Moon Express Announces Private Lunar Mission
May 29, 2013

Moon Express Unveils Plans For Private Lunar Landing By 2015

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Silicon Valley-based Moon Express has announced plans to send its International Lunar Observatory precursor (ILO-X) to the lunar surface by 2015 and make its observations publicly available through the Internet.

"It's citizen science on the moon and it's really a new model of public participation," said Moon Express CEO Bob Richards. "This will be a small, but very high-performance telescope on the moon that the public and scientists or professionals and amateurs alike will have access to over the Internet."

The announcement was made at the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) Galaxy Forum Canada 2013 that took place at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in Vancouver, Canada“¯on“¯May 25th, on the 52nd anniversary of President Kennedy's famous "Moon speech."

"The primary goal of the International Lunar Observatory is to expand human understanding of the Galaxy and Cosmos through observation from our Moon," said ILOA founder and director“¯Steve Durst. "We are extremely excited about sending the ILO-X to the Moon as soon as possible, and continuing our progress toward a permanent human presence on the Moon."

Richards said that the Internet-based access and control system was tested in“¯December 2011 from the Summit of“¯Mauna Kea in Hawaii. During the test, scientists from around the world accessed and controlled a prototype of the telescope as if it were on the lunar surface.

About the length of a shoe-box with a mass of about 4.4 pounds, the ILO-X flight hardware has been delivered to ILOA and in 2015 it is scheduled to become the first private space telescope to operate from the Moon, providing images of lunar surface, the Earth, the Milky Way and beyond.“¯Using optical technology, advanced software and microelectronics, the ILO-X is designed to deliver deep space images of objects both inside and outside our galaxy.

While its resolution isn´t expected to match the Earth-orbiting Hubble telescope, the ILOA suggested that the goal of this project is to open space exploration up to the public at-large.

"We're excited to help the ILOA design, build and deliver the worlds' first private telescope to the Moon," Richards“¯said. "This is inspirational space science and entrepreneurship at its best."

The Moon Express CEO said his company is actively for the Google Lunar X Prize of $20 million for the first privately funded team to successfully land a robot on the lunar surface.

"We want to win the Google Lunar X prize so that is somewhat driving our schedule," the Canadian-born Richards told CTV. "So I would say sometime in mid-to-late 2015 is when we'd be looking at."

The company said the ILO-X is a precursor to a more enduring lunar telescope it envisions on the Moon's South Pole and other international initiatives it plans in conjunction with ILOA. In September, ILOA signed an agreement with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC). According to reports, both parties agreed to establish a cooperative program to conduct Galaxy Astronomical Imaging for Global 21st Century Education using the Lunar Telescope of“¯China's Chang'e-3“¯Moon Lander, which is set for launch later this year.