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Google just announced a $20 million prize to the first organization that can send a robotic lander to the moon, go for a walk, and beam back photos. I feel the benefit to humankind from such a robotic visit must be larger than $20 million. Prizes are a far more efficient way of getting results than paying one group in advance. It would be great if there was a website where you could donate money to the purse for different prizes, for the first person to cure cystic fibrosis, or the first person to prove an important theorem, or get to the moon. The bigger the prize, the bigger the incentive people have to try and win it - $30 million for a moon robot would get a faster result than $20 million, or maybe NASA offers a $50 million prize for the first person to set up an observation station on the moon, and gets that station built for them, probably better and cheaper than they could too. Prizes in the billions aren't unreasonable either - a cure for cancer could be worth $50 billion.