Washington: In a first, the Federal AviationAdministration has given license to a private US company, co-founded by an Indian American, to launch a spacecraft and land on moon in 2017.
This breakthrough US policy decision provides authorisation to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon's surface, the company said in a media release.
There have been no private space missions so far beyond Earth's orbit and only state agencies have performed outer space missions.
"The sky is not the limit for Moon Express, it is the launchpad. 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 said.
"In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals, and moon rocks back to earth," he said.
The company was co-founded in 2010 by space visionary, Dr Bob Richards, Naveen Jain and serial entrepreneur and artificial intelligence and space technology guru, Dr Barney Pell, with the common vision to be at the forefront of commercial space exploration and innovation.
"The Moon Express 2017 mission approval is a landmark decision by the US government and a pathfinder for private sector commercial missions beyond the Earth's orbit," said Richards.
"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," he added.
The federal interagency's approval of the Moon Express 2017 lunar mission establishes an important precedent for the private sector to engage in peaceful space exploration, bringing with it monumental implications for the advancement of technology, science, research, and development, as well as commercial ventures that expand Earth's economic sphere, the company said.
The company submitted its historic application for a 2017 commercial lunar mission to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on April 8th, 2016. While the licensing of 'SpaceShip Two' was an anticipated event, the authorization of the Moon Express flight to the lunar surface was hailed by the Space Foundation as a significant commercial space breakthrough.
"A major milestone has been achieved here for commercial space activities," Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham said. "We applaud Moon Express and the Federal Government for this historic ruling to allow private enterprise to travel beyond Earth's orbit and more fully open a new era of commercial exploration and discovery. We are also delighted to see the doors opened for Virgin Galactic's return to flight," Pulham added.