Moon Express is one of the Google Lunar XPrize five competitors, one of the two teams that have launch contracts for 2017, and the first private entity ever to have received the official approval of the US government to send an unmanned lander to the Moon. Recently, the company has announced their launch schedule according to which they will become the first ever private company to reach to the Moon by next year. Sounds exciting but let’s take things step by step and see how Moon Express is planning to make the leap.
Backed by a large group of Silicon Valley and space entrepreneurs, and having settled in Cape Canaveral Complexes 17 and 18, Moon Express is aspiring to reach to the Moon soon with the help of their fellow Rocket Lab private launch service provider. For the purpose of exploration and sampling, Moon Express is planning to launch their MX family of robotic explorers that feature the latest technological innovations and advancements in the field, are relatively cheap to build, quite lightweight so cheaper to launch, and presumably very resilient and reliable. MX-1 which will be the first to reach to the Moon is a basic scout-class explorer, MX-2 a dual-stage explorer of additional capabilities, and MX-5 a discovery-class explorer that is more powerful and versatile than the other two. There are also plans for an MX-9 which will be used to collect rocks and bring them back to the Earth.
The reason for Moon Express to go to the Moon is profit, as is in every private company out there. The space exploration company is planning to start collecting resources that are relatively easily accessible on the surface of the Moon, harvest valuable lunar materials and sell them to whoever is interested. It will all start with a basic exploration continuing with rock collection and image and data capturing, all three of which have the potential to bring in the first money for Moon Express, and then there are the long-term plans of setting up a base that will help make the Moon a new and far more efficient launching site for deeper into space exploration missions. Also, let’s not forget that 20 million US dollars promised to the winner of the Google Lunar XPrize competition.
Pretty soon, with MX-1 reaching the lunar surface hopefully by early 2018, then an MX-2 heading to the South pole of the Moon by 2019, and an MX-9 launching as soon as 2020 with the premise to bring back tens of kilograms of lunar samples. That is all according to the recent announcements of the launch plan released by Moon Express, so nothing is definite yet but nor can they delay this for much longer since they are in a race. The race for the first private company to reach the lunar surface and make history, besides winning that lucrative Lunar XPrize anyway.