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To infinity and beyond

Privately funded company sets goals to change typical space adventures

Carly Kusich, Features Editor

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In 2010, start-up company Moon Express was established with the intent of being one of the first enterprises to successfully explore, research and prospect on the Moon with lower costs than the prior expeditions of others by the year 2020. Starting this year in 2018, they plan to make these adventures available for all different kinds of people.

Moon Express has had success in their work thus far, beginning most prominently with the work they did with NASA in 2012. Together, they conducted their first commercial flight of the prototype The Mighty Eagle Lander, safely lifting it 100ft in the air and landing.

In 2016, the company made an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to license Cape Canaveral Launch Complexes 17 and 18. Also in 2016, Moon Express was the first private company to gain authorization from the U.S. government under the requirements of the Outer Space Treaty. This means they were permitted to venture beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the Moon.

“Our ongoing expeditions to the Moon with robotic explorers will collapse the cost of lunar access and enable new markets and opportunities to arise, bringing the Moon within reach by creating low cost frequent opportunities for democratized lunar exploration by scientists, researchers, students and everyday people. Our goal is to open the lunar frontier for all of us, ultimately expanding Earth’s economic and social spheres to our 8th continent, the Moon,” the Moon Express website, www.moonexpress.com, reads.

For their various expeditions, Moon Express has built four different spacecrafts: the MX-1 Scout Class Explorer, the MX-2 Scout Class Explorer, the MX-5 Discovery Class Explorer and the MX-9 Frontier Class Explorer.

“Our MX family of flexible, scalable, robotic explorers are capable of reaching the Moon and other solar system destinations from Earth orbit,” their website states.

Their first expedition, the Lunar Scout, will “demonstrate the cost effectiveness of entrepreneurial approaches to space exploration,” according to the their website. It will take place this year. Following the completion of operations supporting Lunar Scout expedition partners, Moon Express plans on trying to win the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, which can be won by whichever privately funded team first “successfully places a spacecraft on the moon’s surface, travels 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth.”

The company’s second expedition will take place later in the year, named the Lunar Outpost expedition. With this trip, they will set up the first lunar research outpost to prospect and mine for water and other useful minerals on the Moon’s South Pole. The poles have concentrations of these resources as well as “peaks of eternal light,” where sunshine is nearly continuous and direct communication with Earth is possible.

Their final expedition is the Harvest Moon expedition, which will take place by 2020. This will essentially be their return mission, which will bring about the beginning of the business phase of lunar resource prospecting. The lunar samples the adventurers bring back will be the only privately owned Moon materials to come to Earth, and will be used to benefit science as well as commercial purposes.

Moon Express’s work will soon get all sorts of different people involved in space explorations. With their planned low costs for taking part in their missions, anyone interested has the potential to do so. Whether it is them or someone they know, average everyday people across the country could be positively affected by this company’s work and success.

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