Today marks the first day a commercial space company is allowed to launch beyond Earth’s orbit!
Moon Express‘s journey hasn’t been a particularly easy one due to the nature of its mission. Although it is one of the companies competing for Google’s 30 million dollar Lunar X Prize competition (to be the first private lander on the Moon by 2017), its goals are more concerned about sustainability beyond the X Prize competition. Moon Express plans to use its lander to mine the Moon into the 2020s and with the recent Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, it technically can take whatever it wants without the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) saying anything. This puts the US in a tricky place though, because the US is still responsible for any international agreements (notably the Outer Space Treaty) the private company breaks. However, the FAA is in charge of approving which satellites can launch. Moon Express’s workaround and offer of peace of mind for the US government was to go above and beyond in providing the information required for a launch approval and giving the US some oversight on its mission. This temporary fix to getting Moon Express the approval it needed may be laying the framework for regulations and a future for private companies wanting to venture beyond Earth’s grasp.
Although Moon Express has a ways to go, I look forward to its giant leap for the private space industry as it lands on lunar soil.