Richards is co-founder, president, and CEO of Moon Express, a space transportation and lunar resources company at Cape Canaveral. Moon Express is a finalist in the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition to land on the moon, and maker of a robotic lander they hope to launch later this year or next.
“We as a species…are emerging from the surface of the Earth into the ocean of space,” Richards said. “If you imagine the planet Earth on an island floating in space, and you look…to the horizon, where do you paddle? Well, if you see another island on the horizon, that’s where you go. That’s what the moon is to planet Earth. It’s a sister world within reach.”
Once the sole domain of superpowers, space exploration is now possible for small teams of private entrepreneurs and engineers, he said. The political drivers of the first moonshot got us there but ultimately proved an unsustainable motivator. Now, he said, the motives are economic. We know the moon is chock-full of resources, even precious water.
“It’s transformational because the moon becomes a gas station in the sky, right? Water is like the oil of the solar system,” Richards said. “So, that is the game changer. Not just for the economics of all the resources of the moon, but the economics of getting anywhere else in the solar system.”
The ultimate goal, he said, is to liberate humans from Earth’s limited resources.
“In the big picture, [our vision is] a future of abundance, where we’re embracing the resources of the universe instead of fighting over crumbs in this little supermarket we call the Earth,” Richards said. “The universe, the solar system, has practically infinite resources and energy. We need to embrace the resources of space to expand as a species.”
Kids being born right now? Richards thinks they’ll look up in the next 10 years and see lights on the moon. Check out the video for more on moon mining, moon colonies, and who exactly owns the moon.
Update: In January 2018 XPRIZE announced that none of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams would hit the March 31st launch deadline, and the $30 million grand prize will go unclaimed.