Moon Express Plans Robot Outpost For Mining Minerals On Lunar South Pole

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A privately owned company plans to use robotic spacecraft to launch a series of commercial missions to the moon, some 45 years after NASA's last lunar landing, officials said on Wednesday.

It is aiming to build an unmanned lunar outpost, supported by a fleet of spacecraft explorers that would launch from low Earth orbit and deliver supplies to and land on the moon, according to The Verge. Moon Express' "Lunar Scout" expedition is aimed at being the first commercial mission to the moon.

Moon Express Plans Robot Outpost For Mining Minerals On Lunar South Pole

Lunar Outpost, as the company calls it, would come next-a mission to the south pole of the moon to establish a permanent station at a "peak of eternal light" where there is permanent sunshine and constant communication capabilities with Earth. They will all be powered by a new "eco-friendly" engine Moon Express is building called the PECO.

"Like the Earth, the Moon has been enriched with vast resources through billions of years of asteroid bombardment", the company explains.

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The startup, based out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, is poised to launch its MX-1E lander by the end of 2017 - which is a criteria that must be met by all of the remaining Lunar X Prize competitors - but it's already setting its sights a future beyond the contest. The aim of the team at Moon Express is to change that by giving some degree of moon access to non-governmental people. "Unlike the Earth, these resources are largely on or near the lunar surface, relatively accessible". Engadget reported that the company is still working on the Electron rocket.

Their first craft, the MX-1E, stands 4-and-a-half feet tall and 3 feet wide and will act as a base for other crafts, as it is built to connect with other models in a Lego-like fashion. "We look at rockets as a commodity". However, CEO Richards said that the win wasn't essential for him. Each of these spacecraft can carry various sizes of payloads, and they can be used as landers, orbiters around the Moon, or deep-space probes that go elsewhere in the Solar System. It is hoped from Moon Express that the Endeavour will grab a prize of $20 million from Google, however, Richards added that the victory was not required.

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"The Google Lunar X Prize can be regarded as the icing on the cake", added Richards. The Electron rocket, made by private spaceflight company Rocket Lab, is slated to carry Lunar Scout but has never yet reached orbit.

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