Robotic landers could start mining the moon as early as 2020

Posted July 14, 2017

Moon Express is now building the lander, termed the MX-1E, and hopes to be finished by the end of the summer so it can ship it to the launch site in New Zealand, where further challenges await.

Richards presented the spacecraft design in Washington on Wednesday.

All three missions will be managed from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complexes 17 and 18, now leased by Moon Express.

Moon Express, a small Florida company vying to win the Google Lunar X Prize for the first robotic lander on the moon, today unveiled plans for a system of low-priced landers and space transports.

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Beyond the Google Lunar XPrize, the company plans to make three robotic missions to the moon by 2020, according to the plans released Wednesday.

The also has plans for larger MX-5 and MX-9 vehicles to be sent to the in the future, each capable of carrying more equipment or return lunar material to Earth for sale.

Spurred on by the offer of a $20m prize by Google, Florida-based Moon Express unveiled plans yesterday on Capitol Hill to build a base on the Moon's South Pole and staff it with robots that will explore the lunar surface looking for water and minerals.

CEO and founder Bob Richards said the company plans to open "lunar exploration for everyone", starting with its first mission by the end of the year.

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In 2019, the company plans to launch a spacecraft aimed at establishing a lunar outpost at the Moon's South Pole. The Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015 encourages commercial exploitation of resources in space, as long as they're not alive.

The MX-5 is described as the "lunar workhorse" and can be fitted with a variety of configurations incorporating MX-1 systems.

That first mission will seal the deal on the $20 million if Moon Express beats its global competitors. Its plans start with the MX-1E robotic lander, a vehicle the company is now working on. Moon Express is a startup who joined Google's Lunar Xprize challenge. The robotic lander, referred to as MX-1E, will ride into space aboard an experimental rocket known as the Electron, which is manufactured by Rocket Lab and will lift off from New Zealand.

Rocket Lab's first flight of the Electron rocket, May 25, 2017. Once it lands, the MX-1E can then launch from the surface and return materials to Earth, if needed. But if the two companies can pull it off, we could have spacecraft exploring all corners of our only natural satellite before we know it.

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