January 16, 2017

Moon Express says it’s raised the money for a commercial trip to the Moon

Backed by captains of the tech industry and veterans of space exploration, Moon Express has successfully sourced the funds it needs to achieve its stated goal of sending a mission to the moon for commercial purposes.

The company announced it was successfully able to raise its target goal of $20 million from multiple sources including the tech company Autodesk, several venture capital funds, and a few private investors.

“We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the moon,” Bob Richards, the CEO of Moon Express, said in a statement. “Our goal is to expand 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 for students, scientists, space agencies, and commercial interests.”

In addition to getting to the moon, the company has a secondary goal, winning Google’s Lunar XPrize, which will give $20 million to the first team to land a probe on the Moon that travels at least 500 meters (0.3 miles) and sends live images back to Earth. A lunar probe has to be launched this year to fulfill be eligible for the Lunar X Prize.

In trying to reach that goal, Moon Express has already secured preliminary approval for its spacecraft and lunar probe from the federal government. As it stands currently, the one big sticking point for the company is sourcing a rocket that has been flight-tested.

A Moon Express’ commitment calls for the Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab to deliver its MX-1E lander into low-Earth orbit on top of an inexpensive Electron rocket launched from New Zealand. Rocket Lab has completed construction of its launch facility on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, and it has completed ground evaluations of the Electron’s liquid-fueled engine. It still does not have the New Zealand government’s consent for launch, however, and therefore has not yet executed any flight tests.

Moon Express and Rocket Lab are counting on the timetable to come together in time for a launch by year's end. Meanwhile, Moon Express is said to be strengthening the propulsion system on its craft to ensure the lander can make the trip from low-Earth orbit to the surface of the Moon.

At least four other teams are also serious competitors for the Lunar X Prize: PTScientists, SpaceIL, Synergy Moon, Team Hakuto and Team Indus.


Image credit: Moon Express