Elon Musk may have a new partner in his mission to colonize Mars

Billionaire Elon Musk and SpaceX may have just found a new partner in their his planned mission to Mars.

Naveen Jain, the founder of a space exploration company called Moon Express, told CNBC on Thursday that his start-up is willing to work with Musk.

Moon Express is the first private company given permission by the U.S. government to explore the moon for resources. It is planning a mission to take a robotic rover to the moon in 2017.

But Jain said that in Cape Canveral – Moon Express's base – the company has two "neighbors" – Jeff Bezos and his space company Blue Origin, and Musk and SpaceX.

When Jain was asked by CNBC if he would work with Musk, the entrepreneur said "absolutely".

"It's very complimentary as a matter of fact … Elon will build the rocket and we do the rover. Essentially, he lays the cables and we do the last mile," Jain told CNBC in an interview at the Slush technology conference in Helsinki, Finland.

Jain said he has spoken to Musk about working together without giving further details. Earlier this year, Musk laid out his vision to colonize Mars and take a manned mission to the Red Planet in the next ten years.


While Moon Express is focused firstly on getting to the moon, Mars is seen as the next goal.

"Mars is absolutely the right place to be ultimately. But (the) moon is the first training ground and the first stepping stone. At the end of the day, we would rather me a lunatic three days away than be a Martian six months away," Jain told CNBC.

"So I really believe the problems living on the moon are similar – the high radiation, vast temperatture difference – and if we can solve that problem on the moon we can easily go on living on Mars after."


Honeymoons on the Moon

In the meantime, Jain is focused on getting to the moon. The moon has key resources such as iron ore, water, rare Earth minerals and precious metals, as well as carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and helium-3, a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste.

Under U.S. law, Moon Express has become the first private company to be allowed to travel to the moon. Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation granted Moon Express permission under a special law which required the company to disclose precise information about its mission to make sure it wasn't in violation of international law.

Jain said moon travel was getting cheaper an eventually will cost thousands of dollars per mission.

"In a mission that initially cost us to go to the moon about $25 billion, our mission to the moon next year is going to be $7 million, and the year after it's going to go down to millions. And in the next ten years, the cost of going to the moon is going to be $10,000. And in fact, even the time to go to the moon … we'll be able to go to the moon in 4 hours. That's faster than going from New York to London," Jain told CNBC.

And eventually, it could be the destination of choice for romantic couples.

"I believe in the next ten years, there is going to be a gentleman on their knees asking their sweetheart to say honey will you go to the moon with me for honeymoon," Jain said.