For the first time since the 1970’s, we’re going to try and put something on the Moon again. Monetary and physical constraints have kept NASA from going back to the Moon since the Apollo missions, but a new start-up based out of Cape Canaveral, Florida called Moon Express, wants to do it all over again with a special lander.
With a green light from the United States government now official as of the beginning of August, Moon Express hopes to achieve their goal of putting a lander on the Moon by next year, which completely uppercuts NASA’s ETA of putting another mission on the Moon by 2020.
Image Credit: Moon Express
Of course, there’s a reason for NASA’s extended wait time; the agency wants to do far more than just walk around on the surface and plant a flag like we did four decades ago. Instead, we actually want to put habitation equipment on the Moon so that humans can live there for extended periods of time, similarly to the International Space Station.
Moon Express won’t achieve this goal; on the contrary, it will be a simpler mission intended to put a robotic lander on the surface that could be controlled from Earth. The lander would be a contestant in the Google Lunar XPRIZE race, and if it successfully meets next year’s deadline, it would surely win it.
This is the very first time that a private company has ever been cleared by the United States government to put anything on the Moon, so it sets a precedent that would hopefully encourage other commercial companies to join the bandwagon and propel future lunar exploration.
In addition to putting a lander on the Moon with the eyes on the multi-million-dollar XPRIZE, Moon Express also hopes to turn this project into a resource recovery mission, one that will bring materials from the Moon back to the Earth.
"Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children," Moon Express co-founder Naveen Jain said in a statement. "In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals and moon rocks back to Earth. In 15 years, the moon will be an important part of Earth’s economy, and potentially our second home."
It should be very interesting to see what Moon Express is capable of doing with this new permission to send a lander to the Moon. With more and more commercial presence in space, we could really shake things up with resource limitations here on Earth.
Source: NYTimes, Space.com