A Suitcase-Sized Lander Just Got Closer to the Moon

Moon Express plans to send lander next year
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2016 3:45 AM CDT
Updated Aug 4, 2016 6:07 AM CDT
First Private Moon Landing Gets Green Light
This image provided by Moon Express shows an illustration of the company's landing vehicle on the surface of the moon.   (Moon Express via AP)

(Newser) – It's one small step for a company, but it could be a giant leap for capitalism. On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration gave a company called Moon Express permission for an unmanned lunar landing, making it the first private company the US has approved for a moon mission, the BBC reports. "In the immediate future we envision bringing precious resources, metals, and moon rocks back to Earth," Moon Express co-founder Naveen Jain says, though the FAA-approved mission, which the company hopes to carry out next year, will only involve sending a lander the size of a suitcase to the moon to beam back images. That will win the company Google's $20 million Lunar XPrize—unless another private organization gets there first.

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Moon Express—which has yet to finish its lander but has made a deal with aerospace company Rocket Lab for a moon launch—says that for now, the FAA permission is a one-time exception, not a precedent for future moon missions, TechCrunch reports. The company, which has agreed to keep its lander away from Apollo landing sites, says sponsorships and private payloads will make their mission profitable. But Jain, a tech entrepreneur, says that the biggest opportunities for private companies of the moon are probably yet to be discovered. "We don't know what the Pokemon Go of the moon is going to be," he tells the New York Times. (China is aiming to get to the dark side of the moon in 2018.)

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