This year, US space firm Moon Express will begin work on a lunar outpost on the moon, with the goal of beginning a commercial mining operation by 2020. The firm has its eyes set on the moon’s mineral-rich surface, home to great quantities of iron and titanium, at concentrations 10 times higher than anywhere on Earth.
Moon Express is hoping to start off by securing Google’s Lunar XPRIZE of $ 20 million dollars in 2017. XPRIZE challenges privately funded space exploration companies to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters and then send high definition video and images back to Earth.
Moon Express calls the moon Earth’s “8th continent” and wants to tap into resources on the moon to benefit humanity on Earth. Moon Express plans to put first their progressive and inexpensive MX-1 craft on the moon, followed by their MX-2, MX-5, MX-9 crafts— which are able to clip together and move as a unit or individually. These subsequent crafts will be built with the strength to transport thousands of pounds of moon rocks. First, the high-capacity vehicles will haul scientific equipment to the moon to begin testing the surface for an optimal outpost location.
Still currently in developmental stages, if constructed as planned, MX-1 will be the most inexpensive spacecraft ever made. Creators hope this will a step to making space travel more accessible. They explain the features and benefits of the robotic device: “MX-1 is environmentally green, using eco-friendly fuels, advanced carbon composites and silicates, powered by the Moon Express PECO rocket engine, for an unparalleled capability in space robotics.”
Bob Richards, Moon Express CEO said in an interview with space.com, ”That’s where my heart is – solar system exploration on a grand scale that democratizes and completely accelerates our evolution into the solar system through knowledge and discovery, not just a few expensive voyages sponsored by kings and governments, like in history. We need to get everybody going.”
Apart from iron and titanium, other resources that could potentially be tapped from the moon include magnesium, aluminum and silicon, reports IFL Science. Apparently the minerals are located near the surface of the moon, and won’t require extensive drilling. If Moon Express can manage to set up a mine on the moon, they will soon need to begin sending scientists and other employees to oversee the operation.
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