Welcome to the Moon Rush!
May 22nd 2013, Long Beach, CA.
These inspiring words were spoken this morning by Dr. Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express, Inc. at the Space Tech Expo conference.
What You Earn Must Be Greater Than What You Spend
Dr. Richards started his talk with the premise that “What you earn must be greater than what you spend…” For sure. And the excitement in the air that stemmed from the rest of the discussion just confirms that his optimism about achieving this goal is reasonable, justified, and very timely. Venture money is always seeking high risk areas of investments for high returns. Now is the time to do it, because the conditions are there to mine resources for commercial trade, to recruit the investors who will support the goal, and to have the expenses under control.
The Business Case for Space
Moon Express, Inc. makes a ‘Business Case for Space’ and says it’s the same as any business case on Earth. As far as resources go, an asteroid scare on Earth served as a reminder that someone out there might be asking: “So, how is that space program going?” But more than that, asteroid bombardment on the moon has created rich opportunities for mining. The moon is an aggregator of natural resources. It’s not an unknown anymore – we’ve been to the moon, brought back samples, analyzed the data, and we know it can be economical. What we bring back will have high returns.
For keeping expenses under control – we couldn’t have done any of this a decade ago. Now commercial rockets are being made available for such an enterprise. Presence of water on the moon- might help for the future of obtaining rocket fuel locally for return trips. New materials and hi-tech fabrics will make for better, lighter, cheaper spacesuits. Hardware is de-materializing into software. Conditions are in place to make operations more cost effective than ever before.
In terms of investment, well, getting enough initial investment seems very feasible. Moon Express is shooting for a $50 million bill for a visit, initially speaking of $30 million. Why $30 million? Dr. Richards explained that’s the higher end of how much very wealthy individuals have spent on space-related ventures. For example, Paul Allen’s $30M investment in SpaceShip1; Elon Musk started SpaceX with a $10M check; The Ansari XPrize foundation started with $10M; It doesn’t seem like an impossible goal. Moreover, the winner’s prize at the Google Lunar XPrize competition for robotic exploration of the moon, where Moon Express is the first competitor, is for $20M. ME aims to win it, and expect payload customers they have lined up will enable even the first mission to be profitable.
Private-Commercial Partnership: Moon 2.0
Moon Express is about entrepreneurship, and building the bridges to the new economy. Yes, there is a new economy, there is a moon race. Many countries are entertaining and acting on the idea of getting into space, starting with the Moon. China and Russia want each to create a moon-base. In the U.S. there’s a new model – it’s all about getting into space in a sustainable way, through private/commercial partnership. The idea is to not only ‘boldly go’, but rather to ‘boldly stay’. ME brings innovative disruption to the marriage between Silicon Valley and traditional aerospace, to make it happen. They are partnering with NASA, and call NASA’s LADEE module ‘our sister spacecraft’. And when they are the first commercial enterprise to land on the moon in 2015, they will call the new era Moon 2.0.
We’re going to the Moon!