By Douglas Messier
Over the past week, a pair of Google Lunar X Prize teams backed by billionaires — SpaceIL and Moon Express — have become the first two competitors to announce launch contracts to land rovers on the moon.
SpaceIL of Israel has received the backing of billionaires Sheldon Adelson (net worth, $27.4 billion — 2015), Morris Kahn (net worth, $1 billion — 2015), and Lynn Schusterman (net worth, $4.5 billion — 2014).
According to CrunchBase, the three billionaires made a $22.4 million investment in SpaceIL through their family foundations in April 2014. The Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation contributed $16.4 million, with the Kahn Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation providing an additional $6 million.
The launch contract for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, purchased through Spaceflight Industries, was made possible by an additional fund-raising round led by the Adelson and Kahn foundations, according to a SpaceIL press release. The total for the second round was not disclosed.
One of Moon Express’s three co-founders is Naveen Jain, whose net worth is $2.2 billion. Jain has put in undisclosed amounts of money in each of three funding rounds raised by the California-based team that he co-founded with Barney Pell and Bob Richards.
CrunchBase reports that Moon Express has raised $31.5 million from 27 investors in three funding rounds over the past five years. The most recent was a Series C round worth $16.5 million from four investors. The team earlier raised $2.5 million in an undisclosed round in September 2010 and an additional $12.5 million in a second undisclosed round in December 2013.
Moon Express has signed a contract for three launches with Rocket Lab. The Google Lunar X Prize is reviewing the contract to certify it is in compliance with the competition’s rules.
The table below via CrunchBase shows Moon Express’s 20 investors, who have made 27 contributions to the three funding rounds. The first two rounds were undisclosed; the third was Series C.
|MOON EXPRESS INVESTMENT ROUNDS|
|Barney Pell||2 Undisclosed||Moon Express co-founder|
|David J. La Placa||1 Undisclosed|
|Firoz H. Lalji||Series C|
|Founders Fund||1 Undisclosed|
|Jay Sethuram||1 Undisclosed|
|Joe Gatto||1 Undisclosed|
|Klee Irwin||1 Undisclosed|
|Naveen Jain||3 Undisclosed, 1 Series C||Moon Express co-founder|
|Other Investors||2 Undisclosed|
|Paul Gauthier||1 Undisclosed|
|Peter Farrell||1 Undisclosed|
|Raymonds Capital, LLC||1 Undisclosed|
|Richard Merkin||1 Undisclosed|
|Richmond Global||1 Undisclosed|
|Rizwan Virk||1 Undisclosed|
|Rob Nail||1 Undisclosed|
|Robert Hariri||1 Undisclosed|
|Scott Bannister||1 Undisclosed|
|Tencent Holdings||1 Undisclosed, 2 Series C|