Naveen Jain

Mining money on the moon

January 18, 2012: 5:00 AM ET

Moon Express's $20 million moon landerFORTUNE -- Newt Gingrich's idea for a massive federal program to mine the moon may not be totally insane after all. Billionaire Naveen Jain also agrees opportunity exists 238,855 miles away. One of the first Microsoft (MSFT) developers and founder of the web content provider InfoSpace (INSP), Jain wants to dig up the helium-3 and platinum deposited in moon craters by metal-rich asteroids. His startup, Moon Express, is building a $20 million moon lander (right) slated to launch in 2013. His is one of 26 ventures vying to win the $30 million Lunar X-Prize sponsored by Google (GOOG). Jain says helium-3 could be a new nonradioactive energy source. There's more. For about $50, those who want to make themselves immortal in case of global catastrophe can store their DNA there. You can also project a family picture or a marriage proposal on the moon's surface and put it on the web. "The moon is one of the few places left that hasn't been explored from an entrepreneurial aspect," he says. The countdown begins. --Jennifer Alsever

This article is from the January 16, 2012 issue of Fortune.

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