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Moon Express Company Mines the Moon First

Updated on July 20, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

Moon Express produced the first Google Lunar X-Prize lander to win a contract.
Moon Express produced the first Google Lunar X-Prize lander to win a contract. | Source

A Contest Produces Moon Travel

The name Moon Express may sound like a fast food outlet or a delivery service, but it belongs to the first company coming out of the Google X-Prize competition with NASA contracts to land on the moon (Luna) and mine for minerals, especially Helium-3. The company will be the first to bring back new energy from outer space.

Former NASA engineer and author of Rocket Boys/October Sky, Homer Hickam, has suggested that America go back to the moon before traveling to Mars in his He-3 Novels. He will see it happen in his lifetime, in 2017.

Moon Express will launch from Cape Canaveral with its XPrize-winning lander beginning in 2017 to set up equipment via robotics and begin mining for the platinum-group metals of the periodic table, the rare earth metals, helium-3 for fuel, and moon rocks.

n 2004, the value of one ounce of He-3 was established at $40,000.

Solar Impulse facility at NASA Ames.
Solar Impulse facility at NASA Ames. | Source

Google Lunar X-Prize contestant groups were to design, build, and launch lunar landing crafts by 2015. Two companies were ready by early 2013 and two companies received federal contracts for moon landings and work. One company is the Israeli SpaceIl and the other is the Silicon Valley commercial company Moon Express at NASA's Ames Research Center.

A
Earth Location of Moon Express:
NASA Ames Research Center Boundary, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA

get directions

B
Googleplex:
1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA

get directions

C
NASA Ames:
Moffett Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94035, USA

get directions

First Industry on the Moon

Engineers Needed Now

Even though leaders of the Ponderosa Steakhouse chain in Ohio purchased the first contract for food service in outer space in the 1970s, that industry will not be the first in outer space or on the moon. In fact, the contract expired before any industry started in near-Earth orbit at all. Mining will be the first commercial industry our moon.

The International Space Station and American Space Shuttle Program developed certain products that became popular among consumers on the ground, according to the NASA Spinoff accounts. These include a medical scanner much like those first seen on Star Trek®. This all would fit into the medical and manufacturing industries.

The foregoing developments are worthy of note, but the first large scale industry in space is mining. The first machines of industry will be mining machines in the tradition of the large government contractor that also made bicycles, Jeffrey Manufacturing Company and Jeffrey-Dresser Industries.

Global Mining Business Surge

The global mining equipment industry is expected to reach $117 Billion annual revenues on Earth in 2018. Revenues from lunar mining beginning in 2017 will begin to add billions more.

Most Successful Mining Machine Companies On Earth

Name
Location
Industry Speciality
Atlas Copco
Sweden since 1873
Mining
Sandvik
Sweden since 1862
Mining
Caterpillar
Peoria, illinois since 1925
Mining and Construction
Ingersoll Rand
Bermuda Islands, Montvale NJ since 1871
Mining and Heavy Equipment
Komatsu
Peoria, Illinois; founded 1921
Mining and Heavy Vehicles
Data provided by Underground Mining Mobile equipment Report in October 2012.

First Mining Company on the Moon is Supported by XPrize

name
Location
Industry
Rocketry Used
Moon Express
NASA Ames Research Center, California
Lunar Mining
New Zealand Rocket Lab's "Electron"; offices in Los Angeles.
Note: Israel's SpaceIL will launch a lunar lander to the moon via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for educational purposes sometime in 2017.

No commercial company has ever asked to go outside of Earth orbit and go elsewhere before. We're a pathfinder out of necessity.

— Moon Express Chief Executive Bob Richards, June 6, 2016

Additional Private Mining Companies Plant to Land on Mars

Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries have been in competition in the private sector to reach asteroids in near-Earth orbit and the Asteroid Belt beyond Mars, and to begin mining operations.Both companies contracted with the government of Luxembourg to create centers for asteroid mining business there.

Through the support an encouragement of the Google X-Prize program., Moon express will reach the moon before either of the other companies reach their planned destinations.

Other emerging companies that have a chance to actually mine a celestial body other than Earth include Made In Space, located in California. It received a $100,000 contract to prove its equipment capabilities to NASA. Their work will be done via robots on near-Earth orbit asteroids, redirecting them nearer to our planet and mining ores to send shorter distances home to process.

The Quest for Energy in He-3

Mining the moon is close art hand in the late 2010s. The moon has been bombarded with large quantities of Helium-3 by the solar wind. Earth's atmosphere pushes it away, but that of the moon profitably does not do so.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Energy from the sun causes solar winds to carry He-3 to Earth's moon.Massive Energy from the Sun.
Energy from the sun causes solar winds to carry He-3 to Earth's moon.
Energy from the sun causes solar winds to carry He-3 to Earth's moon. | Source
Massive Energy from the Sun.
Massive Energy from the Sun. | Source

Mining The Moon Profitably and Safely

Helium-3 (He-3, also written as 3He) is a light, non-radioactive isotope of the gas helium. An He-3 atom contains two protons and one neutron, whereas "regular' helium (He-4) contains two two protons and two neutrons.

