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Moon Express looks to be the first private company on the Moon

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Image: HelenField / Shutterstock

Image: HelenField / Shutterstock

With each coming year, it seems like the opportunity to casually rocket off into the dark depths of space for a little alone time is becoming more and more of a tangible option. For years, various space-centric start-ups have desperately tried to get all things above board to be approved for space flight out of Earth’s hemisphere and into the “great beyond,” but no one has managed to reach the glamorous peak, until now.

The small, Cape Cape Canaveral-based start-up Moon Express has received the go ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration to send and land a robotic lander on the surface of the Moon, in 2017. This will be a one-way trip, as the lander will stay on the Moon. They previously conducted flight tests of their moon lander prototype in 2014 and 2015, which won them applause from NASA and a $1,000,000 prize from Google.

Moon Express founder, Naveen Jain has said the mission will be low-cost (when it comes to space travel), a mere $10 million, and would “transform” the business of space travel as we know it. Outside of Jain’s disruptive intentions in space travel space, there’s not much known with regard to what Moon Express’ mission would actually entail, or who the company’s customers are, though some suspect that the company plans to mine lunar resources such as platinum or helium-3.

 

Corrections: A previous version of this article said that the Moon Express lander would return to Earth; the trip will be one-way only. It also said that Moon Express would need an international treaty. Only nations can enter into treaties with other nations, and Moon Express has been given authority by the United States, which is signatory to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. We regret the errors.  

Sean considers himself a poor man's polymath and finds solipsism amusing. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @mchugh_sean, or not. That's fine.

  • Sean, we appreciate the article, but there are some misconceptions we’d like to try to correct.

    1) We conducted flight tests of our prototype lander at the Kennedy Space Center back in 2014-15, which was applauded by NASA [http://www.nasa.gov/content/moon-express-completes-initial-flight-tests-at-nasas-kennedy-space-center] and won us $1M from Google. You can see a highlight video of the flight tests here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAMPD65dvIY

    2) Only government superpowers have ever landed robots on the Moon. (US and Russia in 60’s & 70’s, and China in December 2013).

    3) Our first mission is one-way to the lunar surface, not a sample return mission.

    4) Companies can not “obtain international treaties”, treaties are only between governments. The treaty presiding over us is called the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by over 100 countries, and the U.S. has already provided us the authority for our mission under the provisions of this treaty. There is no more paperwork for our 2017 mission, that’s behind us.

    We hope this is helpful clarification.

    – Moon Express

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