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Moon Express ready for first private lunar trip after raising another $20M

(Image courtesy of Moon Express)

Moon Express, the first American private space exploration firm to have been granted government permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit, has just raised another $20 million to finance its trip to the moon, scheduled for the end of the year.

The fresh funds-injection brings the total amount of private investment to $45 million, co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain told CNBC on Tuesday.

Until now, only government-funded missions from the US, Russia and China have landed on the moon.

While the mission was said to be fully-funded earlier this month, the additional resources will allow Moon Express to leave room for unexpected issues related to landing its spacecraft on Earth’s only natural satellite.

For the same reason, the company will still compete for additional funds from the Lunar X Prize (GLXP), a $30 million contest set up by Google to encourage private companies to try to establish a viable business beyond our planet.

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 the mission proves to be successful, the Florida-based company will become the first private entity to leave Earth’s orbit the first US spacecraft to land on the moon since 1972. It would also pave the way for several other for-profit space ventures currently in the works. These include plans to mine asteroids, track space debris, build the first human settlement in Mars, and billionaire Elon Musk’s own plan for an unmanned mission to the red planet in 2018.

Watch how the company has been testing its MX-1E spacecraft here: