The US Government has approved a proposal by private space company Moon Express to send a robotic spacecraft to the Moon next year.

The ruling has allowed the US-based start-up to launch its first trip to the Moon and has opened the way for private companies to conduct lunar exploration and discovery missions.

In order to carry out the mission, Moon Express has already undertaken extensive discussions with the FAA, the White House, the US State Department, Nasa and other federal agencies.

In April, the company submitted its application to FAA for a commercial lunar mission to take place next year.

Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards said: "The Moon Express 2017 mission approval is a landmark decision by the US Government and a pathfinder for private sector commercial missions beyond the Earth's orbit.

"In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals, and Moon rocks back to Earth."

"We are now free to set sail as explorers to Earth's eighth continent, the Moon, seeking new knowledge and resources to expand Earth's economic sphere for the benefit of all humanity."

The commercial companies have so far not been allowed to carry out operations beyond Earth's orbit, and only governments have sent missions to other planets.

The interagency approval has been given after Moon Express submitted its lunar mission proposal that includes existing payload review and launch license processes under authorities of the US Secretary of Transportation.

The proposal also includes a series of voluntary disclosures intended to provide information to the Federal Government to help fulfil its supervisory obligations under the Outer Space Treaty.

Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain said: "In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals, and Moon rocks back to Earth.

“In 15 years, the Moon will be an important part of Earth's economy, and potentially our second home."

Moon Express’ new robotic spacecraft is designed to reduce the cost of space exploration and explore the mysteries surrounding the Moon and other applications.

Image: Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards. Photo: courtesy of Moon Express.