Space treasure! Moon water! Capitalism! It’s all ready for lift off!
Photo by Jamie Cooper/Getty Images
It’s been nearly 40 years since mankind last investigated the moon’s surface, but thanks to the team at Moon Express, we may see a whole new era of lunar exploration. We talked to Bob Richards, co-Founder and CEO of Moon Express, to learn about their recently announced plans to visit the moon’s South Pole. Richards and his company want to do more than just plant a boring old telescope up there - they want to assay the land and meet the locals, in hopes that the moon’s South Pole could be inhabited by future humans. And by future humans, we mean King George, when, ultimately frustrated with limited power, he flies to the moon to claim it as his own. But before all that happens, here are six facts about Moon Express’ mission that fall somewhere on the sci-fi scale between Star Wars and Sharknado.
1. Man Has Not Yet Conquered The Moon’s South Pole
What better reason to go somewhere than the fact that no one has ever done it before? Nothing has landed on the moon since the Soviet’s robotic lander in 1976, which, according to three seconds of guesswork, was a Lego X-Wing strapped to 98 bottle rockets. According to Richards, the Moon’s South Pole is littered with mountains and craters, making it near impossible to land there. He claims, however, that Moon Express’ robotic lander will use “new autonomous precision landing and hazard avoidance technologies to safely land on Malapert Mountain, or anywhere in the hazardous regions of the Moon.” And what will they do when they get there? Search for space treasure, obviously! No, really, because…
2. The Moon Is Littered With Precious Metals And Minerals
Richards asserted that international moon probes have delivered enormous amounts of data that map out the mineralogy and geology of the moon, not to mention physical samples brought back by American men and Russian bottle rocket Legos. “The evolution of the moon is also a key factor,” Richards told us, “[It] is a child of Earth, so already has much of what we mine on our home planet.” Even more, Richards noted that the moon has undergone eons of bombardment from resource-rich asteroids, “creating a treasure trove of accessible resources on or near the surface of the moon.” Richards continued (as flashes of scenes from Duncan Jones’ Moon flashed in our brains): “There could be more platinum group metals on the surface of the moon than all the reserves of Earth.” There you have it — the private sector doesn’t go to space to snap pictures; we’re talking what could be the start of a full-on space gold rush here...
3. This Moon Landing Is Fueled By Capitalism… Space Capitalism
Courtesy of Moon Express Inc.
Putting an unobstructed telescope on the South Pole of the moon that could reveal never-before-seen images of our galaxy is great and all, but Moon Express is concerned with things like “value propositions,” “payloads,” and “profitability.” While their main customer, ILO (International Lunar Observatory), believes the mission will usher in an era of “citizen science,” Moon Express plans to use 50% of the lander capacity to “deliver other payloads…that will meet our business models of profitability, plus our own exploration robots to prospect for water and minerals.” Houston, we have a problem…with these profitability margins. But like any true pioneering, manifest destiny capitalist venture, precious metals would only be icing on the cake: “It's the discovery of water on the moon that is the game-changer for the economics of lunar mining,” Richards told us, going on to explain that, “Water is the oil of the solar system, and can be converted into rocket fuel.” So if there’s water, that means…
4. With The Planned Discovery Of Space Water, Moon Express Sees The South Pole Of The Moon As An Ideal Place For Humans To Settle
According to Richards, the aforementioned Malapert Mountain sustains a “peak of eternal light,” where “solar energy and Earth communications are almost constant, with a long duration mission life of several years without maintenance.” Before the words “peak of eternal light” sent us into a blind nerd frenzy, he added that Moon Express envisions this first mission to provide the building blocks for future human lunar missions, “due to the availability of energy, volatiles, and useful metals concentrated at the lunar South Pole.” Which is awesome, because…
5. Depending On What They Find, This Mission Should Produce A Timetable On Lunar Exploration And Habitation
Photo by APIC/Getty Images
“This decade will be one of entrepreneurial exploration,” explains Richards. Before we could ask whether or not to keep our Moon Boots, he added that, “The '20s will be proving out the mining and resource models, and the '30s will see people routinely visiting and living on the Moon, ‘living off the land’ and drinking moon water with processes dating back to Moon Express' first mining operations.” Yes, our lunar offspring will one day look back on Bob Richards and Moon Express the same way we look back on Christopher Columbus… you know, minus all the genocide. Hopefully.