A Florida-based company won U.S. government permission on Wednesday to send a robotic lander to the moon next year, the firm’s founder said, marking the first time the United States has cleared a private space mission to fly beyond Earth’s orbit.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s unprecedented go-ahead for the Moon Express mission also sets a legal and regulatory framework for a host of other commercial expeditions to the moon, asteroids and Mars.
As approved by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, the privately held Moon Express, headquartered in Cape Canaveral, plans to fly a suitcase-sized lander to the moon for a two-week mission in 2017, said the company founder and chief executive Bob Richards.
The spacecraft will carry a number of science experiments and some commercial cargo on its one-way trip to the lunar surface, including cremated human remains, and will beam back pictures and video to Earth, the company said.
Before now, no government agency was recognized as having authority to oversee private missions beyond Earth’s orbit, though a 1967 international treaty holds the United States responsible for any flights into space by its non-government entities.
So far, only government agencies have flown spacecraft beyond the orbit of the Earth.
To address the conundrum, the FAA, which already exercises jurisdiction over commercial rocket launches in the United States, led an interagency review of the Moon Express proposal, which included steps the company would take to ensure compliance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
“It’s been a very steep mountain,” Richards said in a telephone interview. “We had to lay the track at the same time that we wanted to do the mission.”
Other companies are expected to soon follow the same framework.
Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of Space Exploration Technologies, plans to fly a spacecraft to Mars in 2018, a mission that raises a host of issues dealing with protecting potential indigenous life on the planet from contamination by Earth microbes.
Among other private space ventures in the works are missions to mine asteroids, operate science labs and repair and service satellites.
Planetary protection is less of a concern on the moon, but Moon Express did have to contend with concerns about disturbing Apollo and other historic lunar landing sites, among other issues.
“We proposed a scenario that built on the existing FAA mission-approval framework,” Richards said.
NASA and other agencies, including the Defense, State and Commerce departments, ultimately agreed that no new law was necessary, Richards said.
As part of the agreement, NASA will advise, but not regulate, Moon Express activities on the lunar surface.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Andrew Hay)
Progressive reformer claims victory in fiercely-contested Queens DA race
Progressive reformer Tiffany Cabán has declared victory in her campaign versus Melinda Katz in the Queens District Attorney race.
With 99% of precincts reporting, Cabán held a lead of 1,090 votes, The New York Times reports.
Cabán was backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Katz was backed by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who chairs the Queens Democratic Party, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
New 2020 poll shows Trump trailing all Democrats — some by double-digits
President Donald Trump trails all of his Democratic rivals in hypothetical matchups of the 2020 presidential race, according to the result of a new poll released Tuesday.
The survey, conducted by Emerson Polling, found that the president lags behind former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., by 10 points nationally — 45 percent to 55 percent. He also trails Sen. Elizabeth Warren by six points — 47 percent to 53 percent —and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg by four points — 48 percent to 52 percent.
Beto O’Rourke’s ‘war tax’ policy proposal is straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Amid an overcrowded Democratic presidential candidate field, it's hard to distinguish yourself from the pack if you don't slot easily into the scale that runs from "pro-corporate centrist" to "left-populist." If you're former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke — who falls somewhere in the middle, politically, and somewhere towards the top, looks-wise — you pull a militaristic policy proposal out of your hat that recalls some of the most campy pseudo-fascist sci-fi ever written.