While Naveen Jain is best known for helping to start Moon Express, the first company that proposes to make money by mining the moon, he made his fortunate during the Dot.Com boom in Silicon Valley and then Seattle, working for a number of companies before founding a number of his own. Now, with the lunar mining company aiming for its first expedition to the lunar surface in late 2017 as part of the Google Lunar X-Prize, Jain is returning his attention to Earth with a new startup called Blue Dot, inspired by the late Carl Sagan’s description of our planet as “the Pale Blue Dot.”
According to CNBC, Blue Dot intends to exploit a hitherto underutilized resource, that being the science and technology research conducted by the United States government. The federal government spends tens of billions of dollars every year on research and development. Some of the results of the research wind up in the private sector; NASA is forever touting the “spinoffs” generated by its various activities. But, all too often, the products of the R&D sit on the shelf, not quite ready for commercial use.
Blue Dot proposes to find promising technologies that the government has developed, license them, form companies around them, and try to create usable products. The research facilities would be granted royalties should the businesses pan out.
Jain is interested in developing products that will not only make money but will help people, a philosophy of doing well by doing good. Jain explains a couple of promising technologies that the company is looking at.
“Blue Dot is working on a variety of projects, including a way to harvest ambient energy to create a wireless charger. That would enable an entire new field of medical devices that are held back by batteries and charging cords today. Another is a small handheld device that uses non-invasive technologies, like ultrasound, to identify bacterial and viral pathogens in the human body. It could be used to make early diagnoses of Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other diseases.”
The wireless charger sounds like it would be a boon to anyone with a handheld device, such as a smart phone or a tablet. The medical device sounds as if it would work like Dr. McCoy’s medical tricorder from “Star Trek.”
While these and no doubt other ideas are technology “moon shots,” Jain is not neglecting his real moon shot enterprise.
“We just made history as the first private space company to submit a payload application to the FAA for a space mission to the moon in 2017. Up until now, only government missions have ever ventured to the moon and beyond-Earth destinations. This is an interim arrangement allowing us to execute our business plan under U.S. law and the Outer Space Treaty.
“In December, the company won the launch contract from Google Lunar XPRIZE to land an unmanned aircraft on the moon, travel across its surface, and send high-definition images and video back to Earth by 2017. We’re planning three missions using our company’s robotic MX-1E lunar lander on the Rocket Lab USA’s Electron rocket, from either New Zealand or the U.S. During those missions we will explore for minerals and rare elements.
“Our ultimate goal is to be the first private company to unlock the vast hidden resources on the moon—everything from magnesium to platinum and helium-3—and develop a space colony there. These valuable minerals can be used to sustain the world’s booming population. For example, helium-3 is highly sought for nuclear fusion, and though the technology is still in its infancy, the element could serve to power the Earth.”
Technology has the power to change the world and beyond.