Mining the Moon: Florida company one step closer

Moon Express CEO Bob Richards and actor Rod Roddenberry, founder of The Roddenberry Foundation. (Image courtesy of Moon Express).

After getting the necessary approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration last year, Moon Express began focusing efforts on gathering the funds it needs to land a 20-pound (9 Kg.) package of scientific gear, including a telescope, on the Moon.

This week, representatives for the Florida-based company announced that they have secured $20 million in a new round of Series B funding from private investors, including venture capital firms Founders Fund and Social Capital, and software company Autodesk. The additional resources swelled Moon Express’ coffers with more than $45 million, but its leadership stills wants to raise an extra $10 million as a “contingency.”

This money will allow Moon Express to land its spacecraft on Earth’s only natural satellite and compete for an additional $20 million in funding from the Google Lunar X Prize.

The GLXP requires participants to not only reach the Moon before December 31, 2017, but also to move their vehicles at least 1,640 feet (500 metres) on the lunar surface and send the craft beam high-resolution imagery back to Earth. The funds that they use for their missions must come almost entirely from private sources.

The team that completes the full task, wins the prize.

If that turns out to be the case for Moon Express, the next steps for the company are to start flying commercial flights to the Moon and begin mining Helium-3, which can be used in nuclear fusion reactors.

“Our goal is to expand Earth’s social and economic sphere to the moon, our largely unexplored eighth continent, and enable a new era of low-cost lunar exploration and development for students, scientists, space agencies and commercial interests,” Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards said in a statement.

The company designed and built its MX-1E lander, while aeronautics startup Rocket Lab will be in charge of deploying it when the right time comes.

Moon Express' MX-1E lander (Image courtesy of Moon Express).

Moon Express’ MX-1E lander (Image courtesy of Moon Express).