Flights to the moon can be profitable even if the company doesn't win the prize money, chairman and co-founder Naveen Jain told CNNMoney.
"The marginal cost of a trip is now under $10 million," he said. "Things that did not make sense when the cost of a trip was $1 billion are wildly profitable when it costs $10 million."
Moon Express already has paying customers for its first moon launch, which will deliver a telescope as well as the ashes of some people who want to be buried on the moon.
Jain said its first probe won't return to Earth, but that the second trip will be its first round-trip flight. He added that once return trips are standard, lunar flights will have lots of business applications. And, he predicts, private flights will soon transport people to the moon and back.
"If I was a betting man, I'd say it'll be sometime between 10 and 15 years," he said.