In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to go into space and orbit the Earth. Two years later, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space (she orbited the earth 48 times -- take that, Yuri). By the end of the decade, the Apollo teams, rising to President Kennedy's challenge, made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the first human beings to walk on the Moon.

Great things can happen when you reach for the stars. That's why we're thrilled to be sponsoring the Lunar X-PRIZE, which will award a total of $30 million to teams competing around the world to land privately funded spacecraft on the Moon.

Why does Google love space? Well, for one thing, we just think it's cool. More seriously, space exploration has a remarkable history of producing technological breakthroughs, from ablative heat shields and asteroid mining to invisible braces and Tang; the X-PRIZE, too, could lead to important developments in robotic space exploration, a whole host of new space-age materials, precision landing control technology, and who knows what else.

Finally, we hope the contest will help renew public interest in fields like math, engineering and computer science, especially among the young people on whom we'll all be depending to tackle tomorrow's technical challenges, whether they're on the web or among the stars.

As Neil Armstrong famously pointed out, small steps lead to giant leaps. We hope that our sponsorship of the Lunar X-PRIZE is one of those small steps, and we can't wait to see what giant leaps result. By the way, just so the teams can scout locations and plan accordingly, Google Moon just went live. For more information, visit the Google Lunar X-PRIZE site.