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)
Millions around the world joined #ClimateStrike — demanding bold climate action
Masses of children skipped school Friday to join a global strike against climate change that teen activist Greta Thunberg said was "only the beginning" in the fight against environmental disaster.
Some four million people filled city streets around the world, organizers said, in what was billed as the biggest ever protest against the threat posed to the planet by rising temperatures.
Youngsters and adults alike chanted slogans and waved placards in demonstrations that started in Asia and the Pacific, spread across Africa, Europe and Latin America, before culminating in the United States where Thunberg rallied.
Trump announces new sanctions on Iran — and deploys US troops to the Middle East
The United States announced Friday that it was sending military reinforcements to the Gulf region following attacks on Saudi oil facilities that it attributes to Iran, just hours after President Donald Trump ordered new sanctions on Tehran.
Trump said the sanctions were the toughest-ever against another country, but indicated he did not plan a military strike, calling restraint a sign of strength.
The Treasury Department renewed action against Iran's central bank after US officials said Tehran carried out weekend attacks on rival Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, which triggered a spike in global crude prices.
‘Do a lot of stupid sh*t as quickly as possible’: Ambassador Power breaks down ’The Trump Doctrine’
The former ambassador to the United Nations explained "The Trump Doctrine" during a Friday evening interview with comedian Bill Maher on HBO's "Real Time."
Samantha Power, the author of the new book, The Education of an Idealist, was asked by Maher about the foreign policy mantra of the Obama administration.
"Obama's foreign policy doctrine was famously summarized as 'don't do stupid sh*t," Maher noted. "Trump's, of course, is 'Do stupid sh*t.'"
"Do stupid sh*t as quickly as possible," Power clarified.