Moon Express gets US approval for lunar mission
Moon Express has been granted approval by the United States government to launch a mission to the moon. It’s the first time the government has granted regulatory approval for a private mission beyond Earth orbit.
Moon Express, based in Cape Canaveral, Fla., hopes to launch and land a robotic lander on the moon. The feat would win the Google Lunar X Prize competition for the first private organization to reach the moon and an accompanying $20 million reward.
“It’s certainly trailblazing,” said Bob Richards, Moon Express co-founder and CEO. “It’s a huge milestone for us.”
The mission would send a suitcase-sized lander, named MX-1 lander, to the moon for a two-week mission in 2017.
The spacecraft will carry a number of science experiments, including a new lunar laser that will replace the long-running Apollo experiment, which sends laser beams to Earth to measure principles of general relativity, and some commercial cargo on its one-way trip to the lunar surface.
Ultimately, Moon Express hopes to mine minerals, as well as provide a potential platform for producing propellants to power future deep-space missions.
Moon Express said it had not yet decided on a landing site, but stated it would stay away from the Apollo landing sites and other NASA artifacts.
The US governments unprecedented go-ahead for the Moon Express mission also sets a legal and regulatory framework for a host of other commercial expeditions to the moon, asteroids and Mars.