If you’re trying to imagine how does the MX-1 lunar lander look like, you should ban from your mind any image of the massive Apollo module, which landed on the moon in 1969.
No, you should think of a craft made of two tires, one on top of the other, looking strangely like a double doughnut, which is exactly how the small satellite looks like, created by Mountain View-based Moon Express, a company founded by Naveen Jain.
After acing the most recent test, performed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the mini-satellite is getting ready for the real deal, the moon landing. Once it touches the lunar surface, the company which crafted it will be awarded by the Google-funded Lunar XPrize. The milestone award is part of a larger campaign designed to reanimate interest and instill progress in the space exploration department.
Moon Express is not the only company awarded with the top milestone prize: Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology and India’s Team Indus will have their efforts recognized as well.
In 2007, Google started a competition, pledging $20 million to the first private company landing a functioning robot on the moon, which will be able to send HD pictures back on Earth.
The top prize is still awaiting its receiving company, the first to complete the mission before the year of 2017. In order to keep the spark of interest alive, Google Lunar XPrize foundation is handing out milestone prizes – worth of more than $5 million – acknowledging the companies which have made progress.
The California Academy of Sciences from San Francisco will be hosting the award ceremony on Monday night, rewarding two more companies for their progress in the department of lunar technology and landing: Hakuto from Japan and Part Time Scientists from Germany.
Naveen Jain, the Moon Express CEO, is also on the board of XPrize is quite proud of his team’s efforts, stating that, at the moment, Moon Express is the only company which can put a lander on the moon. Furthermore, the contraption is extremely flexible, being able to fit under any satellite or on the board of any rocket, without needing its own rocket for launching it into space. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration wants to further test the lander to see how it handles radiation and lunar gravity.
Image Source: NBC News
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