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Moon Express wants to one-up SpaceX and Blue Origin with regular moon visits

Published Jul 13th, 2017 1:34PM EDT

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When it comes to commercial space travel, the biggest names in the game right now are Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, but a not-so-new contender is hoping to change that in short order. The company, called Moon Express, was founded as a candidate for Google’s Lunar X Prize, and while that competition is still ongoing, the future of Moon Express seems to be bright regardless of whether or not it walks away with top honors.

The startup, based out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, is poised to launch its MX-1E lander by the end of 2017 — which is a criteria that must be met by all of the remaining Lunar X Prize competitors — but it’s already setting its sights a future beyond the contest.

Moon Express has designed two vehicles thus far: the smaller MX-1E and a larger version called MX-2. The first hurdle is getting its MX-1E lander safely to the moon, but the real star of the company’s lineup is the MX-2, which it says will be capable of not only venturing all the way to the dark side of the moon, but even much longer journeys such as the moons orbiting Mars.

The ultimate goal is to achieve similar results as to what NASA has been capable of with its landers, but at much lower cost. “We want to collapse the cost of getting to the moon and by doing so, there is going to be a brand new market that is going to emerge,” Moon Express CEO Robert Richards says.

The moon is becoming a pretty popular place as of late, with everyone from NASA to the Chinese space program preparing to revisit the lunar surface. With commercial startups now entering the mix, things might start to get a bit crowded up there.