Moon Express moon payload
Moon Express plans to land a payload on the moon in 2017 Moon Express

Moon Express, the first private company in history to be granted permission to travel beyond the Earth's orbit, says it will mine the moon for riches.

The Silicon Valley startup was given permission by the United States government to plan a lunar mission last year and has since raised investment to the tune of $45m (£35.55m).

It aims to make the trip by the end of this year and hopes to acquire Helium 3 and Platinum-grade material to invest in further trips and to create a "multi-planetary society".

Naveen Jain, chairman and co-founder of Moon Express, appearing on CNBC, said: "We're going to land on the moon this year – and I've been waiting to say that for so long.

"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 the natural resources.

"But our ultimate goal is to not only use the resources for the benefit of humanity – whether its bringing the helium 3 or whether its bringing the platinum-grade materials – but also to use the resources to live on the moon.

"My hope is that our landing on the moon will simply be symbolic of what the entrepreneurs are capable of doing.

"So imagine, when we land on the moon, not only do we become the first company ever to do so, we become the fourth superpower."

Up until now, only government-funded missions from America, China and Russia have made successful landings on the moon.

Jain said if Moon Express was successful in its attempt, it would demonstrate how private companies are capable of tackling problems that have evaded national governments.

"That just goes on to show that the next set of superpowers are likely to be entrepreneurs – whether its Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos or Moon Express – that is going to go out and solve the world's biggest problems.

"My hope is that this will inspire every entrepreneur to find their own moon shot."

If it is successful in its attempt, Moon Express could also win the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

Other contenders include SpaceIL from Israel, Team Inus from India, Hakuto from Japan and an international team called Synergy Moon.