Moon Express Unveils MX-1, A Lunar Lander With A Planned 2015 Launch
The privately-owned company Moon Express unveiled the MX-1 lunar lander yesterday at the Autodesk University show in Las Vegas. The California company aims to launch the MX-1 in 2015, an unmanned spacecraft which will have a number of possible uses: it could be used to deliver payloads, service satellites, and extract precious metals from the moon, among other things.
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"We really have tried to create a multifaceted, flexible and scalable spacecraft that can be utilized by other people for a number of different business applications," Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards told Space.com. Richards likened the MX-1 to the "iPhone of space," a platform capable of supporting whatever apps developers might dream up.
The design of the MX-1 is unlike any other lunar lander. It's small, roughly the size of a coffee table. The craft is solar powered, and is fueled by a substance you can find in every drugstore: hydrogen peroxide. The fuel tanks, which are under the vehicle, not only propel the MX-1 but act as bumpers too. The entire thing weighs only 1,320 including fuel, which makes up 75 percent of the weight.
Moon Express is already building the MX-1 and plans to have a prototype ready for a test flight by next summer. The company hasn't picked a lunar landing site, but is considering touching down in the moon's Southern Hemisphere, near the location where the last American robotic mission soft landed in 1968. Richards said it would be "iconic to have the first private robotic lander resting next to the last government robotic lander."
Moon Express is one of 22 companies vying for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The international challenge will award $20 million to the first organization that lands on the moon; the craft must travel at least 1,650 feet and send data back to Earth. Another $20 million will go to second place and to organizations that compete for a number of bonus prizes. XPRIZE seeks to create another "Apollo" moment for the half of the world's population that has never seen a live transmission from the lunar surface. At a total of $40 million, XPRIZE is the largest incentive-based prize in history.
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