team Indus, the Indian team, claims a launch contract, but this is not yet certified. A number of other teams are scrambling to nail down their own launch arrangements before the December 31, 2016 deadline. The time limit for mounting a private mission to the moon and claiming the cash prize of the Google Lunar X Prize is the end of 2017, just over a year later.
Part Time Scientists plan to land two rovers near the Apollo 17 landing site in the Taurus-Littrow area on the moon. Their plan is to use two small robotic rovers approach the Apollo-era lunar rover that was left behind and to examine how it has survived nearly 50 years of exposure to radiation and micrometeorites. The landing will take place three or four kilometers away from the Apollo 17 site and approach to a distance of 200 meters.
Since the Apollo 17 landing site is an area of historical significance and the German mission will launch from American soil, the Part Time Scientists mission will have to obtain a mission authorization from the United States government similar to that acquired by Moon Express last summer. The process is mandatory under the Outer Space Treaty.
Other experiments that the Part Time Scientists expedition will carry out is a replication of a gravity measure made by the Apollo 17 moonwalkers. The measurement may confirm the presence of a lava tube beneath the lunar surface at the site. The mission will also use a laser to fuse together lunar soil as a test of 3D printing technology and will attempt to grow a plant on the surface of the moon in an enclosed container. The German rovers were built by a partnership with the auto firm Audi, which is a sponsor of the mission.