May 24, 2022 - Science

Exclusive: Moon exploration company raises $12 million

The crescent Moon

The Moon. Photo: NASA/JPL

Lunar Outpost — a company focused on building rovers and instruments to explore the Moon and mine its resources — has raised $12 million in seed funding.

Why it matters: The Moon is poised to become a major geopolitical and scientific center of operation in space, as more nations and companies turn their attention to the lunar surface.

  • A number of companies have plans to take advantage of that interest by figuring out how to extract resources from the Moon and get paid to do it.

What's happening: Lunar Outpost's seed round is expected to help fund the company's plans to build a new type of autonomous rover for the Moon and amp up its current offerings.

  • "It's not just a robot that's going to the Moon for 10 days, and then it's going to die. It's that we're building robots to last and operate for years at a time," Lunar Outpost CEO Justin Cyrus told Axios.
  • Lunar Outpost already has a contract with NASA — for $1 — to collect some lunar dirt, which the space agency will then take possession of. It's not a big moneymaker for the company, but it will help establish a framework for private companies to mine the Moon on behalf of a nation.
  • The company already helped design an instrument aboard the Perseverance rover on Mars called MOXIE, designed to test out how future missions might create oxygen from the Martian atmosphere.
  • The company plans to launch one of its rovers to the Moon within the next year.

Yes, but: This kind of work isn't easy, and the market for private companies aiming to send their wares to the Moon isn't yet defined.

  • "It's all a matter of when the market comes forward, on not only the lunar surface, but Mars and beyond," Cyrus said.
  • Lunar Outpost plans to continue developing tools that have multiple applications on Earth and other worlds.
  • Extracting resources from the Moon also presents its own special set of technical challenges that companies will need to overcome in order to operate at scale on the lunar surface.
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