Moon Express announced on Tuesday that it had raised another $20 million in private equity financing to fund its first lunar mission. The Silicon Valley startup is the first private company in history to be granted permission to explore past the Earth’s orbit.
Following consultations with the FAA, White House, State Department, and NASA, the government made the historic ruling last year to allow a peaceful lunar exploration.Since then, Moon Express has raised a total of $45 million from investors. Investors include Founders Fund, Collaborative Fund, and Autodesk.
Chairman and co-founder Naveen Jain confirmed on CNBC, “We’re going to land on the moon this year–and I’ve been waiting to say that for so long.”
According to Jain, “Moon Express now has all the capital it needs to land its small robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon in November or December of 2017.” The new MX-1 lunar lander from Moon Express, if successful, would win the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE.
Recent investments may have been spurred by President Donald Trump’s picks for the NASA transition team. The candidates, Charles Miller, Chris Shanks, and lead candidate for NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine all support commercial space ventures and manned exploration.
“It is going to be this year and the first mission is going to be a robotics mission and we’re going to be exploring the moon for natural resources,” Jain said on CNBC, “But our ultimate goal is to not only use the resources for the benefit of humanity–whether it’s bringing the Helium-3 or whether it’s bringing the platinum-grade materials–but also to use the resources to live on the moon.”
Helium-3 is a clean, non-radioactive energy source that has the capacity to power nuclear fusion reactors. The possibility of mining Helium-3 could have a huge impact on Earth and the environment. In theory, a relatively small amount could power entire industries. For this reason, the Chinese have announced their own plans to mine the moon for Helium-3.