Moon Express Inc., an American team that hopes to use a Rocket Lab Electron rocket to put the “MX-1E” micro-lander on the moon in 2017, has become the second Google Lunar XPrize team to enter into a launch contract.
The first team to do so, the Israeli group SpaceIL, entered into a contract for a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to be launched in the second half of 2017. Moon Express announced the verification of their launch contract with Rocket Lab on Dec. 8.
Rocket Lab is a Los Angeles-based company founded in 2007. Moon Express is contracted with them for three lunar missions, which will launch from either New Zealand or the United States.
"We applaud Google and XPRIZE for setting up such a visionary competition, and we’ve got our eyes on the prize,” said Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards. "Our long-term goal is to unlock lunar resources for the benefit of humanity, and we are thrilled to have our contract in place with Rocket Lab allowing us to provide low-cost missions to the moon for science and commerce."
“We are extremely proud to officially confirm receipt and verification of Moon Express’s launch contract,” said Chanda Gonzales, senior director of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. “At XPRIZE, we believe that the spirit of competition brings about breakthroughs that once seemed unimaginable or impossible, and so it thrills us to now have two Google Lunar XPRIZE teams with verified launch contracts attempting missions to the moon in 2017. The new space race is truly on!”
"Moon Express is building disruptive technologies that will forever change the cost of access to space, including the asteroids and even the moons of Mars,” said Naveen Jain, Moon Express co-founder and chairman. “We are now taking advantage of exponential technology like 3D printing and inexpensive sensors to collapse the capital needed to access the moon. Coupling these technological advancements with today's news about our Rocket Lab launch contract is a huge step forward for us in opening whole new markets for space exploration."
The 16 Google Lunar XPrize teams have until Dec. 31, 2016 to make arrangements for launches. The first team that successfully places a robot on the moon’s surface, explores at least 500 meters, and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth will be awarded a $20 million grand prize, with additional prizes available for the second team to complete the mission and other technical and scientific achievements.