Once the private playground of Nasa, the Moon is now within reach for non-government agencies. Silicon Valley startup Moon Express is the first private company to have been given the green light to plan a mission to land there.
Tipped to be a giant leap for commercial space travel, Moon Express has been granted permission to send a small robotic lander to explore the Moon’s surface; this will happen sometime in the autumn of 2017.
A booming commercial space industry will be looking on keenly, as the likes of SpaceX, run by Elon Musk, have begun to show how they can undercut and out-think Nasa and other government agencies.
Moon Express says the historic ruling will create the dawn of “a new era of ongoing commercial lunar exploration and discovery, unlocking the immense potential of the Moon’s valuable resources.”
“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 of humanity,” said Bob Richards, co-founder and chief executive of Moon Express. The company’s first mission is expected to cost less than $10m, a fraction of what Nasa used to spend on getting to the Moon.
While the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has approved the payload Moon Express plans to send, it cannot prepare for blastoff just yet, as more checks will need to be carried out on the rockets chosen for the mission, a stage known as gaining a ‘launch license’.