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A billionaire entrepreneur who made his fortune during the dot com boom is one step closer to making a literal moonshot of a business opportunity become a reality.
Moon Express, a private space company co-founded by Naveen Jain, along with fellow entrepreneurs and space fanatics Bob Richards and Barney Pell, gained the Federal Aviation Administration's approval on Wednesday to send an unmanned lander to the lunar surface.
"This approval makes us the first company ever in history to ever be granted an approval to leave Earth's orbit and land on a celestial body," Jain told NBC News.
The Outer Space Treaty, which was adopted by the United Nations and went into effect during the great space race of the 1960s, requires “non-governmental entities” to get permission from the "appropriate state party to the treaty."
The Cape Canaveral-based company sees an opportunity to harvest the moon's resources, which include many valuable minerals also found on Earth, such as titanium and platinum.
"The moon has been collecting the asteroid material for the past four billion years and has an abundance of real Earth elements and water," Jain said. "It's good for business."
"Imagine getting engaged and instead of a diamond, giving your fiance a moon rock ring," he said.
If everything goes according to plan, in 2017 a rocket that cost Moon Express "under $5 million" will launch its small lander, which Jain says is about four to five feet in diameter.
After a successful soft landing, the plan is for the Moon Express lander to "hop" around the moon's surface during the initial exploratory mission, according to Jain and the plan outlined by the FAA.
"Our goal is to not only bring back the resources from the moon for the benefit of humanity on Earth, but also as a destination we could colonize, which becomes a stepping stone for us to colonize Mars," he said.
Jain said it's too early to say how much that moon rock engagement ring could cost, but he also sees another business opportunity for after couples tie the knot.
"My goal is one day the honeymoon will really be about taking the honey to the moon, not Hawaii," he said.
Moon Express is also poised to win Google's $20 million Lunar X-Prize, which will be awarded to the first company that lands on the moon, moves at least 500 meters on the surface and sends high-definition photos and video back to Earth.