Forward-thinking spaceflight company Moon Express is on track to be the first privately financed firm to land on the moon. While an exact launch date has not been revealed, the company plans to set up a mining operation on the “eighth continent” sometime in 2018.
Moon Express is currently in the running to win the Google Lunar X-Prize, a competition with a $20 million payout to the first private venture to reach the moon and transmit video and images back to Earth. Competing with 16 other companies, Moon Express has until March 2018 to seize the reward.
“It’s definitely going to be next year, we are in the final stretches of it. And as you can imagine it’s rocket science,” Moon Express Chairman Naveen Jain told CNBC on Thursday. “And when we launch and land on the moon, not only [do] we become the first company to do so, we actually symbolically become the fourth superpower.”
Mining for resources is only part of the Moon Express plan to conquer the moon. According to Jain, the space enterprise is working on setting up a colony on our celestial neighbor within five years.
“I really believe that lunar is going to become like our eighth continent,” said Jain in the same CNBC interview. “We are going to have a permanent presence there, we are going to have internet there and we are going to be able to communicate just like we communicate from here to even Australia.”
While the mining of resources and establishing a colony on the moon is a bold and lofty idea, it is not yet entirely a legal one. The Outer Space Treaty, signed more than 50 years ago between Russia and the U.S., prevents either country from making claims on the moon.
That isn’t stopping Jain, though. How countries regulate international waters should be no different from rules pertaining to the moon, Jain says. He speculates the rules will eventually work themselves out as more and more companies put pressure on governments to implement regulations for private-funded missions.
Founded by tech mogul Elon Musk, SpaceX also wants to take the Google prize. According to an International Business Times report, the company has plans for a moon mission in 2018. A SpaceX statement in February announced two astronauts were chosen and will be subjected to a series of fitness tests to prepare for the upcoming moon flight.
Companies like Moon Express and SpaceX are leading the future in space exploration. An established moon colony, funded by the dreams of entrepreneurs, will one day help humans reach Mars and beyond. If these companies can overcome the technical hurdles related to space travel, the leap from science fiction and imagination to science fact has a good chance of happening in our lifetime.