Published October 27, 2011
“We are in the first three months of a two-year contract,” David Gump, president of Astrobotic, told FoxNews.com.
"We'll have a field-tested robot that will be able to go to the poles" on the moon to extract water, methane and more, he said.
Astrobotic isn't the only company that hopes to dig up the moon. Last week, FoxNews.com revealed the story of Moon Express, which sees greenbacks in all that lunar "green cheese." In all, 26 companies are in the race, many fueled by the Google Lunar X Prize, a $20 million contract to put men back on the moon.
But a contract with the California company SpaceX to hitch a ride to the moon on its Falcon 9 rockets sets Astrobotic apart, the company argues. On board the rocket, which is planned to launch in late 2014 or early 2015, will be Astrobotic’s own lunar lander, which will take the company’s mining robot to the moon’s surface.
SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham confirmed to FoxNews.com that the contract does in fact exist.
Even NASA has a stake in the company, having negotiated seven contracts with Astrobotic, the company claims: one to develop an excavator and others to give NASA information on how the company will carry out its mission at a low cost.
Potential targets include water, methane, and ammonia, hidden in pockets within the moon. Scientists are certain these elements exist beneath the lunar surface, but are unsure about the quantities and in what form they reside.
“The readings ... indicate there’s pretty substantial water at the poles, but we won’t know more until you go and take samples,” Gump told FoxNews.com. “So we’ll both confirm the readings taken from orbit and discover how the resource is spread out.”
While the company’s main focus is to extract these substances from the poles, Astrobotic hopes to find an even rarer element on the moon, one that could have a potentially huge impact on life on Earth the mysterious helium 3.
Helium 3 in commercial quantities might make fusion power a reality, at long last. The solar wind carries He3 and the Moon sweeps it up. It's vanishingly rare on Earth, and fuses much more easily than deuterium/tritium or pure hydrogen.