For the first time in history, a private company will attempt to land on another celestial body. Moon Express, a space exploration company, has announced it is looking to launch its moon mission by the end of 2017 if all tests go as planned.
Until now, only government space agencies from US, Japan, China, Russia, India and the ESA (European Space Agency) have conducted manned and unmanned missions to the moon. Other private companies such as Team Indus, Hakuto, Synergy Moon and SpaceIL were also scheduled to conduct its mission this year, but have likely been delayed or are yet to announce their plan.
"We've seen this throughout history—everybody thinks something is impossible until they see it done," Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards told about the mission to Popular Mechanics. "It will be the space equivalent of the four-minute mile. I think we're going to redefine the possible," he added.
The mission's primary goal is to achieve a soft landing on the moon, something only a handful of the lunar missions have done so far. Once the craft successfully lands, it will ultimately focus on mining the Moon for natural resources of economic value.
The mission has been given the impetus by Google's Lunar X prize, which called on private space companies to attempt a successful moon landing by the end of 2017. The winner of the Lunar Prize is slated to get $20m cash reward. To win, a team must land on the moon, have its spacecraft travel 500m across the lunar surface, and transmit high-definition video back to Earth.
Although three other teams Synergy Moon, Team Indus, and Team Hakuto has secured launch contracts, Moon Express is the only one that has tested its rocket produced by Rocket Lab and managed to get an FAA approval for the same. If it fails in the actual landing, others may have a chance given they perform the launch by 2017.