Secretive Company Says It Could Be 'Mining' The Moon By 2020

Image Moon Express

A spaceflight company has an ambitious goal to mine on the moon in the next few years.

Richards presented the spacecraft design in Washington on Wednesday.

All of these spacecraft will be available in orbiter, lander, and deep-space variations, and the MX-5 and MX-9 vehicles will also come in a sample-return configuration.

The GLXP mission won't be the last lunar voyage for Moon Express, if all goes according to plan.

The second mission, "Lunar Outpost", is planned for 2019 and will aim to set up a research outpost at the moon's South Pole.

"Our mission is to redefine possible by returning to the moon and unlocking its mysteries and resources for the benefit of humanity", the Florida-based Moon Express says on its website.

Two follow-on expeditions, announced on Wednesday, are focused on establishing the first permanent outpost at the moon's south pole by the end of the decade, including the return of the first non-government lunar samples to Earth.

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The company plans three expeditions to what it calls the Earth's "eighth continent". 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. In addition to missions to the moon, the MX-2 has "enough punch" to reach Venus or the moons of Mars from low Earth orbit.

The core piece of hardware to make all of that happen is a single-engine lander called the MX-1, which will launch on the GLXP flight.

That first mission will seal the deal on the $20 million if Moon Express beats its global competitors. SpaceIL, of Israel, has contracted SpaceX to launch its dishwasher-sized spacecraft in 2017 on a Falcon 9.

The launch company, Rocket Lab, is still developing its Electron rocket. It is hoped from Moon Express that the Endeavour will grab a prize of $20 million from Google, however, Richards added that the victory was not required. Its plans start with the MX-1E robotic lander, a vehicle the company is now working on.

Moon Express also has plans for exploration beyond the lunar surface.

Their first craft, the MX-1E, stands 4-and-a-half feet tall and 3 feet wide and will act as a base for other crafts, as it is built to connect with other models in a Lego-like fashion.

Although Rocket Lab's Electron rocket is getting first dibs, the idea is that the spacecraft could launch on any rocket in the future. The company expects to complete the first spacecraft in September.

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