WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
More and more private organisations are taking on the final frontier, now Moon Express have a license to land on the Moon.
Less than half a century after Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon the FAA has granted approval for a private company, Moon Express to land on the Moon next year. Their decision, which was taken in consultation with the US State Department represents a new frontier for the private space industry, which has so far focused most of its efforts on launching satellites into Earth’s orbit and missions to Mars.
“Our goal is to blaze a trail to the Moon to unlock its mysteries and resources so we can improve life here on Earth,” said Moon Express co-founder Bob Richard.
Moon Express is currently a competitor in the Google Lunar Xprize competition who’re going to award a $30m prize for the first two companies that land on the Moon and complete a series of tasks, 238,855 miles from Earth.
The Silicon Valley based Moon Express is competing with several other organisations including Astrobotic, another US competitor and Team Indus of India and the FAA said that the approval they’ve granted is for the Google mission that Moon Express is planning, and that it does not automatically extend to other attempts – either by the group, or other competitors in the competition.
Luigi Peluso, aerospace consultant at Alix Partners, also cautions that, “the regulatory agencies have reviewed Moon Express’ proposal and they evidently believe it’s not going to do any harm – which is different from giving it a blessing”.
He added that approval for a manned mission to the Moon, or even a new rocket launcher platform, would probably be more significant developments for the industry but that this is a very positive first step to helping the industry accelerate to new highs.
Moon Express said it has also secured a deal to launch its MX-1 lunar lander using the Electron rocket system being developed by Rocket Lab. It plans two launches in 2017, and another that is scheduled for a later date.
Space travel is, of course, often subject to time consuming delays and setbacks and there is no guarantee that Moon Express will be able to keep up with the timeline but the private space flight industry has been growing in recent years, helped by the closure of NASA’s space shuttle programme about five years ago.
In 2012 Elon Musk’s SpaceX, one of the more mature private space organisations in the field was the first private company to attach its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) and now it has a $1.6bn contract with the US space agency to fly at least 12 cargo missions so, if Moon Express manages to realise it’s mission of being the first private organisation to land a craft on the Moon then who knows, maybe the sky’s the limit.