U.S. Government Approves Moon Express Lunar Landing

Bob Richards, co-founder and CE) of Moon Express Inc., of Moffett Field, California, speaks to the media Nov. 3 at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility. To the left of Richards is Greg Chavers, Lander Technologies project manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. (Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)
Bob Richards, co-founder and CE) of Moon Express Inc., of Moffett Field, California, speaks to the media Nov. 3 at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. To the left of Richards is Greg Chavers, Lander Technologies project manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. (Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Moon Express PR) — For the first time in the history of space travel, a private enterprise will leave this world to explore another

The U.S. Government has made a historic ruling to allow the first private enterprise, Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the Moon in 2017. This breakthrough U.S. policy decision provides authorization to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon’s surface, beginning a new era of ongoing commercial lunar exploration and discovery, unlocking the immense potential of the Moon’s valuable resources.

Moon Express received the green light for pursuing its 2017 lunar mission following in depth consultations with the FAA, the White House, the State Department, NASA and other federal agencies.

“The Moon Express 2017 mission approval is a landmark decision by the U.S government and a pathfinder for private sector commercial missions beyond the Earth’s orbit,” remarks co-founder & CEO, Bob Richards. “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.”

Up until now all commercial companies have been limited to operations in Earth’s orbit, and only governments have sent missions to other worlds. 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’s orbit. The federal interagency approval of the Moon Express 2017 lunar mission establishes an important precedent for the private sector to engage in peaceful space exploration, bringing with it monumental implications for the advancement of technology, science, research, and development, as well as commercial ventures that expand Earth’s economic sphere.

The framework of the interagency approval surrounds Moon Express’ proposed ‘Mission Approval’ arrangement that utilizes existing payload review and launch license processes under authorities of the Secretary of Transportation, and adds to them a series of voluntary disclosures intended to provide the Federal Government with sufficient information to help fulfill its supervisory obligations under the Outer Space Treaty. The company submitted its historic application for a 2017 commercial lunar mission to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on April 8th, 2016.

“The sky is not the limit for Moon Express — it is the launchpad. 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,” remarks co-founder and chairman, Naveen Jain. “In the immediate future, we envision 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 Express was co-founded in 2010 by space visionary, Dr. Bob Richards, billionaire entrepreneur, Naveen Jain, and serial entrepreneur and artificial intelligence and space technology guru, Dr. Barney Pell, with the common vision to be at the forefront of commercial space exploration and innovation. The development of their innovative and scalable robotic spacecraft is designed to radically reduce the cost of space exploration– lifting the veil on the mysteries surrounding the Moon and how its resources can be unlocked and used to benefit Earth and humanity.

About Moon Express

Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) is a privately funded commercial space company blazing a trail to the Moon to unlock its mysteries and resources with low cost robotic spacecraft products & services using exponential technologies. Driven by long-term goals of exploring and developing lunar resources for the benefit of humanity, the company has short-term business on-ramps of providing lunar transportation and services for government and commercial customers. NASA partnered with Moon Express in 2014 under its Lunar CATALYST program to help build the capability to return the United States to the surface of the Moon. In October 2015, Moon Express announced a launch contract with Rocket Lab USA for 3 launches to the Moon beginning in 2017. In 2016, Moon Express announced an agreement with the US Air Force to utilize Cape Canaveral Launch Complexes 17 and 18 for the development of its spacecraft.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I seem to remember a Space Access meeting where the FAA as represented by Mike Kelley said that the FAA’s authority ended the instant you entered orbit, and that escaping the planet was not something they had jurisdiction over. He went further to call Near Earth Space and beyond as a “Big Sky”. I knew then, it would not stay that way the second someone actually wanted and could go. I would imagine the policy references the Outer Space Treaty for the landing, but I also wonder if jurisdiction is also now claimed for the flight (parking orbit, and transfer orbit)?

  • ThomasLMatula

    This story is probably tied with Blue Origin’s success as the most important space story this year. The willingness of the FAA AST to license commercial missions beyond Earth orbit is a critical barrier to the economic development of the Solar System that has just been broken.

    This also basically clears the way for Elon Musk to get his license for sending a mission to Mars.

    Congratulations Moon Express for a job well done!

  • JamesG

    You have to have a destination or disposition of a launch. Where whatever you are launching is intended to go. Another point on the planet (sub-orbital), some LEO/GEO track, etc. In this case its just like any other launch license application except you are asking to transit up and out of the orbital slots instead of taking up residence. The government, being the government, naturally wants to know as much as they can. Per the Outer Space Treaty, the USG is still responsible for “you” even if the FAA doesn’t care.

  • JamesG

    What did BO do that was important this year?

  • It’s a complex matter in the absence of explicit regulatory authority of the FAA to oversee space operations. Although our “Mission Approval” proposal was reviewed and finally approved through a path of an enhanced Payload Review process of the FAA AST launch licensing procedure, it was our decision strategy to try such a path following months of interagency consultations on our proposed framework designed to fill the regulatory gap for our 2017 mission needs. i.e. there was/is no process that says a Payload Review is the path for commercial mission authorizations, we just proposed it and followed it after receiving interagency consensus that it was plausible.

    The determination supporting our 2017 lunar mission rendered by the FAA was actually an interagency approval, built on a hard won consensus between many federal agencies, including the FAA, State Department, NASA, DoD, NOAA and OSTP, each of which holds a piece of the puzzle.

    FAA published a Fact Sheet that has details of the determination, its process, and the authorities cited for its rendering:

    https://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=20595

    We’re very appreciative of all the hard work by so many agencies to reach this critical determination for us, and although the decision is exclusive to Moon Express and our 2017 lunar mission, we believe it will have a positive impact on future deliberations toward a permanent fix, needed to create regulatory certainty for our company and others wanting to expand the sphere of commercial space activity beyond traditional Earth orbit operations.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    I’ll channel Doug here. First, if Moon Express pulls off a ‘successful’ lunar landing next year, it WILL NOT be the first commercial company to achieve the feat of sending a spacecraft to the moon. That accomplishment belongs to Hughes Corporation (defunct) which redirected one of its comsats to fly past the moon to help it into GEO.
    Search the web. As far as Moon Express RELYING on a New Zealand rocket to get it there? That New Zealand rocket has only flown suborbital to date. Time is running out.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    I have to correct myself: Rocket Labs of NZ has yet to test launch its booster.