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Lunar Mission One gets one step closer to the Moon

Kate Arkless Gray, News Reporter
Dec 25, 2014, 18:58 UTC

Sen—Lunar Mission One, the British-born exploratory mission to the Moon, has taken an important first step on its journey by reaching—and exceeding—its ambitious £600,000 crowdfunding target. At the close of the funding period £672,447 had been pledged by over 7000 people in 60 different countries.

Launching their campaign in November, the team had just less than a month to raise the money that will further develop the project, which aims to land at the South Pole of the Moon in ten year’s time. Pitched primarily as a science mission, Lunar Mission One will drill to a depth of between 20-100m to analyse the sub-surface of the Moon, before placing electronic “memory boxes”, bought by project backers, into the hole to create a billion year time capsule.

Professor Monica Grady, Trustee of the Lunar Mission Trust (set up to support future science and exploration) expressed her excitement at reaching the Kickstarter goal. “I followed the last few hours just watching the Kickstarter figure going up and was absolutely thrilled when we reached the target so many hours before we needed to.” 

“Obviously we were really, really pleased that the project reached its target on Kickstarter but we were pretty confident that we would, following the initial huge interest from which there was a steady rise in support” she said.

Sen spoke to Ian Taylor, Chair of Lunar Missions Ltd, which will run the project, to find out what the next steps are for Lunar Mission One.

Sen: How did you feel when you heard the Kickstarter target had been met?

IT: I had never been through a Kickstarter funding round and this was one of their more substantial fundings. A month seemed a long time and momentum towards our target varied. I lost a bit of sleep and learnt how to engage with social media! So I was both relieved and excited by the outcome—and inspired by the way our team worked so hard together—and by the incredible online enthusiasm of the followers who had pledged.

This is a project that has been called audacious, inspiring, ambitious and also crazy. Yet here we are with our first target exceeded and a work programme ahead of us. I am proud of this achievement on behalf of all involved.

Sen: What is the next stage for you?  

IT: We have made a series of commitments to our Founder Backers and we will be busy delivering these over the coming months, including setting up the Lunar Missions Club; arranging the first ‘Meet the Team’ event; developing an online forum so that they can continue to engage with the project and delivering our Founder Backer mission patches and t-shirts around the world.

In January, Lunar Missions Ltd will assemble the initial project team to plan the fine details of the next six months, which will be project managed by RAL Space. This is an incredibly complex programme involving at least four core project teams resourced by our existing sponsors: Mission, Education, Science and Marketing.

Until now, nearly everyone involved in Lunar Mission One has been working ‘at risk’ or in their spare time. The money that we have raised on Kickstarter will enable us to set up a joint venture and properly resource these teams, underwritten by our sponsors, meaning that they can dedicate their time to Lunar Mission One’s further development and future success.

One of the key functions of our marketing team during this time will be to get the online reservation system for digital memory boxes up and running to provide on-going early-stage income.

Sen: Now you’ve reached the Kickstarter target, what are the next big challenges to overcome?

IT: Formalising the management team with plans and resourcing, internationalising the project and establishing the viability and risks of both revenues (marketing) and costs (technology).

Sen: When will you need to raise more funding, and how will you do it?

IT: The next significant funding effort by the end of the six month Prep Stage—we’re looking at a mixture of early stage revenues, management sponsorship, charitable donations and Government support (especially for technology planning).

Sen: What happens of you don't raise enough to get to the Moon?

IT: Any project needs risk-assessment and variations. There are several fall-back options for de-scoping the mission, or for joining with other projects, for adapting the payload to align with other missions such as lunar communications, and we could proceed with archiving while delaying the mission. But at present we are positive and full steam ahead to our stated objective.

I do believe we will get there. This project is supported by top scientists and technologists—even though to date it is independent. It was deliberately launched as an independent venture, which is not controlled by government agencies. We are now receiving indications of interest in collaborating from a wide range of people and organisations.

The 'founders' enthusiasm alone is enough to fuel the rocket to the Moon!'

Sen: Can people still get involved with Lunar Mission One?

IT: Yes, detailed arrangements will be made throughout the project, starting with an initial set of ideas in the first few months—we will work through the LM1 Club and various professional institutions and corporate bodies—and of course the Lunar Mission charity will accept donations.