Skip to main content

U.S. government approves first-ever moon landing for a private venture

For the first time, the U.S. government has granted regulatory approval for a commercial company to travel beyond Earth and land on the Moon.

The historic authorization was granted to Moon Express, one of sixteen private enterprises vying for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a competition that will award $30 million to the first privately funded team to land a rover on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and send high-definition images and video back to Earth.

Founded in August 2010 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Naveen Jain, Barney Pell, and Bob Richards, MoonEx has expressed intent to develop a low-cost spacecraft and mine the Moon for resources in an effort to “expand Earth’s economic sphere.”

In a press release announcing the authorization, CEO Bob Richards said, “The recent discovery of water on the Moon is an economic game changer for humanity’s future. Water is the oil of the solar system, and the Moon has become a gas station in the sky.”

Chairman Naveen Jain added, “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.”

An interagency review team led by the Federal Aviation Administration officially approved the company’s mission with the release of a fact sheet Wednesday. “The FAA has determined that the launch of the payload does not jeopardize public health and safety, safety of property, U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, or international obligations of the United States,” the agency wrote.

Conveniently stationed in Cape Canaveral, Florida, MoonEx has already passed the XPRIZE’s milestones of developing landing and imagining technology, earning the firm a total of $1.25 million in prize winnings. The team has yet to complete its Moon lander.

Perhaps more importantly though, the company is one of just two that have secured verified launch contracts. The other fourteen teams have until the end of 2016 to secure such contracts in order to avoid being disqualified from the competition.

The MoonEx launch is scheduled aboard a Rocket Lab rocket in the second half of 2017.

Editors' Recommendations

Dyllan Furness
Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer from Florida. He covers strange science and emerging tech for Digital Trends, focusing…
The U.S. Space Force launched its first nuclear-ready ballistic missile test
space force test launched unarmed ballistic missile new leader visits crew at cavalier air station

The U.S. Space Force (USSF) quietly conducted its first test launch of an unarmed nuclear-capable ballistic missile overnight across the Pacific Ocean. 

The intercontinental ballistic missile launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 12:33 a.m. PT on Wednesday, February 5. The missile traveled about 4,200 miles before landing around the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to Gizmodo. This is the first launch since the USSF became the sixth branch of the military in December. 

Read more
Scientists come up with a method to make oxygen from moon dust
Artist impression of activities in a Moon Base.

The moon is covered in fine, delicate dust called regolith which sticks to absolutely everything and causes all sorts of technical problems. But it is an abundant resource, and plans for making use of it include melting it with lasers to use for 3D printing or packing it into bricks to build habitats. Now, the European Space Agency (ESA) has come up with a different use for the tricky substance: Turning it into oxygen which could be used by lunar explorers for breathing and for the production of fuel.

Moon regolith is known to contain about 40 to 50% oxygen by weight, but it is bound in the form of oxides so it's not immediately usable. Researchers at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) have been investigating ways to extract this oxygen using a technique called molten salt electrolysis. The regolith is placed in a metal basket along with molten calcium chloride salt and heated to a high temperature, then an electric current is passed through it so the oxygen can be extracted. A bonus of this method is that it also produces usable metal alloys as a by-product.

Read more
The U.S. government issues warning to install this emergency Windows update
microsoft issues emergency windows patch internet explorer 6 768x768

Google Chrome and Firefox might be the most popular web browsers, but a small percentage of Windows users are still depending on Microsoft's older Internet Explorer browser. If that covers you, then Microsoft is now urging you to install an emergency patch as soon as possible in order to avoid possible malicious attacks from hackers.

This latest patch corrects an issue with Internet Explorer 9 and 11 in Windows 7, 8.1, and Windows 10 and also Windows Server. Before the patch, hackers could have directed Internet Explorer users to a malicious website, which is able to exploit the scripting engine of the browser. This would have allowed hackers to execute their own code, and eventually, take full control of a victim's PC.

Read more