You have enough towels already. And owning more gadgets just means more under-utilized stuff gathering accusatory dust. So why not spend the Black Friday funds you’d set aside to spend on sales tomorrow helping to crowdfund a mission to The Moon instead?
Yes, this is one very ambitious crowdfunding mission — with an estimated delivery schedule of, ooooh, a decade hence. You really gotta respect a Kickstarter that lays out a 10-year delivery plan.
But this is not the average crowdfunding project, trying to drum up interest in a better kind of butter knife or a remote controlled cat toy. This is *science* that’s hoping to be majority-funded by public interest in space exploration.
Governments aren’t overly keen on stumping up the cash to burn rockets into space these days, so getting the public to club together might be the best way to push forward space exploration. It’s either that or letting corporate mega-billionaires burn mountains of their own money trying to lift their egos into the upper atmosphere.
The team behind the Lunar Mission One, as they’re dubbing their first probe, are looking for £600,000 (~$943,000) in crowdfunds for the initial planning phase of the project — which isn’t bad when you consider a plastic bangle with an LCD screen which pings you when you have a new email raised multiple millions via the same funding funnel in recent memory.
At the time of writing the Lunar Mission One team has pulled in more than £371,000 so there’s a ways to go to kickstart this Moon mission, and 20 days left for their campaign to get there.
The mission’s aim is to send an unmanned probe to a previously unexplored region of the Moon — the South Pole — with a launch pegged for 2024 if the project gets successfully financed and all the technical stuff goes to plan (so that’s likely a pretty moveable feast — but hey this is The Final Frontier!).
Once the probe lands the intent is to drill down further into the lunar surface than humans have drilled before. Boldly going and all that jazz. How far? Up to 100 meters, but at least 20 meters, so at least 10 times deeper than prior drilling.
Samples will then be collected. And rock that’s 4.5 billion years old analyzed by the probe’s on board instruments. The probe will also put seismometers into the borehole to take geological readings.
The scientists backing the mission want to improve the understanding of the link between the Moon and the Earth’s formation — so helping to illuminate the origins of life on Earth, much like the recent Rosetta probe mission.
Studying rock from deep below the surface will allow us to understand, better than ever before, the geological composition of the Moon, the relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of the late heavy bombardment period on the inner solar system. Ultimately, the project will improve scientific understanding of the early solar system, the formation of our planet and the Moon, and the conditions that initiated life on Earth.
The probe will also contain instruments allowing it to measure local environmental conditions on and above the Moon’s surface. And will be looking to assess the composition of the dust on the Moon’s surface — seeking to sniff out oxygen and hydrogen to consider the South Pole’s suitability as a location for a future human Moon base.
The team also wants to investigate the viability of putting a future radio telescope on the Moon to conduct low frequency astronomy from the Moon — something they note is not possible from Earth.
Of course they are going to need a serious amount more cash than the initial £600,000 Kickstarter goal. In fact the full mission cost is closer to $5 billion. But they have a plan for raising the rest of the money — by selling storage space in a “memory box” time capsule that will be placed below the lunar surface as part of the mission.
The public will be able to buy digital space within the time capsule to store whatever content they fancy, text, pictures and so on, and also even purchase a tiny bit of physical space to store a strand of human hair. The capsule will be placed into the drillhole one the probe has done its analysis and the hole sealed up again, with the time capsule tucked out of harms way from more minor meteorite strikes.
That memory box sale will come later, but current Kickstarter pledgers can reserve a voucher for the time capsule sale by pledging £60 or more at this stage. The more cash you pledge, the more storage space you reserve in the capsule.
At this point, the Lunar One Mission has already been seven years in the making, funded by its founder David Iron, along with backing from the UK Space Agency — which originally commissioned concept studies and a technical feasibility report, plus a small number of private sponsors. It has also received support from companies operating on “a pro-bono and at risk basis”, according to a spokesman.
The ambitions of the team stretch past just the one mission — to a Lunar Mission Two and beyond. For instance, if they can raise more funds in future they say they would plan to be able to return the rock core samples gathered by the probe back to Earth for more detailed analysis. But that’s going to require more money, and more patience from project backers.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Lunar Mission One right now — a decade out from any possibility of touching down on the Moon’s surface — is the potential the team sees for crowdfunding as a means to fund space missions. If you’re tired of waiting for governments to invest more resources in scientific endeavors, rather than pouring public money into vast surveillance infrastructures that spy on citizens or spending billions fighting ideological wars on foreign soil, well here’s a chance to bypass the politics and shoot for the Moon. Literally.