While Planetary Resources was preparing to announce its plans to capture an asteroid, Moon Express announced progress on its $10-million Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data Program (ILDD) contract with NASA and reminded us of its plans to prospect and mine the Moon for metals and water deposited by millions of years of asteroid bombardment.

Moon Express, a contender for the Google Lunar X Prize, has just delivered a Preliminary Design Checkpoint Technical Package to NASA. The package, one in a series of ILDD deliverables, contains details of mission operations, spacecraft development, payload accommodations, and planetary-protection plans. Silicon Valley-based Moon Express was one of three US companies to receive contracts the ILDD program in 2010. Although the ILDD contract demonstrates NASA’s interest in commercial lunar providers, the majority of Moon Express funding comes from private investors and revenues from payload customers.

Moon Express CEO Bob Richards said, “The Moon is an asteroid magnet. In addition to resource abundance, the Moon is right next door and does us the favor of pre-processing and storing the asteroid material so we can access it cost-effectively and safely with known technologies.”

Microsoft billionaire and Moon Express co-founder Naveen Jain described the Moon as “the Earth’s eighth continent, potentially the largest repository of asteroid resources in the solar system.”

“Thanks to Apollo and robotic explorations, as well as lunar meteorites, we have widely sampled the Moon and have a good understanding of what’s accumulated there from eons of asteroid and cometary bombardment,” according to Dr. Stern, Moon Express Chief Scientist and former NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science. “Recent data from lunar probes has discovered water at the lunar poles and bound within the lunar soil that could potentially change the economics of lunar exploration.”



Written by Astro1 on April 24th, 2012 , Commercial Space (General) Tags: ,

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