Getting to the Moon is no mean feat – but one company wants to prove it can be done on a budget. Called Moonspike, the organization has today announced its ambition to send a tiny payload to the lunar surface. The company is seeking seeking $1 million (£600,000) of seed funding on Kickstarter and is hoping that it can inspire others to reach for the cosmos.
The project, the brainchild of CEO and co-founder Chris Larmour, would see a 20,000 kilogram (44,000 pound), three-stage liquid fuelled rocket, 23.5 meters (77 feet) tall, take off from an as-yet undecided location on Earth. This would launch a 150 kilogram (330 pound) spacecraft to the Moon, which would carry with it a tiny “spike” filled with digital information, such as photos and messages from people on Earth. The spacecraft would be sent to impact the Moon, with its approach and final moments relayed back to Earth.
Pipe dream, or impending reality? Moonspike.
If it sounds ambitious, that’s because it is. There has been no shortage of pretenders to the lunar throne in recent decades, but Moonspike deserves some attention for enlisting Danish amateur rocket company Copenhagen Suborbitals. It has successfully launched a number of small rockets and has its own yet-to-be-fulfilled ambition of sending humans into space. “On a technical level, both projects are doable, you can actually do this, that’s what’s fun,” Kristian von Bengtson, CEO of Copenhagen Suborbitals, told IFLscience.
There are a huge number of unknowns. As mentioned, no launch site has been picked. No development on the rocket has begun. The legalities of attempting to launch an amateur rocket to the Moon are a grey area. An entire mission control team would be needed for the launch. Stringent safety measures would be needed. And so on.
But Larmour is confident. He told IFLScience that he believes this endeavour should be possible because they would only be transporting a very small payload to the surface of the Moon. Two-thirds of the spacecraft’s weight would simply be for the fuel to get it there, with no return trip planned.
“My question is, how hard is it to get a rocket to the Moon these days?” said Larmour. “That separates us from a lot of other projects. We’re more interested in getting there, rather than what gets there.”
Development of the rocket has yet to begin. Moonspike.
The team estimates that the final cost of their project will be no more than $100 million (£66,000,000). While not wanting to commit to a firm launch date, Larmour said they would be aiming for a launch sometime in the next 10 years.
Is it really doable? Perhaps. There’s no doubting their ambition – but launching a rocket to the Moon really isn’t that easy. Larmour hopes, though, that the mission – if it ever gets off the ground – will inspire others. “If we succeed, smaller companies can take these steps,” he said.
At the moment, this is just a “one off,” with no other lunar missions planned. But Larmour does not rule out a further project if this one is successful.
That’s a very, very big “if,” though.