Continuing this century’s theme of private companies going where NASA won’t, a new Florida-based startup is officially headed for the moon. Moon Express, a small company in Cape Canaveral, received their final approval from the federal government to put their own lander on the moon. It’s been over 40 years since NASA has ventured to the moon in any capacity. After the excitement of the Cold War-era space race died down, interest in exploring our own moon has dwindled in favor of more interesting locations like Mars or Europa.
Moon Express is aiming to complete their mission before the end of next year as a part of Google’s Lunar X competition. The competition is meant to encourage innovators to find new cost-effective methods of exploring our universe. The prize for the first private company to make it to the moon before the end of 2017 is worth $20 million. There is still a lot of work to be done before the lander is ready to fly, but Moon Express is the first to gain authorization from the FAA for their flight.
Since the bulk of NASA’s funding goes towards their ultimate goal of bringing people to Mars, there is now plenty of room in the space exploration industry for private companies to pick up the slack in other areas. SpaceX, a company valued at over $12 billion, has been on the forefront of private space travel and currently has a contract with NASA to handle supply missions for the International Space Station. Hopefully, the Lunar X Prize will allow smaller companies with less funding to get on board and someday make space travel more feasible.
The Lunar X prize was established in 2007, with an original deadline set for 2012, but several obstacles prevented anyone from accomplishing the feat. There are now 16 companies in the running to reach the moon by the new December 31, 2017 deadline.