A spaceflight company has an ambitious goal to mine on the moon in the next few years. But the company doesn't plan to stop there.
The vehicles would all be able to work as landers, orbiters or deep space probes, according to Moon Express.
MX-1, a cylindered shaped robot with legs, is capable of delivering up to approximately 66 pounds of cargo to the moon.
The MX-2 combines two MX-1s into a single package, boosting the MX-1's payload capacity in Earth-moon space and potentially enabling missions to Venus or the moons of Mars.
Google is proving a high prize of $20 million which is around Rs. 128 crores, for the initial team that is privately funded to facilitate a launch of a spacecraft on the moon; make it drives, hop of fly at least 500 metres (1640 feet) and transmit video and pictures back to the Earth. Moon Express hopes to use such a configuration for a sample return mission by 2020.
That debut Lunar Scout mission will carry a small telescope and a laser array to the moon's surface.
Moon Express contracted Rocket Lab USA, another commercial company, in 2015 to launch up to five of their robots and spacecraft.More news: UK PM May shed a "little tear" over election failure
Moon Express, a small Florida company vying to win the Google Lunar X Prize for the first robotic lander on the moon, today unveiled plans for a system of low-priced landers and space transports.
That first mission will seal the deal on the $20 million if Moon Express beats its global competitors.
The company plans to set up a permanent robot-operated base on the moon's south pole to prospect for water and other materials. "The Moon is Earth's eighth continent; a new frontier for humanity with precious resources that can bring enormous benefits to life on Earth and our future in space".
Industry experts say that mining there is beneficial for everyone. If all goes to plan, this first commercial mission to return moon rocks to Earth will launch in 2020. A laser altimeter is now undergoing testing at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and the main platform of the lander, a carbon composite "unibody" that incorporates the structure of the craft and its propellant tanks, is still being manufactured. Rocket Lab has conducted one test flight of its Electron rocket, the same rocket that is to launch the first MX-1E mission.
There's a lot of money at stake if the explorer doesn't do the moonwalk by the end of the year, since Moon Express has entered the Google Lunar X Prize competition.
That also puts a lot of pressure on Rocket Lab, whose rocket has launched from New Zealand but has not yet gotten into orbit. Engadget reported that the company is still working on the Electron rocket. The MX-1E is now in testing and might launch for the first time later this year. But if the two companies can pull it off, we could have spacecraft exploring all corners of our only natural satellite before we know it.