Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Moon Express lays road map for lunar, deep-space missions

Moon Express reveals plans for private exploration of the moon Cape Canaveral Company Unveils Ambitions Moon Missions
June Sullivan | 14 July, 2017, 00:50

Moon Express is gunning for the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize with its robot endeavors; for the MX-1E to win, it will have to land on the lunar surface, travel at least 500 meters, and send photos and videos back to Earth.

The lunar station, at the moon's south pole, could come as soon as 2020. Those resources the robots would mine may also include water.

Florida startup Moon Express revealed its ambitious plans Wednesday to establish a permanent Moon base where robotic explorers will deliver science payloads and return samples.

"We believe in redefining the possible", Moon Express said on its website, "by expanding Earth's economic and social sphere to our 8th continent, the moon". The company also plans to send an International Lunar Observatory to the Earth's satellite.

It is now unclear which spacecraft model would be used for the Lunar Outpost and Harvest Moon missions.

Meanwhile, the third mission is called Harvest Moon. It is described as capable of carrying about 66 pounds and relying on eco-friendly fuel. Each of these spacecraft can carry various sizes of payloads, and they can be used as landers, orbiters around the Moon, or deep-space probes that go elsewhere in the Solar System. "Our MX family are vehicle agnostic", Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express, said in a presentation today. Officials at Moon Express are promising to make samples of moon dust and/or rocks available to ordinary people upon its return-though it is assumed the samples will be auctioned to the highest bidders to help pay for the program. The MX-1E is now in testing and might launch for the first time later this year. If they succeed in completing this phase by the end of the year, they will have a shot at the $20 million prize.

Despite the tight deadline, it looks like Rocket Lab is not yet finished with the MX-1E lander.

The second, set for 2018, will set up the robot base, make observations, collect data and begin exploring the South Pole, the area regarded as the most promising for commercial operations. Other teams in the running include SpaceIL from Israel, the global team Synergy Moon, TeamIndus from India and Hakuto from Japan. Rocket Lab is reviewing the data from the launch, and hopefully the launch company will be able to work out any kinks in their next two test flights, tentatively scheduled to liftoff from Rocket Lab's private launchpad in New Zealand in the coming months.

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