WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Moon Express has announced a new program that will provide $1.5M in private funding for NASA-selected payloads to fly to the Moon. The announcement was made today at the annual meeting of NASA's Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), in response to NASA's call for lunar instrument concepts that would be flown to the Moon utilizing commercial mission services. Under its Lunar Scout Program, Moon Express will provide up to $500,000 in funding for each instrument selected by NASA to fly aboard the company's first three commercial lunar missions of opportunity, beginning next year in 2017. "The Moon Express Lunar Scout Program is designed to expand our partnership with NASA and support the lunar science community with new low cost lunar orbiter and surface missions," said company founder & CEO, Bob Richards. "Our goal is to collapse the cost of access to the Moon to enable a new era of lunar exploration and development for students, scientists and commercial interests." Earlier this year, Moon Express became the first private company to receive government permission to travel beyond Earth's orbit into deep space and land on the Moon. The company received the landmark U.S. policy decision on July 20th, 2016, following in depth consultations with the FAA, the White House, the State Department, NASA and other federal agencies. Moon Express plans a series of low cost robotic missions to the Moon starting in 2017 in support of science, exploration and commerce, with a long term goal of prospecting and harvesting lunar resources. Moon Express was selected by NASA as an industry partner in 2014 under the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) program, designed to spur commercial cargo transportation capabilities to the surface of the Moon. Under the Lunar CATALYST program, NASA has provided Moon Express with technical support in the development of the company's lunar lander systems, including the first ever flight tests of a commercial lander test vehicle conducted at the NASA Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility.