Moon Express asks FAA to review lunar mission

An artist’s conception shows the Moon Express MX-1 spacecraft orbiting the moon. (Credit: Moon Express)
An artist’s conce[t shows the Moon Express MX-1 lander orbiting the moon. (Credit: Moon Express)
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.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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