Moon Express Hires VP of Government Affairs

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Moon Press PR) — Moon Express announced today that it has hired Ben Roberts as its Vice President of Government Affairs. Roberts will oversee legal, policy, regulatory, and compliance functions for the company. He brings over nine years of experience working for the Executive Office of the President, including roles at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Roberts was most recently the Assistant Director, Civil and Commercial Space, for OSTP, where he led the design and implementation of civil and commercial space policies and initiatives on behalf of the Executive Office of the President.

Prior to joining OSTP, he spent several years at OMB, where he served as a program examiner in the Commerce and Science/Space branches, and as a Special Assistant in the Office of the OMB Director. During his time in Science/Space Branch, Roberts was responsible for formulating budget requests and implementing Administration initiatives relating to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) human spaceflight program.

Roberts is an expert on space policy and issues relating to human spaceflight and space technology programs, regulation of the commercial space industry, and international cooperation in space. He holds a M.P.P (Science and Technology Policy) from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, and a B.A. (Economics) from Carleton College.

“We are thrilled to have Ben join Moon Express,” said company Founder & CEO, Bob Richards. “While at the White House, he was instrumental in helping pioneer our regulatory lunar mission approval. His unique experience and credentials will fortify our Washington operations and help lead the company to success.”

“I am excited to join the private sector at this pivotal time for our nation’s space program,’ said Roberts. “Moon Express has distinguished itself as a pioneering commercial space company on many fronts, and I am thrilled and honored to join their extraordinary efforts to build new economic pathways to the Moon and beyond.”

Moon Express is partnered with NASA under the Lunar CATALYST Program, developing new lander technologies supporting a U.S. return to the lunar surface, and in 2016 became the first company in history to receive U.S. government authorization for a commercial mission beyond Earth orbit and to the Moon

The Moon Express vision is to collapse the cost of access to the Moon with robotic explorers and unlock its mysteries and resources for scientific and economic development.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    It’d be nice to see some hardware, Moon Express. Anything.

  • ThomasLMatula

    It looks like they are finally moving beyond the Google X-Prize hype and becoming serious.

  • You talk about what you think is most important. Obviously, they think a VP of Gov’t Affairs is more important than building and showing hardware.

  • Jimmy, Jeff, building the business and building hardware are both important. In 2014-15, we developed and hot fired new rocket engines & built and flew a lander test vehicle at KSC, and these were significant achievements for us. But in late 2015, the biggest risk to our business opportunity became regulatory issues, so we had to blaze that political/policy trail otherwise our business plan was neither possible nor fundable. Working for over half a year with the White House, State Dept, FAA, and other federal agencies, we achieved a temporary solution, but only for us, only for our first mission, and with no guarantee that it could be done again. The challenge of a permanent regulatory framework that will allow private companies to conduct business outside of traditional Earth orbit has not yet been achieved. Private missions to the Moon, Mars, asteroids or anywhere else BEO can’t happen without it. Freedom of enterprise in space is not a given; we have to work hard to forge new policies and laws that enable it.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Bob, thanks for your candid feedback – I’m admittedly naive when it comes to the regulatory aspects of cislunar enterprise.

    Given the amount of effort that you’ve put into regulatory issues on not only your behalf, but for the industry as a whole, do you see Moon Express pivoting away from hardware to more interface services? I’m trying to find a word for it or analogy in other another industry – lobbyist comes to mind, but that has negative connotations.Thanks!

  • Aerospike

    Thank you for taking your time to respond to comments here. I would never have expected to read a comment directly from one of the founders/CEOs of any of the companies that are usually discussed here!

  • duheagle

    In fairness, I think that happened quite some time ago.

    Mr. Richards is also quite right about the dog’s breakfast that is space-related regulation these days.

  • windbourne

    Bob, any update on when you folks are going to the moon?

  • Nope, I’ll be happy to spend less time in Washington, and that’s why we hired Ben :). It’s still ultimately all about the hardware (and software), but the critical path is a multi-body challenge to navigate.

  • 2018 is still looking realistic.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, one of the to-do items for the National Space Council is to provide guidelines and authority for the FAA CST to license the entire mission, not just launch and return. That was the problem the late Dennis Laurie ran into with Transorbital’s lunar mission.

    He was told privately they wouldn’t give Transorbital the NOAA license to image the Earth and ITAR approval if he went near any of the existing Surveyor, Luna or Apollo landing sites, but they didn’t have the technical authority to refuse any licenses on those grounds. But Transorbital didn’t have either the resources or desire to push the matter in court to resolve it. Instead they just agreed and received their permits to go.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I am glad that you are staying the course. I have watched various private groups try to work the problem since the 1980’s and have been involved in a couple of efforts. But it is indeed a challenge to bring all the elements together in a business model.

    The only other firm I saw that came close was the International Lunar Observatory, but then the X-Prize Foundation grabbed Google to pursue this “prize” model for half the cost and killed any hope for it funding the ILO.

    It was also sad to see the bust pull the rug out from under “Blast-Off” with Idea Labs losing on it’s other ventures.

  • Thomas, I’ve been on the board of the International Lunar Observatory Association since it’s founding in 2007… (10th anniversary board meeting coming up!). I don’t recall a Google connection, but the ILO effort is alive and well. ILOA and Moon Express have been working together on technology development, and we announced a 2019 mission collaboration earlier this year. Yes, BlastOff! was indeed a pioneering effort by some incredible people. In many ways that legacy lives on.

  • ThomasLMatula

    That is good as BlastOff! had some good ideas. I remember Steve Durst saying something about Google once. It would have been a logical match for them given their interest in education.

  • windbourne

    Good luck to you folks.
    I’m guessing that It will not be a total disaster if you fail, but if you succeed, no doubt it will seriously push new space assault on the moon.

  • duheagle

    As I noted on a different thread, 2018 is shaping up to be an even better year for SpaceX than 2017 has been but I think that will apply to commercial space in general. I fully expect to see a lot of commercial space firsts next year achieved by numerous other players.