Moon Express becomes first company to get approval for private moon shot

Today the FAA and NASA granted the first approval for a moon shot to a private company. Moon Express is competing for Google’s LunarX prize which offers a reward of up to $25 million to the first company that can put a lander on the surface, move the lander 500 yards from the landing spot (in any direction) and send HD video from the surface back to earth. In order to win, the company must complete all three goals by the end of 2017. From CNN Money:

Moon Express already has paying customers for its first moon launch, which will deliver a telescope as well as the ashes of some people who want to be buried on the moon.

Jain said its first probe won’t return to Earth, but that the second trip will be its first round-trip flight. He added that once return trips are standard, lunar flights will have lots of business applications. And, he predicts, private flights will soon transport people to the moon and back…

Moon Express isn’t building the rocket that will take its probe to the moon itself. Instead, it has a contract with another private company, Rocket Lab, which has yet to launch a rocket into orbit. But Jain is confident it will be able to make the flight by the contest deadline at the end of next year.

The text of this story actually tones it down a bit. Moon Express founder Naveen Jain says of the decision to award his company permission to shoot for the moon “that, quoting Joe Biden, is a BFD.”

And when CNN’s Rachel Crane asks Jain why he thinks the moon is good business he replies, “It has been estimated the moon has 16 quadrillion dollars worth of minerals on the moon and any which way you look at it, as someone would say, that’s a shitload of money.”

He also predicts that taking passengers to the moon could be possible in “10 to 15 years.” He says he wants his company to be the first to make a honeymoon on the moon possible.

Obviously he’s probably getting a little ahead of himself with sending newlyweds to the moon but the LunarX prize ends in 16 months. So we’ll know pretty soon whether Moon Express is able to pull this off.