Moon Express Unveils Model of Moon Ship

Moon Express held a press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday to unveil a model of a spacecraft it plans to land on the moon by the end of the year.

According to media reports, CEO Bob Richards said the company has raised $45 million from investors to send the MX-1E lander to the lunar surface.

The vehicle would complete a mission involving various payloads and then lift off from the moon and travel at least 500 meters to claim the $20 million grand prize in the Google Lunar X Prize.

Richards showed no hardware for the MX-1E, but he said the flight model should be completed in September.

The spacecraft is set to launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron booster. The maiden flight of the new launch vehicle failed to reach orbit in May from its launch site in New Zealand.

Rocket Lab has said it has determined the cause of the failure. The company is planning two additional flight tests in the coming months.

The MX-1E spacecraft would be the first of three missions to the moon the company would launch over the next three years. The third lander would include a system to return a soil sample from the lunar surface.

Richards said all three missions are fully funded.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    So they’re going to the Moon in 5 months? I assume the spacecraft is built and currently under test? And there’s a announced Space X launch?

  • Jeff2Space

    Hopefully Rocket Lab’s Electron will be up to the task. So far, it’s only test flight had mixed results (the second stage did not make it into orbit).

  • JamesG

    Not exactly high fidelity. So they’ve been spending time/money on a mockup instead of the flight hardware that is supposed to go to the Moon in December?

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    So if your flight hardware is ready in September, you should at least have some dope pictures of it, right?

  • What R2-D2 would look like with FOUR legs.

  • JamesG

    My inital thought was it is what you get if you cross an R2D2 with an Apollo LEM.

  • duheagle

    Very little money and not much time. I suspect the pictured mock-up was built by a model shop somewhere. There are plenty of such establishments in my neck of the woods (L.A.) that live mainly on work from the movie studios. But one can find pro model shops many other places too. This would have been a quick and easy job. Unlike a movie prop, it doesn’t even have to look especially real.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I highly doubt the payload will be ready to fly by years end. With 5 months to launch a real flight system is maybe undergoing finish work on one system, and is being readied for transport and integration with the launch vehicle. I highly doubt RocketLab will be ready to conduct escape flights this year. But hey … maybe I’m wrong.

  • JamesG

    I’m sure it was supposed to look “real”.

  • HyperJ

    One would think so. The hype to hardware ratio is a bit high for this crew.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Agreed, if this thing doesn’t go, it will because MoonEx was the delay, not RocketLabs.

  • patb2009

    if you do it all Catalog parts, you might be able to pull it all together.
    The hardest part is QA/QC. I wouldn’t want to do the Thermal-Vac,
    and RFI testing as well as the link budget testing in that kind of time.

  • SteveW

    This photo shoot was even easier than last month’s Vector drive-by stunts at Kennedy and Camden County’s forest.

    What is it with these companies and their mock-ups? XCOR’s was carried worldwide and they still couldn’t get the thing to fly. And ARCA’s rocket promises two weeks ago? Since Moon Express is supposed to fly to the moon on an Electron that hasn’t yet made it to orbit, what are the odds that neither the launcher or the satellite will be ready? You would think that ME would at least be demonstrating their rover by now.

    The pattern seems to be that these over-achievers start rolling out the mock-ups when they need to reassure their investors. Why else waste the money and energy on something that’s not otherwise related to the final goal?

  • Jacob Samorodin

    I hate to throw cold water on Moon Express, but I have learned that one of the execs for Moon Express, whose name is Naveen, has a history and reputation of lying to the public. That does not reflect well on the company and it’s claims and ‘promises’.

  • duheagle

    That would be Naveen Jain.

    Mr. Jain’s back trail includes a lot of entrepreneurship and not a few lawsuits and encounters of the third kind with the SEC. Most of said drama happened early in Mr. Jain’s entrepreneurial career two decades or so ago. Given that some of said lawsuits and SEC complaints were settled for substantial sums, it seems likely the plaintiffs and regulators had decent cases against the guy. On the other hand, he never seems to have been indicted or tried for anything actually criminal, never mind convicted.

    Perhaps Mr. Naveen has profited by his prior experiences with companies rushed into public status too quickly. The fact that Sarbanes-Oxley makes it much more expensive to go public these days is, doubtless, also a contributor to Moon Express’s remaining private.

    There’s not much question Moon Express has been better at producing hype than actual hardware to this point. But it is a private company. Its investors – including Mr. Jain – are, therefore, hardly John Q. Public babes in the woods. The company may or may not succeed in winning the Google Lunar X-Prize. And regardless of whether it does or does not win said prize, the company may or may not succeed, long-term, as a going concern. But, so long as Moon Express stays a private company, none of that should be of much direct concern to anyone except its backers.

    If the company succeeds in making a viable business of landing things on the Moon and returning samples, it could well go public in the fullness of time. My guess is that Mr. Jain – given prior experiences – no longer wishes to hurry that in any way.

    If the company fails, the only ones out anything substantial will be its backers.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    I’m not usually one for ad hominem attacks, but Bob Richards openly uses the title Dr., and his Ph.D. is honorary. The whole group reeks of snake oil.

  • ajp

    aaaaaannd – wasn’t he one of the founders of the very institution that bestowed the honorary title?

  • IamGrimalkin

    Moon Express don’t have a rover. They are hoping to land the vehicle on the moon, take off again, and land again 500m further on. Not quite in the original spirit of the Lunar X Prize but it meets the requirements.

  • Following ISU’s accreditation in 2004, the board of trustees conferred the institution’s first honorary degrees to me, Peter Diamandis, Todd Hawley (posthumously), and Arthur C. Clarke (who had been our chancellor since our founding of ISU in 1987). The board had met secretly without me or Peter, and surprised us with the news. I thought it was pretty cool. People sometimes refer to me as “Dr.”, and the title is often used within ISU contexts (which is traditionally not improper). ISU has been very restrained in its granting of honorary degrees (I believe it’s less than 10 – including Anousheh Ansari, the first person to receive an ISU honorary doctorate while in space).