Prototype lunar rovers developed by Hakuto navigate on the Tottori Sand Dunes on Sept. 27 during trial runs. (Hayashi Yanagawa)

TOTTORI--Hakuto’s lunar rover prototypes were put through their paces at the Tottori Sand Dunes here on Sept. 27 ahead of the Google Lunar X Prize, which seeks to complete a robotic moon mission by the end of 2017.

The Hakuto team will run trials of its two unmanned rovers over three days on the finely textured sands of the hilly dunes as conditions there are the most similar to the moon's surface among sand dunes across the country.

Cameras were tested on the first day of the trials, as well as infrared sensors that measure the distance between the rover and a target object.

“Tests are going well so far,” said Takeshi Hakamada, 37, the leader of Hakuto. “We can win if we will be able to send our real machine to the moon.”

Sixteen privately funded teams from around the world are competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize.

In the competition, a team must successfully land a spacecraft on the moon, have a rover travel at least 500 meters on the lunar surface and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth.

The winning team will be awarded $20 million (2.01 billion yen).

Hakuto expects to have its lunar rover completed at the beginning of 2017. It will then hitch a ride on a rocket to the moon that will be launched by a U.S.-based private company.