Florida-based company Moon Express, which hopes to mine the moon someday, has received the full funding it needs to make its first lunar trip.
Google Lunar X Prize
Moon Express is one of the teams that is vying for the $30 million race to the moon, the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP).
The X Prize offers $20 million to the first privately funded team that would land a spacecraft on the lunar surface, move the vehicle at least 1,640 feet on the moon and send high-resolution images back to Earth. The second team that manages to do this gets $5 million.
Moon Express is one of the frontrunners of the GLXP as it has already managed to secure permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to land on the surface of the moon becoming the first private company in the world to get permission to travel beyond our planet's orbit after months of negotiations with government officials.
"Up until now all commercial companies have been limited to operations in Earth's orbit, and only governments have sent missions to other worlds," the company said in a statement.
"Moon Express has become the first private company approved to literally go out of this world as a pioneer of commercial space missions beyond Earth orbit."
Moon Express has also struck a deal with rocket manufacturer Rocket Lab to launch its vehicle into orbit.
$20 Million In Additional Funding
Recent developments give high hopes that the company would be one of the first of the XPrize competitors to get to the lunar surface as it now has all the resources needed to send a lander to the moon.
Team members have revealed that Moon Express has secured $20 million in "Series B" funding, which now brings the amount of funds raised from private investors to more than $45 million.
The additional funding came from multiple venture capital funds, the software company Autodesk and other private resources. X Prize requires that 90 percent of the competitors' funding be from private sources.
Flight To The Moon Not Yet Guaranteed
The funding does not guarantee a successful flight to the moon though. Rocket Lab's Electron rocket has not flown yet and while the aeronautics startup said that it will start conducting flight tests earlier this year, no official launch date has yet been set.
It is neither clear if Electron will be ready to bring Moon Express' MX-1E lander to space before the deadline set by the X Prize which will be on Dec. 31 this year.
Moon Express To Mine Helium-3 From The Moon
Moon Express is not just setting its eyes on the X Prize. It also plans to send more missions to the moon, which will include one that will collect lunar samples that will be brought back to Earth.
The team plans to gather Helium-3 from the moon, which can be used in future nuclear fusion reactors.
"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," said Moon Express CEO Bob Richards.