Someon’s ashes are about to go on a wild ride
Credit: Moon Express
On Wednesday, the U.S. government officially authorized the first trip to the moon by a private company. According to Reuters, the Florida-based space flight company, Moon Express, got the go-ahead from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation to take a small lander to the moon during a one-way, two-week mission.
Aboard the compact spacecraft will be scientific materials as well as commercial cargo including the ashes of an individual whose identity has yet to be revealed to the public. Scheduled to launch sometime in 2017, the company also has plans to send video and pictures of our moon back to Earth.
Before this mission was proposed, only government-run programs have flown beyond the Earth’s orbit and monitored space travel. It wasn’t until an international treaty was passed in 1967 that the U.S. became legally responsible for any and all space exploration conducted by its citizens.
But getting that approval from the FAA has not been easy says Bob Richards, the founder and CEO of Moon Express. In an interview with Reuters, Richards said, “It’s been a very steep mountain. We had to lay the track at the same time that we wanted to do the mission.”
Though, to be clear, Moon Express won’t be the only private company to get a stunning view of our planet in the near future. As early as 2018, Space Exploration Technologies (founded by space innovation giant Elon Musk) plans to land a spacecraft on Mars. And trips to the moon and Mars only mark the beginning of private space travel, with missions to mine asteroids and aging satellites also in the works.
As space travel becomes more advanced, private companies along with traditional, government-operated agencies will have to work together to improve on parallel platforms. Richards has already run into this problem, saying his company had to take the Apollo landing site into consideration while planning their mission and that they “proposed a scenario that built on the existing FAA mission-approval framework.” While NASA, along with other government agencies, will advise Moon Express and other independent space explorers, Richards says they will not regulate their activities.
No doubt it will be exciting to see humans back on the moon and beyond. But in the meantime, we’ll just have to keep our imaginations active with the thought of cremated remnants traveling to space in our stead.