Mountain View’s Moon Express plans moon mining after first launch this year: report

The first company to get federal approval for a trip to the moon now has enough money for a launch and plans to blast off later this year, a new report said.

Mountain View’s Moon Express intends to mine the moon, along with pursuing research opportunities, it has said.

“In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals, and moon rocks back to Earth,” ” company co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain said on the firm’s website.

And now, Moon Express has “full funding” to send a robot spaceship to the moon, and will do so this year, according to tech website The Verge.

“The company just raised $20 million in its most recent round of financing, and has raised over $45 million in total so far,” the site reported. “That money will go toward launching Moon Express’s MX-1E lander, which will explore and take pictures of the moon’s surface after launching on an experimental Electron rocket.

“The lander will also carry scientific instruments, including payloads from NASA, the International Lunar Observatory, and the University of Maryland.”

The MX-1E is a combination spacecraft/lander “capable of transfer from Earth orbit to the moon, making a soft landing on the lunar surface, and performing post-landing relocations through propulsive ‘hops,'” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a fact sheet it released after green-lighting in August a moon trip for Moon Express.

“The FAA has determined that the launch of the payload does not jeopardize public health and safety, safety of property, U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, or international obligations of the United States.”

The launch plans appear to put Moon Express in the leading position in the privately funded space race to the moon, which carries a major reward.

The Google Lunar X Prize would award $20 million to the first privately funded organization to put a spacecraft on the moon, make a landed machine travel at least 500 yards, and send high-definition video and photos back to Earth.

Moon Express appears to satisfy the prize’s requirement that at least 90 percent of funding for each mission come from private sources, The Verge reported. Four other teams have been approved to compete, according to the Google Lunar X Prize organization.

Among the substances Moon Express said it plans to mine is water, reportedly for use in spaceship fuels.

“The recent discovery of water on the moon is an economic game changer for humanity’s future,” company CEO and co-founder Bob Richards said on the firm’s website. “Water is the oil of the solar system, and the moon has become a gas station in the sky.”


Photo illustration: Moon Express’s “micro-lander” with an International Lunar Observatory research telescope attached (courtesy of Moon Express)


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