Washington: The potential of exploiting natural resources on the Moon has stirred interest among US companies, such as Bigelow Aerospace, willing to invest in missions as long as the government provides approval and protections.
Since there is no federal authority regulating private trips to the Moon, companies have sought guarantees from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency that regulates and grants licences to private companies and individuals involved in commercial space transportation.
Bigelow Aerospace "wants to make it possible for individuals, companies and countries to transform the Moon in a dynamic scenario for the imagination and innovation", Michael Gold, the firm's operations and business director in Washington DC, told Efe news agency.
The company, owned by hotel mogul Robert Bigelow, a pioneer in the design of expandable space modules for future colonies, will test one of the living systems aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this year.
Before achieving that goal, however, a legal framework is needed to give investors "at least a minimum of assurances from the US government that their activities will be authorised and protected", Gold said.
The FAA does not have statutory jurisdiction over the Moon, but Bigelow Aerospace contends any activity there should be preceded by licensing to transport people and equipment just as with other commercial space missions.
In December 2013, Bigelow Aerospace sent a letter to FAA which, after consultations with other federal agencies, such as the State Department, Defense Department and NASA, responded in a letter more than one year later in a "pragmatic" fashion the company sees as meaningful.
The FAA said it would use the licensing system under its authority as "the best possible one to protect private sector assets and personnel on the Moon, and to promote a safe and secure environment for companies involved in peaceful commercial activities without interference from other licenses" granted to different firms.
The federal agency, however, does not guarantee the right to claim territory on the Moon, the company said.