The Times Online notes along with the rest of the world Google's funding and sponsorship of the Lunar X PRIZE, a new effort by the X PRIZE Foundation to promote the private exploration of the moon. Having already spurred Scaled Composite's first manned private space flight that lead to to Richard Branson's budding Virgin Galactic space tourism enterprise, the Lunar X PRIZE promises to get entrepreneurs to lift their horizons away from the planet altogether for the very first time in human history - with Google's brand in tow.
This is the sort of brand and market development that continues to put Google head and shoulders above any other publishing enterprise for vision and return on investment. The total risk is USD 30 million, about a day's worth of Google revenues, with virtually no downside. The X PRIZE brand already has a hugely positive market presence and the actual space missions to the lunar surface are unmanned, so at worst someone else's hardware may go haywire on a dare. No wonder Google's own Boeing 767 gets landing rights at the Ames NASA center down the road from their HQ these days.
It's also an indication of the breadth and seemingly perpetual audacity of Google's market vision for publishing. Google may not always be the best developer of publishing products, but their ability to conceive of new markets and new ways of looking at existing markets allows them a great deal of leeway in reaping new rewards where others aren't even thinking of looking for revenues. The metaphor of a mission to the moon captures the Gooogle ethos perfectly: yes, we could stay in low earth orbit forever with online publishing waiting for others to catch up, but it's time to start pushing out the frontiers yet again. Google may get only 80 percent of their investments right, but when you open all-new territories for marketing again and again you can live with 80 percent in the long run.