The curiosity of humans to know “What’s out there” has never been so high in the history of mankind. Aided by advancements in technology and innovation, more and more companies (or startups I should say) are entering space exploration.
Until now however, only government projects have actually been able to go beyond earth’s orbit. Most private companies have been allowed to launch satellites up until the geo-synchronous earth orbit, wherein most private satellites take a round around our planet.
But now, US-based space startup — which came out of the Google Lunar X Prize — Moon Express, has become the first private company to get approved for landing on the moon.
Previously, only three entities have succeeded to soft land their probes on moon. All of them were Government space agencies of the US, USSR, and China. And Moon Express will be the fourth and the first private entity to send a mission on the moon. Moon Express co-founder Bob Richards said on this historic milestone,
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.
The US government, comprising of entities like U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission, reviewed the request of Moon Express and finally gave it a green signal.
The mission will take place in 2017 under which it will send a suitcase-sized lander to the moon. They will use a rocket made by another startup called Rocket Labs. Interestingly, Rocket Labs also has not launched any commercial missions.
The company also hopes to win $20 million of Google Lunar X-prize — an international contest to reward any privately funded mission to soft-land on the moon. However, there are more significant things which Moon Express intends to do.
In future, it is planning to harvest resources like water and Helium-3 on the moon. It will also create a fuel depot on its surface with an aim to perform round trip missions and bring payloads back to the earth.
Talking about the same, co-founder and Chairman Naveen Jain said in a statement,
Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children. 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.
Moreover, Moon Express expects the upcoming mission to be profitable as well, thanks to sponsorships and private payloads. NASA could also send a paid scientific payload with the mission.
Previously, private companies were only allowed to carry out their operations within the earth’s orbit. Moon Express was the first company to put forward such a request in front of authorities.
Notably, another private company, SpaceX headed by the visionary Elon Musk plans to go even further than the moon. It is reportedly planning a mission to Mars in 2018.