Moon Express becomes first firm to win government approval for moon landing

04 Aug 2016


Lunar exploration and mining firm Moon Express has become the first private company to receive government approval to land on the moon, a development which could provide another boost for the commercial space industry.

With the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Cape Canaveral, Florida, the company planned to launch its unmanned MX-1 lunar lander next year.

Only national government agencies had launched missions beyond earth orbit previously.

''We look at the moon as our eighth continent,'' said Naveen Jain, co-founder of Moon Express. ''We have explored all of our seven continents, so why not go to the eighth continent,''  The Los Angeles Times reported.

The first mission would see the MX-1 lander take scientific experiments, telescopes and other items to the moon in a test of the spacecraft's software.

The lander would launch on one of Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab's Electron rockets.

Eventually, Moon Express plans to mine for resources on the moon, such as platinum group metals and helium-3, which, according to some could be a safer  nuclear fuel and was abundant on the moon, according to the European Space Agency.

According to analysts, the approval process could serve as precedent for future private moon missions, as also other commercial ventures beyond earth orbit, such as SpaceX's mission to Mars, set for 2018, or other firms' plans to mine asteroids for 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 humanity,'' said Bob Richards, co-founder and CEO of Moon Express, Techcrunch reported.

Moon Express was a product of Google Lunar X-PRIZE, an international contest, which offered $30 million to a private company which could soft-land on the moon and travel across its surface.

If successful, Moon Express would become the fourth entity in history to soft-land on the moon, after the first three which were all superpowers - the US, USSR and China. Moon Express which is privately funded and has 26 entrepreneurs and engineers.

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