A U.S. company has secured funding to become the first private entity to travel to the moon, with a planned 2017 voyage that will be an international milestone in space exploration.
Moon Express, a Florida-based firm, said it had raised $20m in financing, which will allow it to send a robotic spacecraft to the moon’s surface later this year.
The funding is a major step in the company’s efforts to become the world’s first private enterprise to travel outside the Earth’s orbit.
Last year, Moon Express gained historic approvals from the US government after submitting a request for its voyage to the Federal Aviation Administration. An outer space treaty, which was adopted by the United Nations and regulates exploration of the celestial world, requires governments to authorize and supervise “non-governmental entities” seeking to travel in outer space.
“We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the Moon,” Bob Richards, Moon Express’s CEO, said in a statement, announcing the funding achievements. “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 has said it aims to mine the moon for minerals, and tech entrepreneur Naveen Jain, its co-founder and chairman, has said he hopes to lower the costs of space travel and help pave the way for the colonization of the moon, and eventually of Mars.
“The sky is not the limit for Moon Express -- it is the launchpad,” Jain said in an earlier statement after his firm gained federal approvals. “This breakthrough ruling is another giant leap for humanity. Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children.”
The more immediate goal of the company, which formed in 2010, is to bring resources, metals and moon rocks back to Earth, Jain said. He also stated that in 15 years, he believes the moon will be an important part of the Earth’s economy and “potentially our second home”.
The company has said it believes the moon can “produce resources essential to humanity’s future on Earth and in space”.
Moon Express is one of 16 teams that have competed for funding as part of Google’s Lunar X Prize initiative, which launched in 2007 to incentivize private firms to develop technology and plans for planetary exploration.
The US, China and the former Soviet Union are the only countries that have landed spacecraft on the moon.
Moon Express, which said it has raised a total of more than $45m from individuals and venture funds, is one of numerous companies that has specific plans in the works for exploration.
A firm called Deep Space Industries is seeking to launch an autonomous spacecraft this year that can extract materials from asteroids. Planetary Resources, a company supported by Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, is also building technology dedicated to asteroid mining with the goal of a 2020 commercial mission.
Last year, the US government advanced the process to establish rules for space launches in compliance with international treaties after Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates pushed forward with similar efforts.
Motley Fool, a financial services site, has estimated that the mineral wealth of the moon may be quadrillions of dollars.
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Posted: 2017-01-23 @ 4:45pm PT
Please correct your article. India has also landed a spacecraft on the moon.