House Space Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Private Lunar Exploration

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

House Subcommittee on Space Hearing
Private Sector Lunar Exploration

Thursday, September 7, 2017 – 10:00am
2318 Rayburn House Office Building)

Hearing Purpose

NASA is supporting private sector exploration of the Moon through various programs. The private sector is also investing their own funding in the hopes of serving a future market for transportation, cargo delivery, and surface operations (including in situ resource utilization). Moon Express plans to launch a mission to the Moon later this year or early next year. Astrobotic recently announced a mission in 2019. Blue Origin disclosed its “Blue Moon” concept last spring. The United Launch Alliance and SpaceX have also indicated plans to operate in cislunar space in the near-future. The Hearing will review these efforts, and NASA’s role, in order to better understand the challenges and opportunities that they present.


  • Mr. Jason Crusan, director, Advanced Exploration Systems, NASA
  • Mr. Bob Richards, founder and CEO, Moon Express, Inc.
  • Mr. John Thornton, chief executive officer, Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
  • Mr. Bretton Alexander, director of business development and strategy, Blue Origin
  • Dr. George Sowers, professor, space resources, Colorado School of Mines


  • ThomasLMatula

    Great! Two things are needed. First the FAA AST needs to have its authority expanded to include licensing all space activities, not merely launch and landing, so it may implement the Space Resources Act of 2015.

    The second thing would to be to provide NASA with the authority to purchase data and samples from the commercial missions.

    One thing you could be sure won’t be discussed at all with be the Moon Treaty that some European space advocates living in the 1970’s are still trying to promote. That is a dead issue in all the space faring nations.

  • Tom Billings

    The Luxembourg law seemed to me to have a lot more to do with establishing pecking order inside their own elites, in regards who would be leading any push into Space and assigning any funding, than it did with Space Resources.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, as a Code Law nation they need to establish who is responsible for what, unlike the U.S. which is a Common Law nation. But the key is that experts at the University of Luxembourg confirm the work of the U.S. State Department that nations, and their nationals, are free to extract and own space resources. In short, no international regime are needed to move forward in space.

  • windbourne

    We also need to have NASA bring 2 or more habitats to the ISS and vet them. Basically, to support 3 human launchers, we really need to have 2 or more space stations, followed by putting humans on the moon.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Why? NASA didn’t vet Skylab, they just launched it. And they didn’t vet the ISS modules on Mir.

    The two subscale prototypes of the BA B330 are still in orbit and holding pressure. And there have been no problems with the BA transhab already on ISS.

    Really, why should commercial firms be forced to go through more testing than NASA? Why the double standard?

    What NASA should just do is contract for X hours of astronaut time at a fixed price per hour for a BA B330 in Lunar Orbit and let BA do the rest of it. If they were will to trust astronauts being on Mir, they should be able to trust an American commercial space station.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    The BA330 life support and station keeping facilities have not been tested.

    Bigelow will be opening BA330 up to the general public. Only NASA astronauts were sent to Skylab.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Neither was Skylab or ISS before they were placed in orbit.

    And Bigelow Aerospace astronauts, probably former NASA astronauts, will be sent to check out and test the B330 before it’s made available to commercial users, foreign government and NASA. No different than a commercial aircraft or boat.

    Or do believe that only NASA test pilots should vet commercial aircraft before the firm’s own pilots fly it?

    Again, you are showing a double standard for space..,

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    I believe in using the ISS, an existing space station, as a life boat. This option was not available for Skylab but is available now. This also allows NASA to keep an independent eye on the testing.

  • ThomasLMatula

    And exactly why does NASA need to keep an independent eye on testing? Is it because American industry is unable to do it right on it own and needs Nanny NASA to watch over it? (LOL)

    The same NASA that rejected the idea that ISS be placed in the same orbit as Mir so it could serve as a lifeboat?

    The same NASA who killed astronauts in Apollo 1 and Challenger
    because they wouldn’t listen to their industry partners who warned them
    of the dangers???

    Again – the double standard 🙂

  • windbourne

    All of the private space stations will want NASA backing in terms of putting NASA astronauts on it, AND having NASA certify them.
    I know that if NASA puts a stamp on them, that my risk are exceptionally low.
    And yes, other nation who want to start their own space program will like seeing a NASA stamp on it.
    Outside of the far right winger in America, the world trusts NASA.

  • windbourne

    If NASA is not willing to use our private space stations, you can bet that other nations will not want it either.
    In addition, even those building private space stations, Bigelow, have said they want NASA backing and certification.

  • savuporo

    > Two things are needed.

    I think you missed one: credible bid by any private enterprise to actually leave earth orbit. The funds, the capabilities and teams, plus any reasonable business case just don’t exist.

    Fun fact: Manfred Memorial Moon Mission of Luxembourg is the first intentionally launched private enterprise BLEO mission. It was .. tiny.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Congress gave the FAA AST the authority to regulate space commerce activities, not NASA. This sounds like mission creep, or even an outright power grab by NASA.

  • ThomasLMatula

    You know many years ago I warned that one of the consequences of COTS and CCP would be that NASA would push out the FAA AST as the default regulator of HSF. It now looks like folks like you are good that the FAA AST is being tossed under the bus by NASA and actually support it taking over commercial HSF certification and regulation…

    But keep in mind it is Congress, not NASA, that has the final call. And yes, it is good a New Space guy like Rep. Bridenstine is taking over at NASA. Maybe he move the agency in a more pro-business direction. Maybe he will get them out of the regulation business before they dig themselves in deeper.

  • windbourne

    I would not call that regulations anymore than NASA doing ccxdev. NASA will make sure these first couple of private HSF vehicles are up to par and then let FAA take over.

    Bigelow and axiom have said that they want to work with NASA and be approved by them. Once they are good, I have little doubt that NASA would get out of the way and faa handle future crafts.

    Sadly, you are missing the reason why they want that due to your hatred for NASA. But I have little doubt that they know what they are doing. After all they are working on it and have talked to other nations.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I don’t hate NASA, don’t put words in my mouth.

    But over the last 30 years I have seen NASA dead end many space commerce ventures. Just look at how it killed RLVs with its X-33/X-34 programs. And don’t get me started on how NASA killed micro-gravity markets for space commerce startups. I would hate to see NASA kill another industry before it is born.

    NASA is great at science, but it’s dismal record on commercial development speaks for itself. Everything it touches costs five to ten times what it should cost to do.