Moon Express, the lunar exploration venture backed by Seattle tech entrepreneur Naveen Jain, says it’s asking the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a payload review of its spacecraft and plans for a mission to the moon in 2017.
The request is aimed at heading off regulatory uncertainty about the mission, which is aimed at winning the Google Lunar X Prize.
Moon Express ranks among the front-runners in the $30 million competition, which calls for teams to send landers to the moon, travel along the surface and send back real-time video by the end of next year.
Such a feat would represent a first for commercial space ventures, but because it’s unprecedented, it’s not fully clear what kind of regulatory go-ahead would be required for a U.S.-based company. So far, only governmental space programs have sent probes beyond Earth orbit.