UK Announces First Mission To The Moon

Stephen Rahn, via Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

With the global economy in a bit of a pickle, governments are finding it tough to justify spending considerable amounts of money on exploratory space missions that are solely designed to further our scientific knowledge, rather than to generate income.

But it’s not just space exploration that is struggling with the global financial crisis; funding for scientific projects in general can be hard to come by these days. That’s why more and more people are starting to realize the beauty of public funding, and are increasingly using crowdsourcing to give projects a financial kick in the right direction. Crowdfunding is helping to clean up the ocean, turn roads into solar panels, and build floating laboratories, to name a few. And as of today, it could help fund an ambitious new mission to the moon.

Lunar Mission One, which was announced today at the Royal Society in London, will be the UK’s first trip to the moon. It’s an exploratory robotic mission that hopes to see a probe land on the moon’s South Pole within the next ten years, should funding allow. The aim of the venture is to drill through the surface, reaching a depth of at least 20 meters, but perhaps as deep as 100 meters.

By analyzing this 4.5 billion year old rock that has been shielded from cosmic radiation and meteor bombardment, scientists hope to increase our understanding of the origins and evolution of the moon, solar system and even our planet. Furthermore, it should also inform us of the practicality of a permanent manned base at this area of the moon.

Lunar Mission One is reaching out to the public through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to get the initial development phase of the project going. If they can secure the necessary $950,000 (£600,000), then the project can move forward and planning can begin. The remainder of the money will be generated through the public sector and commercial backing.

Although they can’t promise you a trip to the moon in return for your money, Kickstarter backers will be given a “memory box” to fill as they please which will also be sent up to and buried in the moon within a time capsule. The time capsule will also contain a publicly assembled record of life on Earth which includes details of human history and civilization and also a database of the biodiversity on our planet. This public archive is also intended as an educational tool which will be made freely available for anyone to access, which they hope will inspire current and future generations to get involved in science.

“There is still so much about the moon that we don’t understand,” Professor of Physics Jim Al-Khalili said in a press release, “we feel we know it when we look up into the night sky, but I think after this mission we will look at the moon in a very different light.” 

[Via Lunar Mission One]

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