There's money to be made on the Moon.

Moon Shot

NASA has been at the forefront of exploring the Moon since the days of the Apollo missions — but, curiously, hasn't sent a lander back to its surface since Apollo 17 in 1972.

But come Monday afternoon, if all goes well, the space agency will be headed back. This time, though, it'll be piggybacking on a commercial mission, according to The Guardian, a sign of the ever-growing links between NASA and the private space sector.

The lunar lander Peregrine, built by private space company Astrobotic, is the first venture from NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, The Guardian reports, in which the space agency essentially contracts with American businesses to ferry payloads to the lunar surface.

Peregrine's lunar ETA is February 23, and if successful will be the "first commercial robotic launch to the Moon’s surface," according to NASA. Another private space business, United Launch Alliance, built the Vulcan rocket launching the lunar lander into space.

In addition to some important NASA technology and scientific equipment, the lunar lander will have on board various sundries including a piece of Mount Everest, a physical bitcoin, and the human remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, according to The Guardian.

Space Biz

There is some attendant controversy with this launch. Officials from the Navajo Nation objected to launching human remains at the Moon, calling it "tantamount to desecration."

NASA officials in response said they weren't responsible for what kind of stuff Astrobotic wants to bring along for the space ride.

This isn't the first controversy involving commercial space enterprise. NASA came under some scrutiny when critics lambasted SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's recent antisemitic remarks and reports of drug use at SpaceX.

Needless to say, expect more weird friction as NASA and the space business sector continue their awkward embrace in the years to come.

More on spacecraft: NASA Spacecraft Preparing to Attempt "Basically Landing" on the Sun

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