Moon Express gets FAA approval for Moon landing

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The competition heats up: Moon Express, one of the leading private competitors in the Google Lunar X-Prize, has gotten FAA approval for its planned 2017 Moon landing.

It is looking like 2017-2018 will be very exciting years for private space. We will not only see the first launches of privately-built manned spacecraft, we will see the first privately-built and -funded missions to both the Moon and Mars.



  • Ted

    It’s too bad Google didn’t have the moxie they do now. Way – way – way back a company called Luna Corp along with RadioShack and Microsoft were going to put a rover on the moon.

    Here’s a link (hope it works)

  • Jamie Menzing

    Another example of innovation needing government approval. Others have requested approval from useless bureaucrats and were rejected. Google has paid the right bribes.

  • wodun

    Google has paid the right bribes.

    Nothing space based can happen without massive amounts of lobbying. That needs to change for space based economies to flourish.

  • Edward

    Jamie Menzing,

    Part of what is happening, here, is explained by Dick Eagleson:

    The Outer Space Treaty (OST) is being used as a reason to regulate commercial activity in space, especially where “territory” gets involved. For centuries, international law — or tradition, because at one time there wasn’t any international law — nations would claim territory that they were the first to set a flag into the soil, possession being nine tenths, and all that. The OST made sure that the US did not claim the Moon as its own when Apollo 11 landed there, planting a US flag in the regolith.

    There once was a time that We the People in America were free under a benevolent and small government, but government slowly used parts of the US Constitution, parts that were intended to guarantee that freedom, as the means to reduce that freedom.

    This case resulted in (among other things) farmers not being able to independently decide whether to grow their own feed for their own livestock, because to grow their own feed would affect interstate trade. It is clear in the US Constitution’s Commerce Clause that the federal government may regulate anything that affects interstate trade, “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes” [*** Sarcasm Alert! *** In reality, “affect trade” is not among the clause’s concepts]:

    The increase in regulations and limitations to what We the People can do with our own property — much less space property — makes it much harder to be productive. Mainly because of the bureaucracies rules and regulations and the bribes that you complained about (sometimes they are called fees, fines, or taxes, to avoid that judgmental “bribe” word).

    Government is now doing so much to — er — *for* our industries that it now takes all the credit for the companies that were started by those who are smart enough and work hard enough to start the companies that do the hiring. (1 minute)

    Now government regulates your lunar lander.

    Next we will be hearing: “If you put a lander on the moon, you didn’t get there on your own. You weren’t smart enough and you didn’t work hard enough. Somebody allowed you a permit and a license. If you’ve got a lunar lander, you didn’t build that! Somebody else made that happen.”

    It is not as though governments are perfect at regulation. In the 1970s, it became clear that the most active space faring countries were about to take up all the good geostationary (geosynchronous) satellite spots. The rules that the international regulators set up to allow all countries some access to these valuable spots still create fights over the desirable slots that have no satellites despite the permission for some country/company to use.

    It is not as though governments are perfect at keeping space clean for commercial companies to use. In 2009, a dead Cosmos satellite collided with an active Iridium satellite. Governments in their infinite lack of wisdom have left, over the past half century, a lot of debris in orbit, with the potential for disaster.

    By the way, I think that it is the debris in Earth orbit that will prevent us from building a space elevator, as an inexpensive and easy way to space, for centuries to come. There goes another productive and efficient industry, due to government wisdom! The Moon and Mars might get space elevators, but not Earth.

    Alexis de Tocqueville noted that America in the early 19th century was prosperous and advanced because the people were free to improve themselves, their property, and their communities. Unlike Europe, American government stayed out of the people’s way.

  • “It is looking like 2017-2018 will be very exciting years for private space.”

    “We set sail on these new seas”

    From JFK’s Rice University speech where he proposed ” . . . putting a man on the Moon before this decade is out.”

    Some of the more inspiring words from a politician. Developments in private space are very promising: I hope the barbarians can be held at bay.

  • Wayne

    “FAA Seeks new tools to track spacecraft”

    In brief– Space is taking off (literally & figuratively) and off course, (I wax sarcastically) “your friendly Administrative Agency, the FAA, wants to make sure they know the location and status, of all rockets, airplanes, and drones.
    Don’t worry however, it’s all for your own good, lives are at risk, & if we can just save 1 unnecessary death in space, it will all be worth it.”

    Full article is in Tuesday’s print edition, on-line version unfortunately is behind a paywall, except for the 1st paragraph.
    As a slight tangent– I’m highly leery of the FAA or any other regulatory agency, getting their fingers deeper and deeper into Space, public or private.

    If they follow the pattern; they progressively slip in rules & regulations (Permits & Licenses, etc.) , which on their face appear “reasonable,” (and almost always in the name of “safety” and the “public-good,”) but insidiously serve to eventually & collectively, burden the small actor in Space and favor the more politically-connected or financially-capable.

    Not advocating pure Wild-West laissez-fair type Private-Space, and certain minimal, voluntary, cooperative, Standards are always nice, but if the experience with the Administrative State since the 1930’s, has taught us anything, it’s to be vigilant when increased “regulation” is on the table, for anything.

    These Agencies, have a well documented history of getting their claws into new technology & business-models, and subverting natural free-market forces. The lefties do it to us just for the control-factor, while the Crony’s do it to us, to safeguard their little kingdoms & stifle new entrant’s.

    It appears private-space has stepped up quite well, and venture capital is increasingly flowing, and it all appears to be a truly worldwide activity now.
    >>The only people who can mess this up, are the mastermind Regulators!

    Edward– good stuff.
    (Everyone should know “Wickard v.Filburn.)

  • Edward

    Blair Ivey got it right. Government is not a completely useless institution. We went to the moon, not because it was easy but because it was hard:

    President Kennedy even listed reasons why it was hard technically (from later in the previous video):

    Government chose to go to the moon not because it was altruistic but because it needed to prove that free market capitalism works better than communism. The communist entrant in the space race was already ahead of the free market capitalist entrant, so we needed a goal that was so far advanced that the Russians had to work just as hard as the Americans to do it.

    Now that the technical difficulties have been solved, the difficult part is making the decision to go back, because it can be very expensive. The US hasn’t made that decision. The Russians haven’t made that decision. Private companies have made that decision. Now it is a matter of funding, design, construction, and launch. And government permits.

    We are already in exciting times for private space. These exciting times started when Blue Origin first landed their booster, and the excitement has grown with each success of Blue Origin and SpaceX to land their booster stages, proving that the cost to reach space can be reduced and that commercial companies can be more innovative than government planners. Hopefully, Bigelow Aerospace will soon prove that the cost to operate in space can also be reduced.

    A very exciting next few years in private space, indeed!

  • Dick Eagleson

    Thanks for the shout-out, Edward. I’ve since posted another comment about this subject over there as well.

    I share your concern about potential problems with regulation of space. If it’s a choice between regulation by the U.S. government and regulation by, say, the U.N., though, I know which I prefer. Not the least of the reasons for preferring USG regulation is that, as American private citizens, we have some useful political sway over the nature of that regulation. With international bodies – especially the U.N. – we don’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *