One of the teams vying to win a $30 million race to the moon has locked up all the funding needed for its lunar mission, team members said.
Moon Express — one of five teams still competing for the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) — has secured $20 million in "Series B" funding, bringing the total funds the group has raised from private investors to more than $45 million, representatives of the Florida-based company said.
"We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the moon," Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards said in a statement. [Moon Express: A Private Lunar Lander in Pictures]
The GLXP is offering $20 million to the first privately funded team that lands a spacecraft on the moon, moves the vehicle at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) on the lunar surface and has the craft beam high-resolution imagery back to Earth. The second team to do all this gets $5 million. An additional $5 million is available for various special accomplishments, bringing the total purse to $30 million.
The prizes expire if they are not claimed by Dec. 31, 2017. The other teams in the running, in addition to Moon Express, are SpaceIL from Israel, Japan's Hakuto, India-based Team Indus and the international collaboration Synergy Moon.
Moon Express' ambitions extend well beyond winning the GLXP grand prize. The company eventually plans to fly a variety of commercial missions to the moon and help exploit the natural satellite's many resources, Richards has said.
Indeed, the deal that Moon Express signed with launch provider Rocket Lab USA covers five liftoffs. (Rocket Lab's Electron booster will carry Moon Express' lander, known as the MX-1E, to Earth orbit; the lander will then fire its own engines to get to the moon.)
"Our goal is to expand Earth's social and economic sphere to the moon, our largely unexplored eighth continent, and enable a new era of low-cost lunar exploration and development for students, scientists, space agencies and commercial interests," Richards said in the same statement.