Moon Express has successfully delivered its Preliminary Design Checkpoint Technical Package to NASA under its $10M Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) contract, providing NASA continuing data on the development of the company’s commercial lunar robotic missions and plans to mine the Moon for precious planetary resources
Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced today that it has successfully delivered a mission design package to NASA under its Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) Program, providing NASA continuing data on the development of the company’s commercial lunar missions and plans to mine the Moon for precious planetary resources. The newest task order in the $10M ILDD contract called for Moon Express to provide NASA with data about the company’s progress through a Preliminary Design Checkpoint Technical Package that documents details of mission operations, spacecraft development, payload accommodations and Planetary Protection Plans.
Technology luminaries Naveen Jain and Barney Pell teamed with space visionary Bob Richards in the founding of Moon Express in 2010, announcing a partnership with NASA to develop a new robotic spacecraft capable of going to the Moon and asteroids. Silicon Valley-based Moon Express was one of only three U.S. companies awarded funding under NASA’s ILDD program in that year. Although the ILDD contract is an important substantiation of NASA’s interest in commercial lunar providers, the majority of Moon Express funding is coming from private investment and is supplemented by revenues from payload customers.
“The Moon has never been explored from an entrepreneurial perspective,” said Moon Express co-founder and chairman, Naveen Jain. “Think of the Moon as the Earth’s eighth continent, potentially the largest repository of asteroid resources in the solar system, and we have barely begun to explore it.”
Moon Express has revealed plans to prospect and mine the Moon for precious planetary resources such as metals and water which are believed to be abundant on the Moon from millions of years of asteroid bombardment. “The Moon is an asteroid magnet,” said company co-founder and CEO Bob Richards, a longtime advocate of space resources. “In addition to resource abundance, the Moon is right next door and does us the favor of pre-processing and storing the asteroid material so we can access it cost-effectively and safely with known technologies.”
Moon Express co-founder, vice-chairman and CTO Dr. Barney Pell, a former NASA technology manager, is confident of the value proposition of lunar water combined with precious metals. “There could be more platinum group metals on the surface of the Moon than in all the reserves of Earth,” he said. “And the lunar water we now know to be present is the key to liberating lunar resources economically.”
In an in-depth article about Moon Express in April 2011, Resource Word magazine has called Moon Express plans “the biggest mining story in history. It could benefit the lives of millions of Earthlings.” The mining industry journal stated, “The Moon may also have large quantities of platinum group metals (platinum, rhodium, iridium, osmium, and ruthenium) that have potential economic value on Earth. Platinum, for example, is the primary metal needed to make fuel cells. Evidence suggests there could be a trillion dollars’ worth of platinum group metals in an average asteroid. We know asteroids contain platinum, and we know the level of asteroid bombardment experienced by the Moon. By deductive reasoning, we can conclude that the levels of platinum on the Moon are high.”
Dr. Alan Stern, Moon Express Chief Scientist and former NASA Associate Administrator in charge of all the Agency’s science, agrees that mounting new data about the Moon and its resources make it the natural next step for scientific research and commercial space development. “Thanks to Apollo and robotic explorations, as well as lunar meteorites, we have widely sampled the Moon and have a good understanding of what’s accumulated there from eons of asteroid and cometary bombardment,” said Dr. Stern. “And recent new data from lunar probes has discovered water at the lunar poles and bound within the lunar soil that could potentially change the economics of lunar exploration.”
While pursuing the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE announced by Larry Page and Peter Diamandis in 2007, Moon Express plans to send a series of robotic spacecraft to the Moon for ongoing exploration and commercial development. Moon Express will also focus on bringing lunar resources into Earth’s economic sphere to catalyze humanity’s future in space.
ABOUT THE GOOGLE LUNAR XPRIZE
The $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters (1/3 of a mile) and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. Teams are also eligible to win a $1 million award for stimulating diversity in the field of space exploration and as much as $4 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks such as moving ten times as far, surviving the frigid lunar night, or visiting the site of a previous lunar mission. To date, more than 20 teams from a dozen countries around the world have registered to compete for the prize. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is available to be claimed until the end of the year 2015.
Explorer and film director James Cameron endorsed the Google Lunar X PRIZE from the outset of the competition. “With the announcement of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, we’re going back [to the Moon], and not because of a massive government program, but using the ingenuity and cost effectiveness of private enterprise,” he said in a video address. “As an explorer and an avid supporter of exploration in all its forms, I can’t think of a more exciting way to engage the public’s imagination and go forward, not in some future decade, but now, with an achievable short term plan, to begin opening up our 2-world system.”
For more information, visit: www.googlelunarxprize.org