Co-founded in August 2010 by Naveen Jain, Robert D. Richards and Barney Pell, Moon Express is a California-based private space firm that vows to be the first private organisation to land on the Moon. Their mission? To set up a Lunar mining facility.
June 30th 2011 marked the first successful test flight of their lunar Lander Test Vehicle (LTV), which was developed in tandem with NASA. After setting up a robotics lab in September of that same year, establishing a partnership with the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) in 2012, becoming the first ever private company to demonstrate a fully operational commercial lander (their MTV-1X) in December 2014 and unveiling their robotic rocket architecture, as well as plans for regular moon deliveries in July 2017, Moon Express appears to be well on their way to fulfilling their promise by the end of 2018.
The company made plans to launch in late 2017 before being pushed back to this year. However, they’re still optimistic. “It’s definitely going to be next year”, Chairman Naveen Jain stated back in 2017, in a TV interview with CNBC. “We are in the final stretches of it. And as you can imagine it’s rocket science,”. Rocket Lab, the company producing the electron booster that will take Moon Express’ lander to the moon delayed their flight test to early this year. But with so much already achieved, Mr Jain and crew are confident. “And when we launch and land on the moon, not only (do) we become the first company to do so, we actually symbolically become the fourth superpower”.
Aside from titular prospects are monetary ones, with a $20 million reward to follow their accomplishment. Moon Express is competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which yields a financial reward for the first private firm to land on the moon, travel 500 meters and transmit HD video back to Earth. Though Moon Express hasn’t yet revealed a launch date, the deadline for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE is March 2018. However, the company’s main priority is just getting to the moon and back successfully. “I really believe that lunar is going to become like our eighth continent”, Jain told CNBC. “We are going to have a permanent presence there, we are going to have internet there and we are going to be able to communicate just like we communicate from here to even Australia”.
Rocket Lab’s experimental Electron booster rocket is set to launch between the 20th and 29th of January. If the flight is successful, Moon Express are in the clear to be the first private company to land on the moon.
Image Credit: Moon Express