The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 requires private companies to ask permission to the government of their home country for space missions that go beyond the Earth's atmosphere. This week Moon Express became the first company ever to be granted permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch a robotic spacecraft to the Moon.
Next year, Moon Express intends to launch a small probe to the moon by using the Electron launch vehicle from Rocket Lab. The probe will only be about the size of a suitcase, it will contain instruments and a camera to explore the lunar surface.
If the mission succeeds, it will be the first private mission to another celestial body.
Moon Express has a contract with Rocket Lab USA for 3 lunar missions between 2017 and 2020. They are the first private company to receive permission to go to the moon. "Moon Express applauds efforts underway by the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch to establish a permanent regulatory framework to authorize commercial activities beyond Earth orbit," said Moon Express cofounder and CEO Bob Richards. "Our 'Mission Approval' process is an interim arrangement that can be implemented quickly enough for our 2017 launch requirements, allowing us to continue to execute on our business plans under U.S. law while ensuring our activities are consistent with U.S. obligations under the Outer Space Treaty."