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7/13/2017 by mdc
Mike Wall reports that The quest to win a $30 million race to the moon is just the first part of Moon Express grand plan. The Florida-based company is developing an entire family of spacecraft designed to help usher in a new age of low-cost space exploration, from the moon to Mars and beyond, Moon Express representatives revealed today.

As its name suggests, Moon Express vision starts with Earth nearest neighbor. The company is one of five teams left in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which will award $20 million to the first privately funded group to soft-land a robot on the moon, move it at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) across the lunar surface and beam high-resolution imagery and video back to Earth. (Prizes for several other accomplishments bring the total purse up to $30 million.)

The GLXP award will expire if nobody claims it by Dec. 31, 2017. Moon Express has signed a contract to fly its lander aboard Rocket Lab new Electron booster but has yet to announce a launch date.

The two-stage Electron lifted off for the first time in late May. The maiden voyage was a partial success, but the rocket second stage failed to reach its desired orbit, according to Rocket Lab representatives.

I think that first test flight bodes very well for Rocket Lab, and we are still rooting for them and hoping that they will have an operational vehicle ramped up and ready for us by the end of the year, Richards said.

The GLXP mission will not be the last lunar voyage for Moon Express, if all goes according to plan. Its deal with Rocket Lab covers up to five launches, and Moon Express wants at least two more to occur in the next few years, Richards revealed during a news conference today.

The first post-GLXP mission, scheduled to launch in 2019, will set up a robotic research outpost near the lunar south pole and prospect for water and other resources. Then, in 2020, Moon Express will launch the first commercial lunar sample-return mission.

Read on ...

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Open Resource  |  2017/07/13  |  22 Report Broken   Tell Friend

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