First Private Company With Permission For Lunar Trip

Mountain View-based Moon Express, led by CEO Bob Richards,

For anyone who grew up dreaming of setting foot on the moon, or travelling in space, becoming a NASA astronaut might not be the only way to make that dream a reality before long. Read on-

Moon Express, a Silicon Valley-based commercial space exploration company that hopes to eventually “mine” the natural resources of the moon, officially became the first private company in the world to receive permission to travel into space. The historic green light, which was granted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the same government agency that regulates on-Earth flight, comes after months of negotiation between the company and government officials.

“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,” said Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards in a statement.

While Moon Express has the go-ahead, it does not have free reign to explore the solar system at will. The FAA granted specific permission for the company’s planned lunar expedition in 2017 under the conditions that the project receive oversight from multiple other government agencies, including NASA, in the interest of safety and national security. There was previously no procedure in place to grant space exploration permission to a commercial firm.

Moon Express’ big mission in 2017 will be to land a robotic lunar module — no humans will make the company’s first voyage — on the surface to collect data and transmit pictures and video. If the company succeeds, it will earn a $20 million pay day from Google’s Lunar XPRIZE competition, a contest for private companies in pursuit of space exploration.

The Moon Express mission will also be carrying payloads for six other clients, including NASA, Google, the International Lunar Observatory, Celestis, the University of Maryland and the National Laboratories of Frascati, Italy. Those payloads could include mustard plants from NASA that the agency wants to use to test plant gestation on the moon and equipment, like new retro reflectors, that the University of Maryland hopes to use for various tests. Source: International Business Times

About the Google Lunar XPRIZE

Created in 2007, the mission of the Google Lunar XPRIZE is to incentivize space entrepreneurs to create a new era of affordable access to the Moon and beyond. The competition’s $30 million prize purse will be awarded to teams who are able to land a privately funded rover on the moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit back high definition video and images.

How does the prize work?

The first team that successfully completes this mission will be awarded the $20 million Grand Prize. The second team to successfully complete the mission will be awarded $5 million. To win either of these prizes, teams must prove that 90% of their mission costs were funded by private sources. Teams have until the end of 2016 to announce a verified launch contract to remain in the competition and complete their mission by the end of 2017.

Why the Moon?

The Moon is not only our nearest neighbor in space, but it is also the gateway to the rest of the universe. Formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, the Moon provides exciting opportunities for discovery in the fields of science, technology, resource detection and utilization, and human habitation.

Science Projects: The Moon has already impacted the way we think about future exploration through previous discoveries, such as the existence of lava tubes potentially big enough to support a lunar base and the detection of ice at the lunar poles.

All of these discoveries have been made from lunar orbit. Now think of all the exciting research opportunities for scientists if they can have access to the lunar surface!

Abundant Resources: The Moon is a treasure chest of rare metals and other beneficial materials that can be used here on Earth. A successful Google Lunar XPRIZE would result in cost-effective and reliable access to the Moon, allowing for the development of new methods of discovering and using space resources, and in the long-term, helping to expand human civilization into space.

To Infinity and Beyond: The Moon is an essential stepping-stone to the rest of the universe, and the opportunity to learn from our closest neighbor can provide the necessary experience to further humanity’s presence in the solar system and beyond.

Private Exploration: The technologies developed by the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams will further reduce costs and barriers to entry so that private industry can work alongside government agencies and advance lunar exploration.

“It is only with a commercial mindset and commercial technologies that we will achieve a long-term vision of space commercialization and industrialization.”


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