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Return to the Moon: Lunar Mission One will crowd-source its way to space

Kate Arkless Gray, News Reporter
Nov 19, 2014, 11:33 UTC

Sen—An ambitious new venture to explore the South Pole of the Moon was unveiled on 19 November 2014. Lunar Mission One, backed by space professionals, industry and educators, hopes to crowd-source enough funding for the initial development of an exploratory robotic mission to the Moon, to launch in 2024.

“Up until now we have not explored the lunar polar regions” says Professor Ian Crawford of Birkbeck College, University of London, who is one of those endorsing the project. “All previous lunar missions have literally just scratched the surface.”

Lunar Mission One aims to use innovative new technology to drill to at least 20 metres below the Moon’s surface—and perhaps as deep as 100 metres. This will allow the analysis of lunar rock that dates back around 4.5 billion years. “By drilling we will unlock billions of years of geological history related to the origin and evolution of the Earth-Moon system” says Crawford.


An artist's impression of the Lunar Mission One craft on the Moon. Image credit: Lunar Mission One

Exploration does not come cheap, and the team behind Lunar Mission One are looking to new sources of funding for their mission, namely crowd-sourcing their initial development costs via Kickstarter. Project Founder David Iron hopes that this new funding model could help space exploration at a time where governments are finding it increasingly hard to commit funds. “Anyone from around the world can get involved for as little as a few pounds” he says. 

The Lunar Mission One Kickstarter launched on 19 November 2014 with the aim of raising £600,000 by 17 December, 2014, in order to progress the project to the next stage. Depending on the level of donation, a range of incentives are offered to funders, including becoming members of the Lunar Missions Club, having the chance to meet experts working on the project, and even having their name inscribed on the lunar landing module. 

Backers will also have the chance to secure a “digital memory box” to be included in a time capsule that is to be buried on the Moon during the mission. This time capsule will also include a public record of life on Earth as it is now, containing a biodiversity database and information about human history and civilisation.


How the drill will look, biting into the lunar south pole region. Image credit: Lunar Mission One

Space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, presenter of the BBC's The Sky at Night, is excited about the opportunities the mission has for engaging people, especially children, with the wonder of space. “What I love about this project is that kids can be a part of the mission themselves” she says. “This gives them a vested interest in the project… space really is for everyone.”

RAL Space has been engaged as technical advisor for the first stage of the Lunar Mission One project, alongside science and education partners University College London, The Open University and The Institute of Education.

If enough money is raised in the next month to take the project to the next stages, work will begin in 2015 to establish management of the mission and conduct risk assessment. Public sales of “digital memory boxes” together with public and private backing are hoped to fund the technology development, testing and eventual launch of the mission.

An official video explains Lunar Mission One