Moon Mining

It’s come to this?
Dozens of companies hoping to earn $20 million prize in race to mine the moon for elements, including water

“We are in the first three months of a two-year contract,” David Gump, president of Astrobotic, told “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, 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 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.