For years, private space company Moon Express has touted its grand ambitions of one day mining the moon for delicious resources that do not include cheese. After years of secrecy, today, the company stepped out of the shadows talk about just how it plans to achieve its lofty goals — apparently, it's aiming to set up a lunar outpost on the Moon as early as 2020. That sounds like a tight timeline, because it is.
According to Ars Technica, the company plans to send a series of missions to the Moon over the next few years, three of which it claims to have funding for — Lunar Scout, Lunar Outpost, and Harvest Moon. The first mission is set to launch at the end of this year, in which an MX-1 spacecraft will launch aboard Rocketlab's Electron launch vehicle. Subsequent missions are planned for 2019 and 2020, when the company hopes to start returning lunar samples to Earth.
Moon Express is especially keen on mining iron ore, precious metals, and perhaps most importantly water, which space enthusiasts are interested in turning into rocket fuel. Moon Express is interested in turning that rocket fuel into money, because obviously.
In less than a decade, the Florida-based company has outgrown its original ambition of winning Google's $US20 million ($26 million) Lunar XPRIZE competition. While Moon Express is still very much in the running to land on the Moon in late 2017 and get that cash, at this point, it's expanded into something far greater than a single mission to the Moon.
If Moon Express is successful, it could be the first private company to land on the Moon. Whether it will succeed in setting up a lunar mining apparatus in three years remains to be seen. As always, ad astra.