Robotic Moon Lander Concept Raises $942K, Meeting Goal With A Day To Go

Update, Dec. 18, 8:09 a.m. EST: Lunar Mission One closed its fundraising mission the night before at £672,447 ($1,052,413), short of its stretch goal of £700,000.

With just over a day to go in their crowdfunding campaign, a British group hoping to put a robotic lander on the moon in 2024 reached their fundraising goal of $932,000 (£600,000) overnight.

The money is supposed to move the project into more concrete phases after the founders spent seven years quietly developing their concept, but many of the details about the design and funding have yet to be unveiled.

“We plan to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon – an area unexplored by previous missions,” the mission says on its Kickstarter page. “We’re going to use pioneering technology to drill down to a depth of at least 20m – 10 times deeper than has ever been drilled before – and potentially as deep as 100m.

“By doing this,” the statement adds, “we will access lunar rock dating back up to 4.5 billion years to discover the geological composition of the Moon, the ancient relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of asteroid bombardment. 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.”

Artist's conception of a moon drill that could potentially be used by Lunar Mission One's lunar lander. Credit: Lunar Missions Ltd.
Artist’s conception of a moon drill that could potentially be used by Lunar Mission One’s lunar lander. Credit: Lunar Missions Ltd.

“Stretch goals” for the organization include rewards for backers such as an e-commerce program, a massive open online course for educational purposes, a party for backers in London, and being “a leading role” in World Space Week 2015. The additional money, however, will also be used for drilling studies, putting together the science team and making a work plan.

With the money raised, the project now has the ambitious target of getting their lander on the moon by 2024. According to the schedule, the main mission contract should be awarded by 2017, design and development begins by 2018, and the final build commences in 2021.

RAL Space (which assisted with the Philae comet landing and 200 other space missions, according to the page) is serving as a technical advisor to the board. The project chair of Lunar Missions Ltd. (which is responsible for the project) is Ian Taylor, a former United Kingdom government science minister and co-chair of the parliamentary space committee.

As with other private ventures in space such as Mars One, however, Lunar Mission One is dealing with long timelines, a risky goal and a not-certain guarantee of success.

Lunar Mission One Wants To Crowdfund A Robotic Moon Lander

Just hours after announcing that it plans to put a robotic lander on the moon in the next decade, the British-led group Lunar Mission One is already a sixth of a way to its £600,000 (US$940,000) initial crowdfunding goal.

The money is intended to jumpstart the project and move it into more concrete stages after seven years of quiet, weekend work, the group said on its Kickstarter page.

“We’ve reached the limit of what we can do part-time. The next three years are going to be hard, full-time work to set the project up. We need to confirm and agree the lunar science and develop the instrument package,” the page read.

“We need to plan and research the online public archive. We need to get commercial partners on board to design and develop the lunar landing module and the drilling mechanism. We need to pilot the education programme. We need to prepare the sales and marketing campaign for our memory boxes. And we need to do all of this globally.”

Among the rewards is something called a “digital memory box”, where you can upload your favorite sounds to be placed on the spacecraft. The group also plans to offer a little bit of physical space to put a strand of your hair along with the small digital archive.

And what does the group want to do there? Drill. It would place the lander at the Moon’s south pole and push down at least 20 meters (65 feet), potentially as far as 100 meters (328 feet), to learn more about the Moon’s history.

Artist's conception of a moon drill that could potentially be used by Lunar Mission One's lunar lander. Credit: Lunar Missions Ltd.
Artist’s conception of a moon drill that could potentially be used by Lunar Mission One’s lunar lander. Credit: Lunar Missions Ltd.

“By doing this, we will access lunar rock dating back up to 4.5 billion years to discover the geological composition of the Moon, the ancient relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of asteroid bombardment,” the group wrote. “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.”

Private ideas for bold missions is something we’ve heard about repeatedly in the last few years, with initiatives ranging from the Mars One mission to send people on a one-way mission to the Red Planet, to the potential asteroid-mining ventures Planetary Resources and Deep Space Initiatives. As with these other ventures, the nitty gritty in terms of costs, systems and mission plans is still being worked out. This coupled with the long timelines to get these ventures off the ground means that success is not necessarily a guarantee.

Lunar Mission One, however, does have an experienced space hand helping it out: RAL Space, who the Kickstarter campaign page says has helped out with 200 missions. That’s including the high-profile Philae lander that just landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko last week and did a brief surge of science before going into hibernation.

For more information on the mission, check out their leading team here and the official website here.