In 2004, the value of one ounce of He-3 was established at $40,000. Just 220 pounds or so of He-3 can power all of Dallas, Texas for an entire year.

Previously, we found very small amounts of He-3 on Earth, not enough to use effectively. The unique atomic structure ot

fit and its non-radioactive nature allow its use as fuel for nuclear fusion. This fusion is the reaction found in the sun, which emits massive energy. He-3 use will produce enormous amounts of electricity without radioactive byproducts.

A cooperative effort in learning how to mine the moon for helium-3 will create the technological infrastructure for our inevitable journeys to Mars and beyond...I believe that if government efforts lag, private enterprise should take the lead in settling space.

— Former Astronaut Harrison Schmitt; 12/6/2004

During America's Apollo 17, Harrison H. Schmitt, PhD became the first and only trained geologist to explore the moon. He landed in the Taurus-Littrow Valley and explored it with astronaut Gene Cernan. Today, Schmitt is the head of the Interlune-Intermars Initiative.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Harrison Schmitt, Executive Moon MinerGeologist Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, sampling the moon's surface
Harrison Schmitt, Executive Moon Miner
Harrison Schmitt, Executive Moon Miner | Source
Geologist Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, sampling the moon's surface
Geologist Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, sampling the moon's surface | Source

Lucrative Competitions For New Technology Advance Space Travel

American Space Renaissance Act

Sources

  • Duke, M. B., Gaddis, L. R., Taylor, G. J., & Schmitt, H. H. (2006). Development of the Moon. Reviews in mineralogy and geochemistry, 60(1), 597-655.
  • Jakhu, R. S., Pelton, J. N., & Nyampong, Y. O. M. (2017). Private Sector Space Mining Initiatives and Policies in the United States. In Space Mining and Its Regulation (pp. 59-71). Springer International Publishing.
  • Schmitt, H. H. (2013). Lunar helium-3 energy resources.
  • Schmitt, H. H. (2003). Private enterprise approach to lunar base activation. Advances in Space Research, 31(11), 2441-2447.
  • Schmitt, H. H. Interlune-Intermars business initiative: returning to deep space Journal of Aerospace Engineering Vol. 10, Issue 2 (April 1997) .
  • Zucchetti, M. (2011). Exploration of Clearance Strategy for an Advanced-Fuel Fusion Experimental Device. Fusion Science and Technology, 60(2), 743-747.

© 2016 Patty Inglish MS

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      How about that! Gold and diamonds in space and I know that some of those diamonds are industrial equality that we can use.

      I agree that we should not strip mine and obliterate planets and moons only to leave them looking like the depleted, filthy oil tar sand expanses in Alberta or the stripped lands of West Virginia, all of which are useless now and emitting cancerous fumes and particles. Businesses and advocate groups have begin to rehab the land in WVa, but how would we do that on another planet? - Wouldn't be able to at this point.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I heard numerous other planets and orbs in space contain gold and diamonds. When we run out here on Earth, we can mine those. Let's not destroy them, though!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      If it can be done safely and bring cheaper and safer energy sources back to us then I think it is great! Who knows what they might also find up there? Perhaps things that can fight disease? Space exploration and science fiction are once again getting closer together. Sharing here and also on FB.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Patty - You present information that highlights the very best of efforts of mankind. We too often see the mean, small and desperation. Here you display the ingenious and team efforts to improve our lot.

      This reads like science fiction, the creative writers have imagined a future and the engineers are following and making exploration possible.

      I enjoyed this.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I agree with that totally.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      2 years ago from California Gold Country

      Let's hope it is a hard enough challenge, so that mankind doesnt do too much damage.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Rochelle Frank - China is planning to excavate the moon for minerals as well, but I bet they won't get there for a while. I subscribe to a mining newsletter that reports many mining accidents around China every month. I've heard nothing about Russian plans for mining the moon yet, and have visions of a moon like Swiss cheese, full of gaping holes.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      2 years ago from California Gold Country

      I'm glad, at least ,that our country still lets private companies and innovators, exist to do this kind of research.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      2 years ago from California Gold Country

      Yes, it does seem a little bit scary to be tinkering with our moon... on the other hand, if can be done, would you rather it be US or someone like Russia or China or..??

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Yes! LOL! So funny :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 years ago from England

      Won't that be amazing? then people will look back at these 'dark ages' with horror! lol!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Nell Rose - A collision indeed it is! -- Hopefully one for good, clean, cheaper energy in a few years, without the dangerous radiation.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @FlourishAnyway - I don't want to see the moon destroyed, either. If it goes away, there go our ocean tides!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Ericdireker - Exciting isn't it? If the robotics are as good as we think they might become, then fewer human lives will be at risk up there, too. I must read "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress Again!"

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 years ago from England

      Hi, interesting stuff, and good to know that He-3 isn't radioactive. I for one, will be really interested to see how this goes, and who in fact does get up there first to get the mining rights. seems science fiction and fact are once again colliding!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 years ago from USA

      Well presented and interesting. I'm not sure lunar mining is a good idea. We have really done a number ecologically on our planet and now we want to exploit outer space. We are very destructive.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wow that is really cool, thanks for spreading the news.

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