Spaceflight venture Moon Express (MoonEx) received approval from the US Government for an unmanned private mission to moon.
It is a first commercial firm to get such Government authorization for private mission beyond earth's orbit.
MoonEx's two-week mission includes sending a 'suitcase-sized lander' to lunar surface, in late 2017.
The mission's spacecraft in its one-way trip will carry science experiments and some commercial cargo.
Aim of the mission
MoonEx, with its multi-launch agreement with Rocket Lab, will launch its MX-1 lander atop Rocket Lab's electron booster. The aim of the mission is to test MX-1's performance and bring back samples from moon.
How the approval came about?
Before the US government's approval to MoonEx, no regulatory framework existed for private space missions outside earth's orbit.
To address this, MoonEx came up with a regulatory patch which the US government could use to oversee its mission to moon.
Other private companies planning to explore outer space (Elon Musk's SpaceEx mission to mars) will follow the same framework.
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Moon Express company brief
Moon Express (MoonEx) began in 2010 as a privately funded commercial space company.
It was founded by Dr.Bob Richards, a space visionary who serves as its CEO, IIT-Roorkee alumnus Naveen Jain, Indian-born technology pioneer and MoonEx's chairman, and Dr.Barney Pell, space technology expert and company's CTO.
The company was formed with a 'vision to be at the forefront of commercial space exploration and innovation'.
Co-founder Naveen Jain's remarks on MoonEx mission
MoonEx Co-founder Naveen Jain who said that the company was keen to explore the possibility of mining on the moon, in a statement said, "Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children".
MoonEx in contention for Google Lunar XPRIZE
MoonEx is one of the 16 teams, contending for Google Lunar XPRIZE.
Set up by Google in 2007, Lunar XPrize is a $30 million international competition to send the first privately funded vehicle to the moon.
The first team to land and get their vehicle moving at least 500 meters on moon's surface, and beam HD videos/photos to earth will win $20 million prize.
341 days to Google Lunar X competition lift-off
The five teams who will compete for Google's Lunar-X prize for landing on the moon now have just 341 days until the day of the launch.
SpaceIL (Israel), MoonExpress (United States), TeamIndus (India), Hakuto (Japan), and SynergyMoon, an international syndicate will be competing for the $20 million prize.
The first to land on the moon and move 500m across the lunar surface would win.
7 teams for private Indian moon mission, 3 from India
According to a statement from TeamIndus, "Teams Callisto, Ears and Kalpana from India, Space4Life from Italy, Lunadome from Britain, Killa Lab from Peru and Regolith Revolution from the US have qualified."
The TeamIndus spacecraft would be launched aboard a PSLV rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.