MoonExpress is a California-based privately financed commercial space company. Its mission is to “open up the Moon’s vast resources for humanity, and establish new avenues for commercial space activities beyond Earth’s orbit”.
On 3 August the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it had approved Moon Express’ application to land its MX-1E spacecraft on the lunar surface. This is the first time that a non-governmental organisation has ever been granted permission to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
Gaining FAA authorisation is a significant milestone for Moon Express. They are hoping to win Google’s Lunar X-Prize ‘grand prize’ of $20 million, for being the first team out of the 16 competitors to land a spacecraft on the Moon, have it travel 500 metres and stream video footage back to earth. They have already secured a contract with Rocket Lab USA to take their lander to the Moon. Now that they also have government authorisation, it looks as if they are in with a great chance of winning the prize money.