July 19, 2013
Moon Express Announces First Mission To Moon’s South Pole
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express have just announced not only the first private enterprise mission to the Moon but also the first mission to the Moon's South Pole.
The mission will be exploring the Moon's South Pole for mineral resources and water. Lunar probes have provided evidence of mineral and volatile deposits in the Moon's southern polar region where energy and resources may be abundant, so the private expedition aims to seek this area out.
Moon Express, which began in August 2010 as a commercial lunar resource company, said it will be providing the lunar lander, mission architecture and operations. The mission will include delivering the International Lunar Observatory (ILO) to the South Pole, which will be the first instrument to conduct international astrophysical observations and communications from the lunar surface.
"The ILO will demonstrate the value of the Moon for scientific study of the Galaxy, Moon, Earth, Sun and Stars," said Steve Durst, founder and director of the ILOA and Space Age Publishing Company.
Moon Express is partnering with NASA for its lunar lander developer. The company will be sending a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface in support of science, commerce and exploration starting in 2015.
"We are very excited to our announce that our second Moon mission will be to the lunar South Pole to deliver the International Lunar Observatory and to prospect for resources," said Moon Express CEO Dr. Robert Richards. "The mission will provide a historic landing in an unexplored region of the Moon that may harbor some of the greatest resource deposits in the solar system."
ILOA and Moon Express unveiled the ILO precursor instrument earlier this year known as ILO-X. This mission will fly to the Moon in 2015 aboard the inaugural Moon Express mission. ILO-X will be about the length of a shoebox and will weigh only 4.4 pounds.
ILO and ILO-X will have an internet-based access and control system, which will allow the world to access astronomical pictures from the surface of the Moon.
Richards said in May that they aim to win the Google Lunar X prize, "so that is somewhat driving our schedule." This prize is offering $20 million to the first privately funded team to successfully land a robot on the lunar surface.
Earlier in July a team of scientists developed a model for companies to take into consideration when developing a lunar surface mission. This model showed how rovers traveling across the surface of the Moon may be affected by dust. The team was able to show how engineers would have to design their rovers to deal with dust differently, depending on which region of the Moon they plan to traverse.