The Federal Aviation Administration has given the green light for a private Florida company to fly a spacecraft to the moon.
This is first time that the FAA has granted clearance for a private company's commercial mission to fly to the moon. Moon Express, the Cape Canaveral-based start-up, intends send a spacecraft to the moon next year.
"The sky is not the limit for Moon Express -- it is the launchpad. This breakthrough ruling is another giant leap for humanity. Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children," Naveen Jain, co-founder and chairman of Moon Express, Inc., said in a statement.
"In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals, and Moon rocks back to Earth. In 15 years, the Moon will be an important part of Earth's economy, and potentially our second home. Imagine that."
The spacecraft that Moon Express intends to send to the moon, the MX-1E, can transfer from Earth's orbit to the moon, make a soft landing and then hop around on the lunar surface, according to the FAA.
The FAA also announced that it has "determined that the launch of the payload does not jeopardize public health and safety, safety of property, U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, or international obligations of the United States."
Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express, added in a statement today, "The Moon Express 2017 mission approval is a landmark decision by the U.S. government and a pathfinder for private sector commercial missions beyond the Earth's orbit. We are now free to set sail as explorers to Earth's eighth continent, the Moon, seeking new knowledge and resources to expand Earth's economic sphere for the benefit of all humanity."
Moon Express is working to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, which will award $30 million to a team that is able to land a privately funded rover on the moon, travel 500 meters, and send back high-definition video and images, according to its website.