NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The private space race continues to rocket onward, with two companies nearing the goal of reaching the moon by 2017.

Two XPRIZE Foundation executives, founder Peter Diamandis and CEO Marcus Shingles, believe the success of the private space industry stems from a new era of small, empowered teams.

"XPRIZE's model is that we use the crowd but instead of creating only commercial impact, we're really focused on solving grand challenges," Shingles said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Tuesday.

The original "Ansari XPRIZE" led to the launch of the private space industry, which achieved suborbital flight in 2004. Following that success, the "Google Lunar XPRIZE" launched in 2007, awarding $20 million or more to the first team to land and operate a rover on the surface of the moon.

"Individual small teams are empowered to do what only governments and large corporations could do 20 years ago. But they're willing to take much bigger risks," Diamandis noted.

Diamandis sees the recent boom of "a half dozen" or so small space companies, saying those with "the capital to actually deploy hundreds of millions or billions" are thanks to a set of individuals "who were passionate about space in the early '60s and then gave up on NASA getting us there." As a concept, he believes the prize model allows companies to take bigger risks with higher degrees of success.

"The challenge is that if a company takes a big risk and fails then you're reporting it ... as a failure. Where if a company puts up a large prize to solve hunger, education, water, energy and a thousand teams compete," Diamandis added.

Additionally, Anousheh Ansari, CEO of Prodea Systems, joined the CNBC panel to talk about who was winning the space race between Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.

"Musk started earlier, has bigger funds available to him and he took bigger shots ... it's his primary objective and focus right now," Ansari said.