We’re entering a new age of space exploration folks, our one small step has created hundreds of small steps for private companies hoping to make their mark in exploring the final frontier. While we’re already on the verge of space tourism (with Virgin Galactic leading the way) and SpaceX already successfully launching and landing vessels to advance our space-exploration technology, the US Government has not given the greenlight for a private company to land on the moon. Moon Express Chief Executive Bob Richards, who says his company already has the technology to land on the moon, described the process of getting US Government permission to be his largest hurdle. Ultimately, though, he was given “all systems go” to charter the first private mission to the moon.
Why is this? Well, no federal agency actually exists that covers spaceflights beyond earth’s orbit. Ultimately, the FAA, NASA, and the Department of Defense, State, and Commerce, have all come together in saying Moon Express is safe to operate. “The FAA has determined that the launch of the payload does not jeopardize public health and safety, safety of property, U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, or international obligations of the United States. As long as none of the information provided to the FAA changes in a material manner and the FAA does not become aware of any issues the review did not consider that could affect the determination, the FAA considers this determination final,” the agency said.
The decision, though, doesn’t permanently lay ground rules about future missions and future companies—it’s basically like getting a one-time work permit to land “MX-1E” (suitcase-sized spacecrafts) on the moon.
The go-ahead may give future companies, like SpaceX’s planned mission to mars in 2018, a roadmap to how they too can get government clearance.
The goal of these operations is to get much-needed financial help for future, more daring, missions with the help of a prize of $30 million from Google’s Lunar X.