US private space exploration company Moon Express last week announced that it has received sufficient funding to launch a craft to the moon. Moon Express reportedly managed to accrue $20m in funding over the last few months bringing its total funding to at least $45m. The money will cover the launch of the company’s MX-1E spacecraft which will seek to land on the surface of the moon.
Moon Express hopes that the MX-1E will be able to win Google’s Lunar X-Prize which provides significant prize money for the first private company to land a probe on the moon and beam back HD footage.
“We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the Moon,” Moon Express CEO Bob Richards said in a statement.
“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.”
The funding itself reportedly came from several venture capital funds including the Founder’s Fund and the Collaborative Fund, as well as 3D modeling software company Autodesk.
If all goes to plan the MX-1E will launch atop of an Electron rocket produced by US/Kiwi space startup RocketLab.
The Electron rocket is an advanced low-payload launcher optimized for taking small satellites into orbit, however, should also be able to carry the small MX-1E craft to the Moon.
Last year Moon Express cleared a major regulatory hurdle, becoming the first private company to receive FAA approval to send a spacecraft beyond geostationary orbit.
Nonetheless, the Electron rocket has not yet been tested, making it the critical factor in whether Moon Express can win the Lunar X-Prize.
According to competition rules, the MX-1E must make it to the Moon before December 31, 2017, should the company wish to win the prize money.
Further into the future, Moon Express wants to leverage its Lunar expertise to investigate the viability of mining minerals from the Moon and bringing them back to Earth.