Space

Private company cleared for landing ... on the moon

Moon Express is hoping it can contribute to the advancement of technology, science, research and development
Moon Express is hoping it can contribute to the advancement of technology, science, research and development
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Moon Express is hoping it can contribute to the advancement of technology, science, research and development
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Moon Express is hoping it can contribute to the advancement of technology, science, research and development
The firm plans to bring precious resources, metals and Moon rocks back to Earth
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The firm plans to bring precious resources, metals and Moon rocks back to Earth
It plans to carry out the mission with its own robotic spacecraft
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It plans to carry out the mission with its own robotic spacecraft
The spacecraft has been to be scalable and to reduce the cost of spaceflight
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The spacecraft has been to be scalable and to reduce the cost of spaceflight
In the absence of a formal procedure, the Moon Express application was subject to "exhaustive interagency consultations and deliberations" among the FAA itself, the State Department, NASA and the White House, as well as other federal agencies
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In the absence of a formal procedure, the Moon Express application was subject to "exhaustive interagency consultations and deliberations" among the FAA itself, the State Department, NASA and the White House, as well as other federal agencies

For the first time ever, a private company has been given permission to land on the moon. The authorization from the US Government means next year's planned lunar mission by Moon Express will not only be the first by a private company, but the first time a private company will leave Earth's orbit.

Moon Express was founded in 2010 by entrepreneurs Dr. Bob Richards, Naveen Jain and Dr. Barney Pell. It is one of a number of commercial outfits seeking to begin operating in space (indeed, the news coincides with Virgin Galactic being awarded an operator license for its SpaceShipTwo) and is among those competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE.

Up until now, all commercial space companies have been confined to operating within Earth's orbit and that has become commonplace, with the likes of SpaceX providing taxi services to and from the International Space Station. Moon Express says that this opportunity to fly beyond Earth's orbit, however, is the start of its long-term goal to explore and develop lunar resources.

"The Moon Express 2017 mission approval is a landmark decision by the US government and a pathfinder for private sector commercial missions beyond the Earth's orbit," says co-founder and CEO Bob Richards. "We are now free to set sail as explorers to Earth's eighth continent, the Moon, seeking new knowledge and resources to expand Earth's economic sphere for the benefit of all humanity."

The spacecraft has been to be scalable and to reduce the cost of spaceflight
The spacecraft has been to be scalable and to reduce the cost of spaceflight

In unlocking the potential of the Moon's resources, Moon Express is hoping it can contribute to the advancement of technology, science, research and development. It is also planning to offer lunar transportation and other services for government and commercial customers, as well as to develop "commercial ventures that expand Earth's economic sphere." It plans to this using its own robotic spacecraft, which is designed to reduce the cost of space exploration.

"In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals, and Moon rocks back to Earth," explains Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain. "In 15 years, the Moon will be an important part of Earth's economy, and potentially our second home. Imagine that."

Securing authorization for its planned mission, however, was itself no mean feat, not least because no regulations yet exist under which such applications to be submitted. With the commercial space industry in an emergent state, the US Government is looking to put together the relevant legislation, but that was not set to be ready in time for the planned Moon Express mission.

It plans to carry out the mission with its own robotic spacecraft
It plans to carry out the mission with its own robotic spacecraft

Nonetheless, it is still necessary for the US to ensure that the payload being launched was in line with its national security and foreign policy interests, and that it complies with any international obligations to which the country is held. One such obligation is the the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which requires that state parties "authorize and continuously supervise" the activities of all space missions, including those of commercial nature, under their jurisdiction.

The US Government is therefore effectively responsible for the Moon Express mission and must have in place adequate means by which it can grant permission to and supervise the operations of the mission. This is said to be of particular importance while a payload is still within Earth's orbit and, therefore, at a risk of falling back to Earth unexpectedly.

In the absence of a formal procedure, the Moon Express application, which was submitted to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on April 8th, is instead said to have been subject to "exhaustive interagency consultations and deliberations" among the FAA itself, the State Department, NASA and the White House, as well as other federal agencies.

Subsequent to that process and with agreement from all of the relevant agencies, authorization for the mission was awarded on July 20th.

Source: Moon Express

18 comments
PaulSmith
So America owns the moon and you have to beg permission to go there! FFS world get your shit together and go land there without permission to prove the USA does not own the moon.
RichardRobertson
I didn't realise America owns the Moon. When did that happen? The arrogance of the concept it is breathtaking...
Hmmmm...
I couldn't see anywhere in the article where the Americans asked any other nation! Now - It may be that the American authorities DID ask other nations of this planet, but they don't get a mention in the article. (BTW - Who did America ask before they landed on the moon? Other nations of the Earth? No-one, I would guess) I can understand it if the "permit" was to allow travel through American airspace on the way up/down, but a "permit to land on the moon"?? Really?? GO "TEAM AMERICA!" Graduated from "World Police" to "Intergalactic Police" without anyone even noticing...
GWA111
Wow, so the USA has claimed the moon? I thought it orbited the earth, not just the USA - then again, that is the only country on earth who holds a 'world series' that no other country takes part in.......
MattII
People seem to misunderstand this, they talk like it's the US claiming the moon. This isn't true, as stated in the article: "Nonetheless, it is still necessary for the US to ensure that the payload being launched was in line with its national security and foreign policy interests, and that it complies with any international obligations to which the country is held. One such obligation is the the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which requires that state parties "authorize and continuously supervise" the activities of all space missions, including those of commercial nature, under their jurisdiction." This isn't about the US 'claiming' anything, it's about the US ensuring that a satellite launched from its soil has a flight plan that will (should, anyway, nothing is ever 100% certain) not interfere with any other international traffic up there.
Whatthe
I agree lol. It's got me completely perplexed to say the least. Though our existence in not owed to USA i wonder how long it will be before we're charged to breath?! Americans..pffff!! Think they own the world and every other worldly body. Hurry up China and land on the moon and drive thier buggy into a ditch haha.
Jason Catterall
Whatever they do, I really hope they land at the same site as the Apollo landings. Oh, the glee, the delight to be able to shut those moon hoaxers up once and for all.
Nik
Who gave the members that originated the, Outer Space Treaty of 1967, jurisdiction over the moon? I doubt that China will pay much attention to it. Moon Express could probably save themselves a lot of bureaucratic bullshit if they just set themselves up on an island in the middle of the Pacific where they wouldn't need to go 'cap in hand' to the US government which doesn't have the system to handle things in the first place.
Nik
As an ardent science fiction addict in the 60's, I can only say, 'About time!' I've been waiting half a lifetime for fiction to become fact in this field. Its happened in many other areas, but not space, which has been a big disappointment to me. When Arthur C Clark wrote '2001 A space odyssey,' he expected it to be close to realisation, and it could have been if the resources wasted on futile wars had been put into the potentially more lucrative space exploration program. I probably wont live to see a space station as portrayed in the film, more's the pity, but Moon Express is at least a start.
Tommo
"For the first time ever, a private company has been given permission to land on the moon. The authorization from the US Government means....." This article wasn't worded very well, it really does give the impression that the USA own all the rights to the moon. An arrogant assumption guaranteed to get the backs up of most international readers.