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Private Company Requests for U.S. Clearance to Fly to Moon

U.S. officials appear poised to make history by approving the first private space mission to go beyond Earth’s orbit

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The Moon as seen from the Northern Hemisphere. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia commons
  • U.S. government agencies are working on temporary provisions to allow a private company to land a spacecraft on the moon next year
  • This request is a first of its kind, which is why USA does not have any established legal framework in these matters
  • Other countries are moving faster to establish rules for space launches in compliance with international treaties

U.S. government agencies are working on temporary provisions to allow a private company to land a spacecraft on the moon next year in 2017, while Congress weighs a more permanent legal framework to govern future commercial missions into Moon, Mars and other destinations beyond Earth’s orbit, officials said.

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The US Space Shuttle. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Plans by private companies to land spacecraft on the moon or launch them out of Earth’s orbit face legal obstacles because the United States has not put in place regulations to govern space activities, industry and government officials said.

“We do not have formal authority today to deal with what happens on orbit or on other planetary terrestrial bodies. That’s the issue we’re wrestling with,” said George Nield, head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

“What is being looked at right now is a Band-Aid fix because the system is broken,” Nield said at an American Bar Association space law forum in Washington on Wednesday.

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A 1967 international treaty obliges the United States and other signatories to authorize and supervise extraterrestrial activities by its non-government entities. But no U.S. agency has authority to regulate commercial space activities outside of rocket launches, spacecraft re-entries into the atmosphere and operations of telecommunications and remote sensing satellites in Earth orbit.

The issue is coming to a head in part because of a request by Florida-based Moon Express for permission from the U.S. government to land a spacecraft on the moon in 2017. So far, only government agencies have flown satellites beyond Earth’s orbit.

“No commercial company has ever asked to go outside of Earth orbit and go elsewhere before. We’re a pathfinder out of necessity,” Moon Express Chief Executive Bob Richards said in an interview on Monday.

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Richards and Nield declined to comment on what specifically Moon Express is proposing.

Other countries are moving faster to establish rules for space launches in compliance with international treaties. Luxembourg last week announced it was partnering with two U.S. companies interested in mining asteroids and set aside 200 million euros to woo space firms to relocate. The United Arab Emirates also intends to serve as a commercial space haven.

“We don’t want to create an environment where there’s a competitive advantage for payloads to go overseas,” said space attorney Michael Gold, who chairs the FAA’s commercial space advisory panel.

-prepared by Saurabh Bodas (with inputs from Reuters), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter Handle: @saurabhbodas96

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Elon Musk Aims to Send 10 Lakh People to Mars by Year 2050

Musk has already estimated the cost of having a self-sustaining civilization on the Red Planet which is "between $100 billion and $10 trillion"

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Tesla CEO Elon musk, board
Tesla CEO Elon Musk. (VOA)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk aims to send 10 lakh people to Mars by 2050 and in a series of tweets, has revealed how is he going to achieve the daunting task of colonising the Red Planet and make humans beings ‘multiplanetary’.

Throwing more details about his Starship programme, Musk said the rocket would carry many megatons of cargo per year to the Red Planet to prepare Mars for a human presence by mid-century.

“Megatons per year to orbit are needed for life to become multiplanetary,” he tweeted.

“Starship design goal is 3 flights/day avg rate, so over 1,000 flights/year at over 100 tonnes/flight, so every 10 ships yield 1 megaton per year to orbit,” Musk explained to his 30.7 million followers.

The orbital Starship prototype, designed “SN1” is currently under construction at SpaceX’s Texas facility.

“Building 100 Starships/year gets to 1,000 in 10 years or 100 megatons/year or maybe around 100k people per Earth-Mars orbital sync,” the SpaceX CEO further explained.

That translates to a schedule of once every two years when Earth and Mars are closest to one another.

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SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk, left, speaks during an event. VOA

SpaceX’s goal, according to Musk, is to finally send 10 lakh people to Mars by 2050.

In September last year, SpaceX requested NASA to provide it with potential landing sites on the Red Planet.

SpaceX is building the Starship (formerly known as the BFR), a fully reusable vehicle designed to take humans and supplies to Mars.

Also Read: Actress Pooja Bhatt Urges Bollywood on Twitter To Clean Film City

Musk earlier floated the idea that making Mars warmer would be crucial for making it habitable for humans and one way of doing it would be launching thermonuclear weapons in order to create tiny “suns” over the regions.

The idea is to convert any frozen carbon dioxide into gas, thereby engineering a greenhouse gas.

Musk has already estimated the cost of having a self-sustaining civilization on the Red Planet which is “between $100 billion and $10 trillion”.

He arrived at the figure after estimating the approximate future cost of sending a minimum payload to Mars “to nearest order of magnitude”, at $100,000 per tonne. So if building a self-sustaining city on Mars requires a million tonnes of cargo, the cost would be around $100 billion, Musk calculated. (IANS)