Moon Express logo.
Credit: Moon Express.

Moon Express, a private company that wants to mine the Moon, has just raised $20 million and achieved its funding goal to launch its Maiden Mission. The firm intends to be the first to step on the Moon to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

The California startup is competing against other teams around the world in a race to the moon that will earn them $20 million in prize money if they manage to succeed in becoming the first private venture to do it.

The U.S. government came under heavy fire when it approved the mission last August, creating an unprecedented landmark in space exploration that allows commercial missions to go beyond low-Earth orbit and with business purposes.

Moon Express has a high chance of winning the Google Lunar X Prize

Moon Express will rely on their trusty MX-1 spacecraft to deliver payloads and meet the requirements to win the Google Lunar X Prize before the year ends.

The X Prize rules state that for companies to win, they have to land successfully on the Moon’s surface, travel 500 meters, and send high-quality images back to Earth.

The first place prize is $20 million, with $5 million more allocated for those who arrive second (if there are any) and another five for others who also achieve the impressive feat.

Teams competing in the lunar race include India’s Team Indus, Israel’s SpaceIL, and the international group Synergy Moon, and they are all still up for the challenge.

Moon Express, however, became the first company to have a real shot at winning the prize after reaching the $45 million mark during its latest funding round, since the deadline to meet all the requirements is December 31, 2017.

The startup founded by Bob Richards plans to raise an additional $10 million as a contingency plan, but their clocks are up and running: timetables place the MX-1 tests in July at Cape Canaveral and launch in October in a New Zealand facility.

Moon Express could be the pioneer of interstellar business

Moon Express founder, Bob Richards.
Moon Express founder, Bob Richards.Image: YouTube.

The company’s first mission will, aside from taking a shot at winning the X Prize, carry payloads from several clients with economic interests on Moon Express’ endeavors.

As part of its press release, Moon Express compared the discovery of water on the Moon to finding oil anywhere, equating the satellite to a “gas station” with much potential to be exploited.

The Moon is still home to many mysteries, and Moon Express hopes that financial incentives will impulse deeper space exploration as well as take the economic view and landscape to new frontiers.

“Our goal is to expand the Earth’s social and economic sphere to the Moon, our largely unexplored eighth continent, and enable a new era of low-cost lunar exploration and development,” said the CEO of Moon Express, Bob Richards.

Our only satellite guards precious metals and resources on and beneath its surface, valuable goods for astronomers and businesspeople alike. Moon Express claims its intended business model could go mainstream as soon as 15 years from now.

Source: Space News / Moon Express