A company in California is hoping to become to the first private venture to land a probe on the moon.
Moon Express, which ultimately aims to fly commercial missions to the moon, could soon be set to claim Google’s coveted ‘Lunar X Prize’ – a reward of $30 million to be given to the first privately funded mission to successfully land a robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon.
To help make it happen, Moon Express has signed a five-year deal with New Zealand-based launch company Rocket Lab which will be providing its Electron carbon composite rocket to launch the new lunar probes in to space.
“The holy grail of our company is to provide, to prove, a full-services capability – not just landing, but coming back from the moon,” said Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards.
The first probe, which is called MX-1, will attempt to land on the lunar surface as a test run with even more complex trips planned for the near future including a possible sample-return mission.
The decision to sign with Rocket Lab could help to make the journey more cost-effective in addition to being more widely accessible, especially given that a typical launch will cost $4.9 million as oppose to the more hefty $60 million that it would cost to launch with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
“Rocket Lab is pleased to begin working with Moon Express to launch its spacecraft and to provide support to such an ambitious mission,” said Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck. “We think the collapse of the price to get to the moon is going to enable a whole new market.”
With the first launch scheduled for 2017 we won’t have long to wait to see how things go.