'MoonLIGHT' Shines Bright: Moon Express' $24 Million New Science Customer
By Nick Azer on May 21, 2015
Pictured above: a lunar laser reflector, which there will soon be a lot more of on the Moon, thanks to delivery by one of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams!
Google Lunar XPRIZE team Moon Express has picked up a new customer! And it's a major science project, that continues some of the work that Apollo started...
The Moon Express team (plus Buzz Aldrin).
Moon Express, like many Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, plans to create long-term business for the Moon---which in many cases, will involve the delivery of cool new science missions to the Moon.
Enter, the MoonLIGHT project:
MoonLIGHT is a science effort to pick up where the Apollo missions left off when it comes to laser 'retroreflectors'.
You see, several Apollo missions left laser reflectors on the surface of the Moon so that a laser---which has a heck of a range---could be shined up there, and the reflection then measured. This has a lot of implications for studying gravity & relativity...and there's a lot left to explore; so, we need more!
And this is why the University of Maryland and the Frascati laboratory (a branch of Italy’s Institute for Nuclear Physics) have stepped in and signed on with Moon Express to have new retroreflectors delivered to the Moon, at a mere fraction of the cost of what it would have taken to have NASA or another agency deliver them:
“Our agreement with Moon Express allows us to get our instruments to the Moon cost-effectively and potentially revolutionize our understanding of gravity.” - Doug Currie, the University of Maryland
“These tests reach to the core foundational principles of general relativity. Any detected violation would require a major revision of current theoretical understanding of the way the universe works.” - Simone Dell’Agnello, The National Laboratories of Frascati
Exciting stuff! And it's all possible through the progress that Google Lunar XPRIZE teams have made in making access to the Moon, and beyond, affordable.
And this project is a big one: it's a multi-mission project that will be delivered across Moon Express' first four lunar missions, and is one that Moon Express will be contributing half of the $24 million cost for!:
"We are making this investment to support our customer and contribute to fundamental science of the Moon and our universe. The establishment of a network of new-generation laser retroreflectors on the Moon is also a good business investment into lunar infrastructure for our future missions.” -Naveen Jain, co-founder and chairman, Moon Express [Pictured above; image: Forbes]
An important contribution to not just the future of the Moon, but our understanding of science and life as we know it. A thrilling project!
And that's just the tip of the iceberg for the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, as there's a ton of bold progress happening lately.
The Moon is sure to be an exciting place...from now into 2016, and beyond! So be sure to stay tuned here for all the latest developments from your Moon race.