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Space startup competes for Google Lunar X prize with rare mineral moon delivery service

Posting in Aerospace

Google's Lunar X competition asks competitors to successfully land a vehicle on the moon -- and one group believes a delivery service could fit the bill.

Startup Moon Express, a team of young engineers, have created the MX-1, a spacecraft designed to deliver payloads to the moon as well as bring back objects of its own -- a tantalising prospect for both researchers and potentially firms seeking rare minerals.

Roughly the size of a coffee table, the spacecraft is unmanned and solar-powered. Launched via rocket, the vehicle's fuel source is hydrogen peroxide, and the fuel tanks -- once empty -- serve as a buffer, removing the need for the craft to host separate landing gear. Due to the recent discovery of water on the moon, the spacecraft potentially has a source of fuel on the planet to make the return journey home.

Moon Express, privately held and backed by billionaire Naveen Jain, hopes to win the Google Lunar X prize with their invention. The competition requires applicants to land a spacecraft on the moon, move 500 meters and send back two broadcasts to Earth. Unveiled in 2007, $20 million is on offer for the first team to complete the challenge before the end of 2015.

However, it is not just about winning the lucrative Google prize. If successful, the MX-1 could provide a valuable way to mine for precious minerals -- although further development for larger payloads would be needed in order to turn a profit. Moon Express CEO Bob Richards said:

"What’s there? Probably more platinum than there is in all the reserves on Earth. Pick your spice: silver, nickel, everything that we mine here on Earth is on the moon."

MX-1's first trip to the moon has been planned for 2015.

Via: Fast Co.Exist 

— By on December 17, 2013, 12:35 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure