Moon Landing 2018: Elon Musk's SpaceX To Launch First Private Lunar Mission

The space race to the Moon has heated up as Elon Musk's SpaceX has become part of a search and study mission that is scheduled to put a couple of landers on the Moon in 2018. A group of European scientists announced this week that they have readied two rovers and a landing module for lunar exploration, and SpaceX will get them there.

The team of scientists, PTScientists, not only announced that Elon Musk's SpaceX would launch their endeavor to the Moon, the Daily Mail reported, but they also stated that mobile giant Vodafone would provide communications for the mission. Although the lunar mission has several goals (various agencies and institutions will conduct experiments and collect data), one of the primary goals is to locate the NASA Moon buggy, the vehicle left behind in 1972 by Gene Cernan, the last man to step foot on the lunar surface.

Scientists are interested in observing the NASA Moon buggy to ascertain its overall condition after being left behind nearly five decades ago.

Robert Boehme, chief executive of PTScientists, said Sunday, "This is a crucial first step for sustainable exploration of the solar system. In order for humanity to leave the cradle of Earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond our home planet. With Mission to the moon we will establish and test the first elements of a dedicated communications network on the Moon."

SpaceX will employ the Falcon 9 rocket to launch the international effort into space.

PTScientists will have plenty of competition to be the first lunar mission from the private sector to get to the Moon. At present, they are up against five firms still vying for the Google Lunar X Prize, a £20 million ($30 million) competition with the goal of becoming the first team to land a probe on the moon and send videos and photos back to Earth. PTScientists, which worked on its landing module and rovers for a decade, was once part of the competition but, not being able to meet the requirement of launching its mission in 2017, were ruled out due to being unable to lock down a launch date within the time frame.

Even though there are other firms in the private sector space race, and even though they are scheduled to launch their probes before the end of 2017, PTScientists is optimistic that it might yet be the first to arrive on the lunar surface. Regardless, the mission will be historic.

"With this step we are laying the groundwork for all future moon missions to come," said Hannes Ametsreiter, the chief executive of Vodafone Germany. "When Elon Musk sends his first private passengers to Orbit the Moon in 2018 or ESA opens the doors of its moon village our Vodafone network will already be there."

SpaceX rocket launch
SpaceX will launch the PTScientists mission into space in 2018. [Image by Nadezda Murmakova/Shutterstock]

Musk announced in late February that SpaceX would take two paying customers on a trip around the Moon in 2018. According to USA Today, the two passengers would launch from Kennedy Space Center sometime late next year on SpaceX's Dragon 2 vehicle carried by a Falcon Heavy rocket. The passengers' names have not been disclosed, but when asked, all Musk would admit was that were not from Hollywood.

As for the ESA (European Space Agency) moon village, the agency announced last year that it had plans to place a permanent manned base on the lunar surface between 2020 and 2030. The base, considered the next logical step in the push to get to Mars, would be open to all nations.

Concept of a Moon base
The next logical step in man's push toward Mars? Some experts believe a Moon base would provide a better and more cost-effective staging for future missions to Mars. [Image by Pavel Chagochkin/Shutterstock]

The Moon has become a point of interest for China as well. China announced via its state newspaper, the People's Daily, earlier in the month that it planned to put a probe on the Moon by year's end. Its space program plans to put another probe on the far side of the Moon in 2018.

China, the U.S., and Russia have all expressed a desire to send a manned mission to the Moon within the next few years. In fact, Russia announced last week, according to the Inquisitr, that applications were being taken for cosmonauts to be trained for its first ever manned Moon landing.

[Featured Image by Jack R Perry Photography/Shutterstock]