[Image: Cropped Apollo mission panorama, courtesy Lunar and Planetary Institute, via @Rainmaker1973; view full].
Some lunar news: “The first company to apply for a commercial space mission beyond Earth orbit has just received approval from the federal government,” Ars Technica reports. “As part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition, Moon Express intends to launch a small, single-stage spacecraft to land on the Moon by the end of 2017.”
“We’re opening up the solar system,” company co-founder Bob Richards says, with at least some degree of over-statement.
As the Wall Street Journal suggested back in June, the mission could prove to be merely “the first in an array of for-profit ventures throughout the solar system,” and it is “expected to set important legal and diplomatic precedents for how Washington will ensure such nongovernmental projects comply with longstanding international space treaties.”
There will be a lot to watch for in the next few years, in other words, including the archaeological implications of these missions.
On a vaguely related note, the company’s other cofounder is Naveen Jain, who has what sounds like a pretty amazing private meteorite collection.