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By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Having mastered fictional renderings of spaceflight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has turned his attention to a real space drama, with a series of Web-based documentaries about a Google-backed race to the moon.

Produced by Abrams and directed by documentary filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel (Virunga), the series chronicles some of the 16 teams vying for $30 million in prizes for landing and operating a privately developed robotic spacecraft on the moon before Dec. 31, 2017.

“The teams… range from Silicon Valley tech experts, to hackers in Germany, to IT specialists in India, to a father and son (working) in a spare bedroom in Vancouver,” the X Prize Foundation, which organized the competition, said in a statement.

So far only the government-run space programs of the United States, the former Soviet Union and China have landed spacecraft on the moon.

Abrams’ nine-part series, called Moon Shot, offers an overview of the Google Lunar X Prize contest and follows individual members from several of the teams, according to X Prize spokesman Eric Desatnik.

Each film is seven minutes long. The entire series debuts on March 15 on Google Play and on March 17 on YouTube. In addition to his work on the latest Star Wars movie blockbuster, Abrams’ directing credits include the first two films in a reboot of the Star Trek big-screen franchise.

Google paid for the documentary project, a partnership of Abrams’ production company Bad Robot and Epic Digital. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Google Lunar X Prize is intended to spur commercial development of lunar exploration. It is one of 13 competitions sponsored by the California-based X Prize organization to stimulate technological developments that address a wide-range of environmental, social and medical challenges.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)

Photo: Director JJ Abrams arrives at the European Premiere of Star Wars, The Force Awakens in Leicester Square, London, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

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