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Naveen Jain’s ‘Moon Express’ cleared for first commercial launch

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The Florida-based startup got permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to send a robotic lander to the moon, the first-ever private company to secure the go-ahead.

The Florida-based startup got permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to send a robotic lander to the moon, the first-ever private company to secure the go-ahead.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — For the first time in U.S. history, the government will allow a commercial venture to travel and explore beyond the earth’s orbit — Moon Express, a private company co-founded and funded by Indian billionaire entrepreneur Naveen Jain, has been approved for a mission to the moon.

By next year, the California-based company hopes to fly a commercial mission to the lunar surface in exploration of valuable resources that could be utilized back on earth. Scientists believe the moon to be filled with large amounts of iron ore, water and other precious metals believed to be worth trillions of dollars.

A plethora of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and helium-3 are also believed to be on the moon.

“This is not only a milestone, but really a threshold for the entire commercial space industry,” Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards told Space.com.

The process to obtain government approval took some time, according to Richards, since there wasn’t any real clue how to address such a proposal, he said. In April, Moon Express filed an application with the FAA, slowly making its way out to other federal departments, including NASA and the Department of Defense.

“Getting this approval shows what a few entrepreneurs are capable of,” said Chairman Naveen Jain. “It’s a good first step for commercial space pioneers.”

Moon Express stands to benefit from substantial gains if the mission is a success — the company would be awarded $20 million as part of Google’s Lunar XPrize competition if the commercial vehicle makes its landing, moves 1,640 feet across the moon, and manages to send high-definition pictures and video back to Earth.

The second team to achieve the goal receives a $5 million prize. There are currently 16 teams vying for first place.

“We’re still shooting for the end of 2017,” Richards said of the maiden MX-1 moon mission. “A lot has to go right, but at least we have a shot at our moon shot, given this regulatory approval.”

Moon Express plans to blast off next year, carrying six payloads for a variety of customers, including Google, the International Lunar Observatory, Celestis, the University of Maryland, and the National Laboratories of Frascati, Italy. Their spacecraft will be equipped with a “mooncam,” which will provide views of the lunar surface.

Google intends to broadcast the images captured through YouTube.

NASA will also send at least one payload on the Moon Express mission. Dr. Christopher McKay, a NASA Ames Center astrobiologist, will be sending an incubated mustard seed to study how plants could be cultivated in the moon’s low gravity and high radiation environment.

“Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children,” Jain said in a recent statement. “In 15 years, the moon will be an important part of Earth’s economy, and potentially our second home.”

The company will be given the choice of two launch sites — Space Launch Complex 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral or a site owned by Rocket Lab in New Zealand.

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