[ExI] Moon mining company

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Mon May 14 17:32:10 UTC 2012

Look at their board.  They're not competitors - they're hoping to
build on the GLXP.  (The momentum, PR, and quite possibly
the tech of the winning company - say, by buying the winners'

Further, I hear the core of their team was recruited from NASA's
Dawn mission.  NASA can not commercialize asteroid mining
for many reasons, mostly organizational and/or political.  But
having the people who did the basic engineering to explore the
asteroids, hired to a private entity to actually commence mining
it?  That is allowed.

They are quite serious, and have enough money and connections
to have a chance of pulling off what they want.  I see two major
challenges they'll have to deal with, beyond the obvious technical

1) Monetization.  They seem to be focusing on delivering materials
to orbit, and getting paid to do so.  There is no market for that yet,
because the capability to do that does not yet exist.  Startups that
create a market always have this risk, but this is more dramatic
than most, because there aren't the usual similar-but-not-quite
offerings that this replaces.  (For instance, cars replaced horses,
automated farming replaced labor-intensive farming, and cell
phones replaced having to know where a traveler is so as to call a
phone near the traveler.)  IMO, they would do better to entertain the
notion of processing resources in space, so as to deliver platinum
and other valuable raw materials to Earth; they may be considering
this as a backup or supplemental revenue stream.

2) PR.  Conceptually, this is a simple matter of public education,
but it will be a larger than usual effort.  There will be:
* Disasterbationists and astroturfed efforts who yell and scream that
any effort to move asteroids will inevitably result in large, fast
asteroids slamming into the Earth, with results like the dinosaur
killer asteroid.
* Lawyers who think they have a slam-dunk case that these guys
are violating the Moon Treaty (which, as an international treaty,
would be equal to the US Constitution in legal weight...if only the US
had signed it; no space-faring nation has) or the Outer Space Treaty
(which forbids governments from claiming celestial resources, but is
silent on whether they can sidestep this by merely recognizing the
claims of private entities not under their direct control; only "national
appropriation" is forbidden), and so believe they can sue for lots of
money (much of which would go to their pockets as "legal fees").
* No end of confused folk who think NASA owns space in every
sense (see above) and is the relevant regulatory body (the FAA, not
NASA, sets the rules for things in US airspace - and then only up to
orbit, though that includes reentry for anything launched or controlled
from the US), and therefore believe (coming across as "demand") that
the operation be shut down because NASA isn't controlling it.

That said, they seem able to at least competently face these
challenges as they come up.  We'll see how well they deal with them
(assuming they don't lose interest and withdraw funding when the
technical challenges prove more expensive than they seem at first).

On Mon, May 14, 2012 at 9:06 AM, Kelly Anderson <kellycoinguy at gmail.com> wrote:
> Does anyone here have in depth knowledge about these folk?
> http://www.moonexpress.com/
> They are competitors for the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a $30 million
> competition that challenges space professionals and engineers from
> across the globe to build and launch to the Moon a privately funded
> spacecraft capable of completing a series of exploration and
> transmission tasks. Team MoonEx, headquartered in San Francisco, CA,
> is among 24 teams from a dozen countries that are competing for their
> share of the $30 million prize purse.
> Does anyone know if they are serious contenders?
> -Kelly
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