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Feb 01, 2017 10:09 AM EST

Moon Express Ready For First Private Moon Landing This Year

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Private space exploration company, Moon Express, has announced that it has raised enough funds for its first trip to the moon. It is expected to launch by the end of this year.

Inc. reported that, if Moon Express is successful, it would become the first private company to leave Earth's orbit. It would also become the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon's surface since 1972.

The company has a Launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and was able to raise $20 million. Naveen Jain, co-founder and chairman of the company, said that a total of $45 million has been raised from investors which included Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, Collaborative Fund, and Autodesk.

Moon Express' first launch is scheduled for November or December later this year. Jain has expressed his hope that this will be the first of more "low-cost" unmanned missions, saying that launching a rocket used to cost $200 million but now it only takes $7 million.

Jain revealed that the company's robotic lunar spacecraft, named the MX-1E, will be propelled by a rocket from Rocket Lab USA. The spacecraft will separate from the rocket once it's out of the Earth's orbit and start its four-day journey to the moon.

It will be used to carry scientific and commercial payloads from the government as well as private companies. The company has contracted five rockets from Rocket Lab which it plans to use for unmanned missions to the moon's surface.

According to CNBC, the success of Moon Express' exploration would make it win the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE. It would also pave the way for a new era of space exploration.

In 2016, the government made history when it ruled to allow the company to participate in peaceful commercial lunar exploration and discovery. This comes after consultations with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), White House, State Department and NASA.

The challenge for Moon Express now is to meet the XPRIZE requirement. This is to make a soft landing on the moon, travel across its surface and send back high-definition video and images back to Earth all of which must be done before the end of 2017.

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