The US government has given a Silicon Valley-based company permission to send a robotic lander to the moon next year for a two-week mission.
This is the first time a private space mission has been cleared to fly beyond Earth’s orbit, almost half a century since Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon’s surface.
Moon Express is competing in the Google Lunar Xprize competition, which has a prize of $30m. It is up against US rival Astrobotic and India’s Team Indus.
“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,” said Bob Richards, co-founder and chief executive of Moon Express.
The go-ahead for Moon Express sets a legal and regulatory framework for other companies to plan similar missions.