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. One of the primary benchmarks to win the Xprize competition is thatany contender must launch their expedition before the end of 2017.
The company has outlined three expeditions that will roll out over the next few years starting with "Lunar Scout" at the end of 2017. 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 second expedition, to be launched in 2018, is set to explore the Moon's South Pole. A lunar research outpost will be established to prospect for water and useful materials.
The third expedition is the big one. Dubbed "Harvest Moon", this will begin the company's business phase of what they are calling "lunar resource prospecting". This mission will include the delivery back to Earth of the first commercially-obtained moon samples.
similar in size and shape to the Star Wars R2-D2 droid, the craft function like building blocks and can be reconfigured to expand overall payload.
The MX-5 is described as the "lunar workhorse" and can be fitted with a variety of configurations incorporating MX-1 systems. The MX-9, lined up for the 2020 expedition, is the most comprehensive craft of the collection. Able to support lunar sample return operations this craft is being called "solar system conquering".
US government approval to land on the moon. This landmark decision opened the door to what President Trump has subsequently called "the large-scale economic development of space."
With a variety of private companies exploring off-Earth possibilities the commercial exploitation of lunar resources is becoming a real prospect. A new space race is heating up and this time it is coming from the private sector.
Take a look at the lunar rock prospecting process in the video below.
Source: Moon Express/New Atlas