Robotic landers could start mining the moon as early as 2020

Cape Canaveral Company Unveils Ambitions Moon Missions

Moon Express is racing along as a major contender in Google's Lunar Xprize, a competition that will award US$20 million to the first privately-funded company to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

Richards presented the spacecraft design in Washington on Wednesday. After the MX-1E, a lander near the lunar south pole would prospect for ice and other resources.

All of these spacecraft will be available in orbiter, lander, and deep-space variations, and the MX-5 and MX-9 vehicles will also come in a sample-return configuration.

(Phys.org)-Private company Moon Express has announced via its website its plans for exploring the moon-plans that include sending three craft to the moon over the next three years.

The second mission, "Lunar Outpost", is planned for 2019 and will aim to set up a research outpost at the moon's South Pole.

Besides vying for the X Prize, Moon Express will fly science equipment and payloads for at least three paying customers, including Houston-based Celestis, which offers memorial spaceflights for cremated remains.

A video of the MX-9 lunar surface lander shows its robot arms sucking up regolith from the moon's surface and place it into a pod in the center of the vehicle for storage. As you might be able to guess from the name, the mission would be a sample return mission that could bring "tens of kilograms" of lunar material back to Earth, Moon Express CEO Bob Richards said yesterday on Capitol Hill. Dubbed "Harvest Moon", this will begin the company's business phase of what they are calling "lunar resource prospecting". This first expedition will demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of the approach, and carry several payloads to the lunar surface including the International Lunar Observatory and several scientific instruments as part of a research project called "MoonLight".

The company, which operates facilities at Cape Canaveral, is working to complete some of the unfinished components of the MX-1E lander.

Moon Express' MX-5 can bring 330 pounds (150 kg) to the moon to support surface and cis-lunar operations.

The unit would be carried to its destination by the Electron, a two-stage rocket developed by New Zealand space start up Rocket Labs. It is hoped from Moon Express that the Endeavour will grab a prize of $20 million from Google, however, Richards added that the victory was not required.

The first spacecraft of the firm called MX-1E is scheduled to be launched before the end of this year using a Rocket Lab Electron booster. The MX-1 is proposed as the initial spacecraft to embark on the first expedition.

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