09 August, 2016
The United States government has given a private American company permission to send a commercial flight to the moon.
Moon Express, Inc. plans to send a robotic lander to the moon. The vehicle has been reported to be the size of the R2-D2 robot from the Star Wars movie series.
"It's a huge milestone for us," said Bob Richards, who heads Moon Express.
Until now, private space exploration companies have limited their activities to Earth's orbit.
Moon Express hopes to begin flights to the moon in 2017, the year in which Google, the technology company, presents its Lunar X Prize. The prize will go to the first privately-funded business to land a vehicle on the moon.
Moon Express joined the race to the moon in 2012. There are now 16 other companies in the competition.
Other private companies and individuals would like to explore space. SpaceX, an American aerospace company, has announced plans to launch its "Red Dragon" spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. Another company, Planetary Resources, is making plans to mine asteroids for minerals.
Moon Express has said it wants to mine for minerals on the moon.
I'm Anne Ball.
The staff at VOA News wrote this story. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
milestone – n. a very important event
asteroids – n. any one of thousands of small planets that circle around the sun
commercial – adj. concerned with or involving trade, business
funded – adj. financed; provided with money for a special purpose