Jimi Crawford, former engineering head of the Google Books project, has joined the Silicon Valley startup Moon Express as its chief technology officer and software architect.
A former Google bigwig has set his sights on the heavens, leaving the search giant to join a company that aims to provide commercial and scientific missions to the moon.
Jimi Crawford, who had been engineering director for the Google Books project since 2009, has signed on with Moon Express, the company announced today (July 12). Crawford will serve as chief technology officer and software architect for the Silicon Valleyfirm, which is competing in the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million private race to the moon.
Crawford said he’s excited to join Moon Express, which he believes has the potential to help humanity extend its footprint beyond our home planet.
"Everybody that creates a startup in Silicon Valley, they all try to say they’re going to change the world. Here, it’s just so completely obvious," Crawford told SPACE.com. "The idea that private enterprise can get to the moon, the idea that the U.S. is back on the moon after 45 years — it’s hard to compare that with any other job that you actually get paid to do."
Chasing the prize
Moon Express is one of 25 teams participating in the Google Lunar X Prize, an international challenge to land a robot on the lunar surface, have it travel at least 1,650 feet (500 meters) and send data and images back to Earth.
The first privately funded team to do all of this will receive the $20 million grand prize. An additional $10 million is set aside for second place and various special accomplishments, such as detecting water, bringing the prize’s total purse to $30 million.
Moon Express is one of the higher-profile teams chasing the X Prize. In 2010, it scored a contract worth up to $10 million as part of NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data program. And this past May, it acquired another X Prize competitor, the Colorado-based Next Giant Leap team.
The X Prize wraps up whenever all prizes are claimed — or, failing that, at the end of 2015. Moon Express officials say they’re on target to beat the deadline.
"Our current plan is certainly to accomplish the first private landing on the moon before the expiration," Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards said.