Moon Express: First private lunar mission approved for 2017

Next year a US startup will land on the moon.

Moon Express: First private lunar mission approved for 2017

The US government has given permission for commercial company Moon Express to conduct a lunar mission, in what marks a significant turning point for private exploration beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

The approval has been granted for a planned 2017 mission, which will see Moon Express attempt to land a robotic lunar lander on the moon’s surface. “With this landmark ruling, Moon Express has become the first private company approved to literally go out of this world as a pioneer of commercial space missions beyond Earth orbit,” the space company said in a statement.

So far, only US, Soviet and Chinese governments have successfully landed on the moon’s surface. Moon Express eventually intends to mine the moon’s surface for resources, although the initial mission is more concerned with landing in one piece.

The company’s 20lb lander – the MX-1 – is designed to hop across the moon’s surface. It’s one of 16 entries in Google’s “Lunar X Prize”, launched in 2007 and promising $20 million (£15 million) to the first company that manages to land a privately funded rover on the moon. Moon Express’ effort is the first to receive governmental approval.

“The recent discovery of water on the moon is an economic game changer for humanity’s future,” wrote Moon Express’ co-founder and CEO, Bob Richards. “Water is the oil of the solar system, and the moon has become a gas station in the sky.”

“Gas station of the sky” might not have the utopian ring of NASA’s humanity-broadening missions into space, but Moon Express claims it envisions the moon as an important part of the Earth’s future economy. 

“Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children,” commented company co-founder Naveen Jain in a statement. “In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals, and moon rocks back to Earth.”

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