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Space startup confirms plans for robotic moon landings

By Marilyn Malara
Moon Express co-founder Bob Richards explains the MX-1 lunar lander at the Autodestk University in Las Vegas in Dec. 2013. Photo courtesy Moon Express
Moon Express co-founder Bob Richards explains the MX-1 lunar lander at the Autodestk University in Las Vegas in Dec. 2013. Photo courtesy Moon Express

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Oct. 3 (UPI) -- California-based space exploration startup Moon Express has signed a deal with Rocket Lab to commence a series of lunar launches starting in 2017.

CEO Bob Richards announced the partnership between his company, known as MoonEx, and the lab on Thursday. The contract marks the beginning stages of three consecutive robotic lunar landings set to take place two years from now. The company's goal is to win the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize for being the first private company to do so.

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"Getting to the moon is really hard," Richards told Popular Mechanics. "We wanted to be in a situation where we weren't just an all-in-one-basket mission because, hey, things happen. Landing on the moon the first time would be fantastic, but we want to have some backup plans and to be able to try it again and then try it again."

MoonEx has already partnered with NASA's Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data Program and Google's Lunar X Prize competition to further develop its MX-1 vehicle for a moon landing.

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The latter tech giant is offering $30 million to the first private company to land on and effectively explore the moon through surface travel and high-definition recordings. MoonEx has already been awarded over $1 million from Google and $500,000 from NASA in support of its research.

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The Mountain View, Calif., startup was founded by entrepreneurs Naveen Jain, Bob Richards and Barney Bell in 2010. Its goal is to successfully begin mining the Moon's surface for resources such as PT-78, Helium and other rare earth metals, deeming the orbiting mass the "eighth continent."

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