Press Release

Renowned scientists join tech visionaries at Moon Express to mine the Moon for planetary resources

By SpaceRef Editor
April 24, 2012
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Moon Express has recruited a scientific advisory board of renowned planetary scientists to support the development of the company’s commercial lunar robotic missions and plans to explore and ultimately mine the Moon for precious planetary resources.

Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced today that some of the world’s leading planetary scientists have joined its Science Advisory Board (SAB) to assist the company in its plans to explore and ultimately mine the Moon for precious planetary resources.

Moon Express Chief Scientist and former NASA Associate Administrator in charge of all the Agency’s science, Dr. Alan Stern, selected the advisory board of internationally recognized leaders within the lunar science community. The Moon Express SAB includes:

* Dr. Jack Burns/University of Colorado: NASA Lunar Science Institute (NSLI) Node PI, Astronomer & former Chair of the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee
* Dr. Randy Korotev/Washington University: Lunar Geochemist
* Dr. Steve Mackwell/LPI: Head, Lunar and PIanetary Institute (LPI)
* Dr. Wendell Mendell/LPI: Lunar Generalist, Exploration Expert & former Chief, NASA Office for Lunar & Planetary Exploration for Constellation
* Dr. Clive Neal/U. of Notre Dame: Chair, NASA Lunar Exploration Advisory Group

Over the last year, Moon Express hosted a series of intensive lunar science workshops to assess the scientific evidence for platinum group metals deposited on the Moon through eons of asteroid bombardment, and the advisability and technical feasibility of mining and recovering the materials for use on Earth and in space. “The results of these workshops are compelling,” remarked Dr. Stern. “There is clear evidence of significant platinum group metals on the Moon from Apollo samples and lunar meteorites, and we’ve discovered evidence for localized hotspots that will help us choose landing sites to practice mining techniques.”

Mounting evidence suggests that Earth’s accessible reserves of precious metals like gold and platinum are the result of asteroid bombardment from space. Additional evidence suggests that unlike Earth, the Moon may have held significant amounts of these precious metals on or near its surface; in fact the Moon’s surface may hold far more than all the reserves of Earth. Because the Moon is so close to Earth, it can be explored and mined with known technologies, and also has massive known reserves of water.

Moon Express believes that the pay dirt of the solar system has been right above us all along. “I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to find mineral rich asteroids,” said Moon Express co-Founder and Chairman Naveen Jain. “All I have to do is look up at night to know where they are, they are right there, on the Moon.”

Although some asteroids called Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) approach Earth relatively closely, very little is known either about them or about the technology that would be required to mine them. “I believe that the presence of water and ease of mining platinum group elements on the Moon’s surface far, far trumps arguments that NEO’s are energetically easier to get samples from than the Moon,” said Dr. Alan Stern, who while at NASA presided over $5.4B of planetary science, astrophysics, heliophysics, and Earth science missions.

After being founded in August 2010 by internet pioneers Naveen Jain and Barney Pell, together with space visionary Bob Richards, Moon Express was selected by NASA for its $30M Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data program, becoming one of only three US companies to be paid by NASA for access and insight into the company’s commercial lunar plans. Moon Express first announced its plans to mine the Moon at a gala launch party in Silicon Valley in July 2011, attended by a who’s-who of technology luminaries.

While pursuing the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE announced by Larry Page and Peter Diamandis in 2007, Moon Express also plans to send a series of robotic spacecraft to the Moon for ongoing exploration and commercial development. Moon Express will next focus on bringing lunar soils and its mineral resources into Earth’s economic sphere to catalyze humanity’s future in space.

About Moon Express

Selected by Forbes as one of the 15 ‘Names You Need to Know’ in 2011, Moon Express (MoonEx) is a privately funded lunar transportation and data services company based at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley. The company plans to send a series of robotic spacecraft to the Moon for ongoing exploration and commercial development focused on benefits to Earth and has signed a partnership agreement with NASA for development of a lunar lander system.

Moon Express is also a leading contender in the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) competition, which challenges privately funded teams to place a robot on the Moon’s surface that transmits high definition video, images and data back to Earth from the landing site and from 500 meters away. The GLXP is available until 2015.

The Moon Express founders, Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards, Naveen Jain, and Dr. Barney Pell, believe in the long term economic potential of the Moon to produce resources essential to humanity’s future on Earth and in space.

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About the Google Lunar X PRIZE

The $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters (1/3 of a mile) and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. Teams are also eligible to win a $1 million award for stimulating diversity in the field of space exploration and as much as $4 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks such as moving ten times as far, surviving the frigid lunar night, or visiting the site of a previous lunar mission. To date, more than 20 teams from a dozen countries around the world have registered to compete for the prize. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is available to be claimed until the end of the year 2015.

Explorer and film director James Cameron endorsed the Google Lunar X PRIZE from the outset of the competition. “With the announcement of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, we’re going back [to the Moon], and not because of a massive government program, but using the ingenuity and cost effectiveness of private enterprise,” he said in a video address. “As an explorer and an avid supporter of exploration in all its forms, I can’t think of a more exciting way to engage the public’s imagination and go forward, not in some future decade, but now, with an achievable short term plan, to begin opening up our 2-world system.”

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SpaceRef staff editor.