UK-led Lunar Mission One Aiming to Send First Crowdfunded Probe to the Moon

An artist's conception shows the Lunar Mission One probe on the surface of the moon. (PHOTO CREDIT: Lunar Missions LTD)
An artist’s conception shows the Lunar Mission One probe on the surface of the moon. (PHOTO CREDIT: Lunar Missions LTD)

Move over, Mars: A British-led venture called Lunar Mission One has begun a crowdfunding effort to send a robotic lander to the moon with a monster drill.

The first step of the plan is to raise $950,000 (£600,000) through a monthlong Kickstarter campaign. That money would finance Lunar Mission One’s planning and management activities during the initial phase of what backers expect will be 10 years of preparation. The plan calls for additional sales, marketing, planning and development efforts to build up toward launch in 2024.

The centerpiece of the fundraising effort is an array of time capsules that Lunar Mission One expects to have its probe bury on the moon. The capsules would contain “digital memory boxes” that serve as extraterrestrial archives for the project’s backers.

The Kickstarter campaign promises to “reserve your place in space” for a pledge of $94 (£60) or more — but other perks are going for as little as £3, or less than five U.S. dollars.

“Anyone from around the world can get involved for as little as a few pounds,” David Iron, the founder of Lunar Missions Ltd. and the nonprofit Lunar Missions Trust, said in a statement. “Lunar Mission One will make a huge contribution to our understanding of the origins of our planet and the moon, and will inspire a generation to learn more about space, science and engineering — in the same way that my generation was inspired by the Apollo moon landings.”

The Kickstarter campaign brought in more than $300,000 (£195,500) during its first 24 hours.

Lunar Mission One takes its place alongside other non-governmental space projects that hope to take advantage of crowdfunding — such as the Dutch-based Mars One project to prepare reality-TV contestants for one-way trips to Mars, or the student-led Time Capsule to Mars campaign.

Details to come
Like those other projects, Lunar Mission One has not yet firmed up the details surrounding launch and mission operations. Success is not assured; fund-raising failure is definitely an option. However, the moon venture does have an impressive list of supporting organizations — with RAL Space, based at Britain’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, serving as the overall technical adviser for the project’s first stage.

RAL Space has played a role in developing more than 200 space missions, including the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to a comet. “Our experience in multiple and complex space missions will play a vital role in helping coordinate the project,” said Richard Holdaway, director of RAL Space.

Click here to read more.

Alan Boyle

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