US, Chinese and Russian space agencies may have landed on the moon (either in human or robotic form), but US firm Moon Express has revealed that it has the funds to be the first private company to journey to the moon.
The firm was formed in 2010, and is based out of Florida. The company claims to be ready to launch its first space exploration mission in 2017.
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The company claims to have raised $20 million, which will allow it to send a robotic spacecraft to the moon by the end of this year; a feat which the firm hopes will see it recognized as the first private business to send a robotic craft to the lunar surface.
Moon Express put forward a request to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin initial missions to the moon and has received approval from the government agency.
A treaty governing space exploration is already in place with the UN, and it demands governmental supervision and authorization to permit non-governmental bodies carrying out space exploration missions.
"We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the Moon," Bob Richards, Moon Express's CEO, said after getting the required approvals from the US government, The Verge reported.
"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 added.
Mining the moon for minerals is another of the comany's goals. Naveen Jain, a tech entrepreneur as well as co-founder and chairman of Moon Express, expressed his hopes of lowering space travel prices and leading the way to the colonization on moon, followed by Mars.
"The sky is not the limit for Moon Express – it is the launchpad," Jain said in an earlier statement made to the Guardian, after receiving federal approvals.
"This breakthrough ruling is another giant leap for humanity. Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children," Jain added.
Jain admits that Moon Express's main objective is mining resources from the moon. He even stated in a company press release that the moon would likely become a crucial part of Earth's economy within 15 years, while referring to it as "potentially our second home".
The company believes that the moon can generate resources crucial for humanity's future on Earth and in space.
In 2007, Google launched its Lunar X Prize initiative, which aimed at incentivizing private companies to start planningspace exploration missions by devising new technology.
It is believed that Moon Express has raised more than $45 million dollars through investments, as well as individual funds.
There are other companies also closely eyeing the moon and the asteroids as mining destiantions:
Deep Space Industries, is planning to extract minerals from asteroids by launching its autonomous spacecraft this year.
Planetary Resources, another company supported by Google's Larry Page and Eric Schmidt is also working towards creating technology for asteroid mining. The firm aims at launching a commercial mission by 2020.
A financial services site, Motley Fool, has estimated that the mineral reserves on the moon are worth quadrillions of dollars. How correct that figures is will be revealed in the near future.