One of the events people may well be celebrating is the first landing on the moon by a private organization, thanks to the Google Lunar X Prize. The questions that make the new moon race interesting is which private group(s) will accomplish the feat that hitherto only national #Space agencies have done and which will be first.

Moon Express is one of the front runners, thanks to the fact that it already has official government permission to land on the moon under the Outer Space Treaty. However, the American based company has a launch contract on an unproven Rocket Labs Electron.

SpaceIl, the Israeli team, has a share of a Falcon 9 launch. Two Asian teams, Team Indus and Hakuto, are sharing a launch on an Indian Space Agency PSLV. Synergy Moon intends to go to the moon on a Neptune rocket being developed by a company called Interorbital Systems. Part Time Scientists, the German team, says it has a launch contract, likely on a Falcon 9, but that has yet to be verified by the Google Lunar X Prize Foundation. Another competitor, Astrobotic, has bowed out of the moon race but intends to execute a landing on its own in 2019.

No one knows at this time which of the teams will land on the moon by the end of 2017 or if any of them will. Just one succeeding in winning the Google Lunar X Prize by moving 500 meters from the landing site and returning hi-definition images and video from the lunar surface would be history making. If more than one succeeds, such multiple feats will put the moon squarely in focus as the next destination for the world. It will also be a proof of concept that private groups will be able to mount deep space voyages with little or no government assistance.

The first private moon landing(s) will come at a time when the new Donald Trump administration will likely perform a pivot back to the moon, reversing a decision made almost seven years ago by President Barack Obama to bypass the moon. Success in the Google Lunar X Prize will mean that commercial companies will be more likely to be full partners in such an endeavor.