Today, private spaceflight company Moon Express unveiled its grand plans to build a robotic outpost on the South Pole of the Moon as early as 2020. To do this, the Florida-based company wants to create a new class of spacecraft, called the MX Robotic Explorers, to land and deliver payloads to the lunar surface. The ultimate goal is to have permanent robots on the Moon that can mine the pole for water and minerals — resources that can then be sold for profit.
Moon Express has long been vocal about its desire to mine the Moon, but this is the first time the company has detailed exactly how. Its plans start with the MX-1E robotic lander, a vehicle the company is currently working on. Roughly as tall as a person, the MX-1E can land up to 66 pounds on the lunar surface and is also designed to “hop” across the Moon once it lands. The company hopes to fly the vehicle out of New Zealand on top of an experimental rocket called the Electron, manufactured by aerospace startup Rocket Lab. The MX-1E is Moon Express’ entry into the Google Lunar X Prize, an international competition to send the first private robotic spacecraft to the surface of the Moon.