Mars Is Getting Closer By The Year
The US Federal Aviation Administration has just announced that they are in the process of reviewing an application to have an MX-1 lander launch to the Moon next year, land and conduct a series of analyses that will help pave the way to Mars.
Moon Express, a California-based space company, hopes to launch by 2017 via a Los Angeles-based company Rocket Lab’s brand new Electron rocket, using the MX-1 lander which is powered by sunlight and hydrogen peroxide rocket fuel to explore the surface of the Moon over a two-week period in 2017.
Moon Express co-founder Bob Richards says, “the coffee table-sized lander is equipped with everything it needs to drill into the surface of the Moon, collect samples, and fly them back home for analysis.”
If the proposal is approved, Moon Express will likely be free to investigate the potential of ‘Moon mining’, for such materials as platinum group metals, rare earth elements, and Helium-3, the latter which could be a safer nuclear fuel alternative however must abide by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which stipulates that weapons cannot be tested anywhere beyond Earth’s orbit, and forbids “anyone from sending a mission, robot or human, close to a water source in the fear of contaminating it with life from Earth”.
The FAA itself disclosed that it is still ironing out the approval process, but it’s working to ensure that a “mechanism is in place that permits emerging commercial space operations, such as the one that Moon Express has publicly commented on”.
Although it could take weeks to months before the decision is made public, representatives from Moon Express said they could not elaborate on the “groundbreaking developments”, but they were “very optimistic” about the proposal.
If approved, this would be the first time a private enterprise – not a nation – has launched a mission beyond Earth’s orbit, a precedent that would be huge, potentially opening up space exploration to anyone in the world who has the funds and the expertise.