A new partner in his planned mission to Mars may just have been found by billionaire Elon Musk and SpaceX.
The startup of Naveen Jain, the founder of a space exploration company called Moon Express, is willing to work with Musk, he told the media.
Permission by the U.S. government to explore the moon for resources has been given only to Moon Express as the first private company. It is planning a mission to take a robotic rover to the moon in 2017.
But Jeff Bezos and his space company Blue Origin, and Musk and SpaceX are the two “neighbors’ the Jain said that in Cape Canveral – Moon Express’s base – the company has.
The entrepreneur said “absolutely” when Jain was asked if he would work with Musk.
“It’s very complimentary as a matter of fact … Elon will build the rocket and we do the rover. Essentially, he lays the cables and we do the last mile,” Jain told the media in an interview at the Slush technology conference in Helsinki, Finland.
Without giving further details, Jain said he has spoken to Musk about working together. Musk laid out his vision to take a manned mission to the Red Planet in the next ten years and to colonize Mars, earlier this year.
While Mars is seen as the next goal, Moon Express is focused firstly on getting to the moon.
“Mars is absolutely the right place to be ultimately. But (the) moon is the first training ground and the first stepping stone. At the end of the day, we would rather me a lunatic three days away than be a Martian six months away,” Jain told during the interview.
“So I really believe the problems living on the moon are similar – the high radiation, vast temperatture difference – and if we can solve that problem on the moon we can easily go on living on Mars after.”
Jain is focused on getting to the moon in the meantime. In addition to helium-3, a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste, the moon has key resources such as iron ore, water, rare Earth minerals and precious metals, as well as carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen.
The first private company to be allowed to travel to the moon under U.S. law is the Moon Express. A special law which required the company to disclose precise information about its mission to make sure it wasn’t in violation of international law formed the basis that the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation granted Moon Express permission.
Moon travel would eventually cost thousands of dollars per mission as it is getting cheaper, Jain said.
“In a mission that initially cost us to go to the moon about $25 billion, our mission to the moon next year is going to be $7 million, and the year after it’s going to go down to millions. And in the next ten years, the cost of going to the moon is going to be $10,000. And in fact, even the time to go to the moon … we’ll be able to go to the moon in 4 hours. That’s faster than going from New York to London,” Jain said during the interview.
(Adapted from CNBC)