Moon Express has officially become the first private company in the world to receive permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit. After months of conversations with government officials, the company received the green light from the FAA to venture to the moon in 2017.
“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.” Bob Richards, Co-founder and CEO of Moon Express
The announcement marks an important milestone for private companies in the space industry because, so far, all commercial space activities have been limited to operations within Earth’s orbit.
Moon Express was born out of the Google Lunar X-PRIZE, an international contest with $30 million up for grabs for a private company who can soft-land on the Moon and travel across its surface.
If successful, Moon Express will become the fourth entity in history to soft-land on the Moon. The first three were all superpowers – United States, U.S.S.R. and China – while Moon Express is privately funded and comprised of 26 entrepreneurs and engineers.
It’s important to note that the permission given to Moon Express doesn’t necessarily set a precedent for other companies. Naveen Jain, co-founder of Moon Express, told TechCrunch that this permission is a one-time exception for their company. Jain stated the U.S. government plans to take future requests to travel beyond Earth’s orbit on a case by case basis until laws governing this activity can be passed.
Moon Express was helped by the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act . If this is the start of a trend, the opportunities will be limitless:
…“We don’t start a company to win a prize. Winning the Google Lunar X-PRIZE would just be the icing on the cake. We choose to go to the moon because it’s good business.”
In the future, the company expects to make money by harvesting resources on the Moon, like water and Helium-3, creating a fuel depot on the surface and eventually performing round-trip missions with the capability of bringing payloads back to the Earth. By the end of the year, Moon Express plans to double their employee base to over 50 people.
Jain told TechCrunch that he believes this is just the beginning of private companies’ presence in deep space and that the way people will make money in space is only limited by our imagination.