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8/8/2017 by mdc
A private company founded by a group of dotcom entrepreneurs says it will establish a permanent base on the Moon and begin mining its surface by 2020. Spurred on by the offer of a $20 million prize by Google, Fl-based Moon Express unveiled plans yesterday on Capitol Hill to build a base on the Moon South Pole and staff it with robots that will explore the lunar surface looking for water and minerals.

The company would put its plans into action using the MX-1E, a 2-m-high space robot that can land on the Moon and hop across its surface. Bob Richards, the chief executive of Moon Express, spoke to the press while standing beside a full-scale mock-up of the robot. He said the lander engines, which use kerosene and hydrogen, had been built and would soon be undergoing tests.

The unit would be carried to its destination by the Electron, a two-stage rocket developed by New Zealand space start up Rocket Labs. The most valuable thing on the Moon may be helium-3, an isotope that does not exist on Earth but may have been deposited on the Moon by the solar wind. This element may be required to make safe containment vessels for nuclear fusion power stations and, as such, would be valuable enough to justify the inconvenience of extra-terrestrial mining.

There is however a lively debate in the scientific community over whether this argument is valid. The company plans three expeditions to what it calls the Earth eighth continent. The first, scheduled for the end of this year, will be a reconnaissance expedition to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of entrepreneurial approaches to space exploration.

The second, set for 2018, will set up the robot base, make observations, collect data and begin exploring the South Pole, the area regarded as the most promising for commercial operations.

The third expedition, which the company calls Harvest Moon, will take place by 2020. This will send the first moon rock samples back to Earth and begins the assessment and feasibility work.

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Open Resource  |  2017/08/08  |  76 Report Broken   Tell Friend

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