Naveen Jain, the co-founder of privately funded commercial space company Moon Express, believes that with the help of 3D printing, you will be able to book a flight to the moon within the next decade. He sees moon exploration as part of a ten-year vision that could span anywhere from research facilities for Mars-bound technologies, to an exotic honeymoon vacation destination. In mid-2016, the US government made a monumental policy decision and gave Moon Express authorization for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft with 3D printed components. It will travel beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the moon’s surface in 2017.
Until now, all commercial companies have been limited to operations within Earth’s orbit; only governments have sent missions to other worlds. So Moon Express is the first private company to receive approval for a commercial mission of lunar exploration and discovery. Jain is eyeing SpaceX for a launch partner, as the two companies have similar reasons for getting involved in private space exploration: multi-planetary habitation as a backup plan for the survival of humanity. If all goes well in the space tourism economy, Jain hopes that tourists will be able to book a flight to the moon by 2026 for $10,000 a seat, and stay in a hotel in orbit above the Earth.
With their 2017 lunar mission, Moon Express will compete for the Google Lunar XPrize, a $20 million race to be the first team to put a robotic lander on the moon, and drive it 1,640 feet while beaming HD video back to Earth. Second place is worth $5 million, and another $5 million awarded for achieving various goals.