|Moon Express unique torus bus approaches lunar vicinity in notional representation [Moon Express].|
For the first time ever, a private company has permission to land on the moon.
The U.S. government has officially approved the planned 2017 robotic lunar landing of California-based Moon Express, which aims to fly commercial missions to Earth's nearest neighbor and help exploit its resources, company representatives announced today .
"This is not only a milestone, but really a threshold for the entire commercial space industry," Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards told Space.com.
Previously, companies had been able to operate only on or around Earth. The new approval, while exclusive to Moon Express, could therefore serve as an important regulatory guide for deep-space commercial activity in general, Richards said.
"Nobody's had a deep-sea voyage yet. We're still charting those waters," he said. "Somebody had to be first."
Moon Express submitted an application to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on April 8. The document then made its way through the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission, Richards said.
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