WASHINGTON – The federal government for the first time has given permission to a private Florida company to fly a spaceship beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the moon.
The Federal Aviation Administration gave clearance Wednesday to Moon Express to land a washing machine-size vehicle on the moon that would take hops across the lunar surface using engine firings instead of roving on wheels.
“Why crawl when you can fly,” said Moon Express CEO Bob Richards. He called the company’s planned lunar ship a “single-stage hot rod of space.”
Cape Canaveral-based Moon Express plans to launch late next year, probably out of New Zealand, on a rocket that has yet to fly, Richards said. The $10 million flight is the first of many planned missions where they hope to make money extracting lunar resources, like platinum, and selling moon dust and rock collectibles, he said.
Getting the OK – not technically a license but a determination that it would do no harm and the company can go ahead – “is a milestone and it is not implausible that they will succeed,” said retired space policy expert John Logsdon of George Washington University.
The company is also competing with several other groups for the Google Lunar X Prize. The $20 million prize will go to the first private firm to get a lander to the moon that can then move a bit.
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