Lunar parking permits (1)

Do you need special permission to land something on the moon?

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Google recently announced its sponsorship of the Lunar X Prize, which $20 million to the first private firm to land a on the moon by the end of . Will these companies need special to put something on the moon?

Not exactly. You do need a permit to anything into space from Earth. Governments supervise private space activity through the provided by the Outer Space Treaty of , which has been signed by , all of the major space-faring countries.

In the US, various government agencies follow private activities in , but the bulk of the oversight comes through the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of . Any American citizen who wants to launch a rocket or other kind of spacecraft into orbit must obtain from the .
The Office spends up to six months vetting launch plans for potential to the public that could if something went awry — like falling or the formation of a from an explosion. During the review of an application, the FAA also investigates whether a plan with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The few other countries with commercial space sectors, like Brazil, , and Russia, require permission from a governmental equivalent of the FAA, and the for Outer Space Affairs maintains a of international space regulations. In the case of a multinational launch, a team would have to authorization from all of the countries involved.

By controlling launches into space, a government can to regulate what happens there.