Moon Express to be first private company to land craft on moon

4 Aug 2016

It’s a case of ‘all aboard’ the Moon Express, as the US government has given approval for the private space company to land a spacecraft on the moon as early as next year, becoming the first private company to do so.

As one of the growing number of private space companies looking to tap into the literally endless market that is the universe, Moon Express is looking a bit closer to home, with the short-term goal of providing a lunar transportation service.

Now, in its biggest announcement to date, the company has confirmed that it has made an agreement with the US government to become the first private company to travel beyond the Earth’s orbit and land on the moon.

Landing in 2017

Until now, only three national space agencies have landed any craft on the moon, those being from the US, China and the former USSR.

As part of the mission, penned in for 2017, Moon Express will land a robotic craft on the moon to test its lunar capabilities ahead of potential future missions by the company, and other private companies in general.

However, the fact Moon Express managed to secure this permission is unprecedented, as the legality of such a decision is quite murky.

With no regulatory framework in place for deciding who gets permission to go outside of Earth’s orbit, the company’s co-founder, Naveen Jain, said to TechCrunch that, in its case, Moon Express was given a one-time exception.

Go where laws have never gone before

From now on, the US government will decide on a case-by-case basis who gets approval to travel outside of the Earth’s orbit – at least with companies based within its borders – until some law is actually passed.

In fact, the company received regulatory approval to mine any lunar-based materials before it was given permission to actually land there.

This is due to the US government’s passing of the Space Resource Exploration and Utilisation Act of 2015 giving companies permission to mine in space.

Speaking after the announcement, Jain said: “This breakthrough ruling is another giant leap for humanity. Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children.

“In the immediate future, we envisage bringing precious resources, metals, and moon rocks back to Earth. In 15 years, the moon will be an important part of Earth’s economy, and potentially our second home. Imagine that.”

Moon and Earth image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic