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Moon Express in race against time

14 July 2017, 12:49 | Gina Pena

To mine the Moon, private company Moon Express plans to build a fleet of robotic landers

Cape Canaveral Company Unveils Ambitions Moon Missions

Besides vying for the X Prize, Moon Express will fly science equipment and payloads for at least three paying customers, including Houston-based Celestis, which offers memorial spaceflights for cremated remains.

And of course, there is one final thing that could thwart Moon Express's dreams of a 2017 lunar mission: the readiness of the rocket. SpaceIL, of Israel, has contracted SpaceX to launch its dishwasher-sized spacecraft in 2017 on a Falcon 9.

A private company plans of using a robotic spacecraft for the launching of a series of commercial missions to the moon, around 45 years after the last lunar landing of NASA, stated by the officials of NASA On Wednesday.

"The primary goals of this mission are to set up the first lunar research outpost, prospect for water and useful minerals and accommodate a variety of research instruments for our expedition partners", according to the news release. The first scouting mission will carry payloads from the International Lunar Observatory, the INFN National Laboratories and the University of Maryland. For the third, the company plans to send an MX-2 to the moon, use it to retrieve surface samples, and then send part of it back to the Earth carrying the samples.

Cape Canaveral Company Unveils Ambitions Moon Missions
Moon Express Sets Its Sights on Deliveries to the Moon and Beyond

Technology giant Google is offering a top prize of $20 million for the first team to land a spacecraft on the moon. However, they should be able to finish their transport before the four other finalists in order to win the money.

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. This is the second mission. Combined with MX-1 or MX-2 staged systems, the MX-5 is capable of extending outward into the solar system. Some of them will be used for scientific research, but others could be sold to collectors or other private companies. The lander may have the capability to send a capsule full of samples back to Earth (illustrated below) while it remains on the moon to continue mining. The robotic lander, referred to as MX-1E, will ride into space aboard an experimental rocket known as the Electron, which is manufactured by Rocket Lab and will lift off from New Zealand. The company just had its first liftoff in May, becoming the first orbital-class rocket to do some from a private launch complex.

Industry experts say that mining there is beneficial for everyone.

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