Space News is reporting that Rocket Lab will launch its second Electron launch vehicle sometime in December. The New Zealand based company is opening a ten-day launch window starting December 8. The first launch attempt in May resulted in the Electron making it into space but did not reach orbit because of a software error. If the second launch attempt is successful, the way will have been opened for Rocket Lab’s first commercial customer, Moon Express, to launch for the moon.

Moon Express to shoot for the lunar surface in 2018.

CNBC recently interviewed Naveen Jain, the Chairman of Moon Express, about the company’s plans.

Jain is confident that his company will be able to effect a lunar landing sometime in 2018. Moon Express is a competitor in the Google Lunar X-Prize, which recently altered its deadline to the end of the first quarter of 2018 for the completion of a lunar mission. The winner of the XPrize has to land on the moon, take high definition videos and images and transmit them to Earth, and move 500 meters from the initial landing site.

Jain suggests that Moon Express will proceed with its lunar landing regardless of whether it is in time to meet the Google Lunar XPrize deadline. The company proposes to create a business in which it will take payloads from both government and private customers to the moon.

NASA’s current plans for the moon call for partnerships with companies like Moon Express.

Lunar colonies in five years?

CNBC quotes Jain as predicting that human colonies on the moon will be possible in five years. This prediction may be as a result of the same sort of exuberance that possesses SpaceX’s Elon Musk when he muses about going to Mars in a similar time frame.

Still, people are going to live and work on the moon in due course.

A modern-day race to the moon.

Nevertheless, a modern day race to the moon, involving both national space agencies such as NASA and commercial companies such as Moon Express, seems to be taking shape. Things have changed since President Barack Obama airily declared that we had already been to the moon and therefore would not be going back.

The new administration recognizes the value of the moon as part of a national strategy for space exploration, based as much on economic development as it is on national prestige and doing good science. The sentiment is shared by a remarkable number of nations, not all of them the traditional space-faring powers.