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Moon Express reveals new details for how it plans to get to the moon and beyond

Elon Musk’s SpaceX may currently be winning the race in commercial rocketry, but Moon Express says it’s headed straight to the moon—and beyond. The company, which is currently vying for the $20 million Google Lunar XPrize, announced details today for lunar landing missions. The company, founded by Naveen Jain—one of our Most Creative People for 2017—is developing an entire family of spacecraft in the hopes of ushering in the dawn of low-cost space exploration, Space.com reports. The hope is to drop the cost of space travel from millions to hundreds of thousands. 

But first, the moon awaits. The Google award will expire on Dec. 31 if no one manages to land a robot on the moon’s surface, move it a certain distance, and beam photographic evidence back to Earth. While Moon Express’s lunar lander is reportedly ready for take-off, no launch date has been set. They need to prove their lander and the rocket it rode in on are space-worthy before they can head to the stars, not that it is slowing down their planning. According to Space.com, they already aim to set up a robotic research and prospecting outpost on the lunar south pole by 2019, and then in 2020, they will launch a commercial lunar sample-return mission.  

[Photo: 阿爾特斯 via Wikimedia CommonsML