A British project called Lunar Mission One aims to land a robotic probe on the Moon for lunar rock analyses, and the team can now get started thanks to a colossal crowd-funding effort that netted them more than £600,000.
And it wasn’t just Brits who funded the endeavour - Lunar Mission One is reporting that thousands of people from more than 60 countries dipped into their pockets to help it meet its Kickstarter goal.
The team, which includes former UN and NASA space flight experts, expects this mission will take 10 years to complete, with the end goal to drill up to 100 metres into the rocky surface of the Moon and take samples of its 4.5 billion-year-old insides - something that's never been done before. The drilling will be done using a 2-metre drill connected to the unmanned spacecraft by a cable, which will prepare a 5-cm in diameter borehole first, before carving out cylindrical rock cores for analysis right there on the Moon.
Further funding would enable Lunar Mission One to bring home the spacecraft and its samples for further analysis.
The mission also has a public education element to it too, says Katie Collins at Wired UK, its secondary aim being to encourage young people to take an interest in STEM subjects, particularly those connected to space.
"Lunar Mission One has deliberately been launched as an independent venture which is not controlled by government agencies," Chair of Lunar Missions Ltd, Ian Taylor, told Wired UK. "This project will be built using public support alongside the skills and expertise of some of the world's leading scientists, engineers and technologists. Having achieved what we have today, we are celebrating the beginning of a 10-year journey of collaboration, innovation and exploration."
The Kickstarter campaign still has just over 10 hours to go, and they’re now well over £600,000. The team says if they make it to £700,000 by the close of the campaign, they’ll be able to fund the entire set-up phase of the mission using public donations. Those who contributed the more significant amounts will be offered the opportunity to watch the launch and landing from a viewing gallery at mission control.
Contributors will also get the chance to upload some digital information to what the company is calling a Digital Memory Box, which will be included in a time capsule that they plan to plug the drill-hole up with. Suggestions for what to upload include a personal message, a photo, a family tree, a poem, a video, or a favourite song. The team is calling this the first publicly assembled record of life on Earth.
At a time when governments, particularly in Australia, are continually reallocating funds that used to go towards research and science education, it's great to see that big things can still get done without them. British physicist Stephen Hawkings is especially excited, saying:
"Today they have achieved what are the first steps towards a lasting legacy for space exploration. Lunar Mission One is bringing space exploration to the people, and I have no doubt that young people and adults alike will be inspired by the ambition and passion of all those involved in the project. As a truly scientific endeavour, I wish it nothing but success over the coming years.”
Source: Wired UK