At least a dozen teams are racing to win Google Inc.’s $20 million prize for getting to the moon. They are likely to spend more than seven times that amount, betting the boost to their moon ventures will be worth even more.

Google’s Lunar XPrize will go to the first privately funded team to land on the moon, then travel 500 meters and beam high-definition video back to Earth. Detecting water earns a bonus $4 million.

Teams in Japan, the U.S., Brazil, India and Germany see the race as a chance to grab the lead in a market that consultant London Economics forecasts will be worth $1.9 billion within a decade. The competitors envision mining platinum and rare earth elements, setting up habitats using water from lunar polar caps and, eventually, building a launchpad for a mission to Mars.

“We are not in it for the prize alone. The race is there to speed innovation that leads to commercialization of the moon,” said Takeshi Hakamada, whose Tokyo-based Hakuto team is building a lunar rover. “For example, we might explore a lunar cave for possible habitat location. That data would really sell.”

Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, is already commercializing the space travel business, ferrying payloads into the Earth’s orbit on its Falcon 9 rocket for $61 million and providing private satellite launches for the U.S. government and others.

A Falcon 9 carrying supplies to the International Space Station exploded minutes after launch on Sunday, a reminder of the thin margin between success and catastrophe for rocket launches.

Hakuto Moonraker

A cash award like the XPrize can attract several times the amount in investment, lend legitimacy to an idea and help define achievable goals, according to Peter Diamandis, the founder of the award. Winning also requires a viable business model that can keep the project alive after the prize money is spent.

Hakuto, named after a folk tale about a moon rabbit, plans to sell data gathered by its Moonraker rover to domestic and overseas space agencies. The vehicle is propelled by four wheels studded with paddles to gain purchase on the moon’s fine-grained dust. The design has already won a $500,000 milestone prize from Google for mobility.

Its body is carbon fiber composite, designed to protect the largely consumer-grade electronics inside from the extremes of lunar temperature. A 360-degree camera for gathering detailed images sits atop the rover, Hakamada said.

High Definition

NASA’s own images date back to Apollo missions more than 40 years ago and have a resolution of about half a meter, comparable to that of Google Maps. Moonraker’s camera offers definition that’s almost a million times greater. The U.S. space agency has already said it’s prepared to pay private companies $30 million for fresh data.

Because the team has no rockets, it’s entered into a prize- sharing agreement with an XPrize competitor to get to the moon. Hakuto, which estimates its total cost at $10 million, is looking to create a minimum viable product for lunar exploration and would consider breaking even a success, Hakamada said.

It is hitching a ride to the moon with Astrobotic Technology, whose Griffin craft is capable of completing the trip to lunar surface from Earth’s orbit. Once there, the competing rovers will start the 500-meter dash for Google’s money.

Moon Delivery

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic styles itself as lunar FedEx and plans to make money by ferrying scientific and commercial missions to the moon. Among Griffin’s cargo is a can of Pocari Sweat, a sports drink made by Japan’s Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. The container is fashioned as a time capsule. Another passenger is Celestis, a space burial company whose customers included Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and counterculture icon Timothy Leary.