Many moons ago, NASA went to the Moon and for a while, things were good. I wasn’t part of the Apollo Program and chances are you weren’t either. But I’d love to have the opportunity to be a part of another, more people-oriented journey to our cheesy satellite. And it looks like I might get it.
The brainchild of an independent group of rocket engineers, Moonspike aims to become the “world’s first crowdfunded Moon rocket.” That is, if they meet their £600,000 (roughly $900,000) funding goal by November 2. It’s not the first space mission to resort to crowdfunding to get off the ground, but it’s the first one that plans to build a rocket completely from scratch.
On paper, Moonspike’s mission is pretty straightforward— launch a rocket that will deliver a spike-shaped 1-gram payload to our nearest celestial neighbor. But the devil is in the details. The minuscule payload and the spacecraft designed to deliver it will have to survive the rigors of being launched, and we all know things often tend to go awry during this stage.
If the rocket doesn’t blow up during the first minute or so, don’t fret. It’s got plenty of chances to do so during the following two legs and the delicate process of separating the stages leaves a lot of room for things to go haywire.
Let’s assume that, against all odds, the spacecraft made it into low orbit and is now circumgyrating the Earth at a speed of 21,000 miles per hour. After a couple of orbits, it will use Earth’s gravity to slingshot itself towards the Moon. Even with the help of thrusters, the 240,000 mile journey will take around 4 days to complete.
Once it gets there all that’s left is to direct the craft towards the lunar surface and bury the spike 15 feet into the soft regolith. The Moonspike itself is a hollowed titanium dart designed to withstand a hard landing. They’re also calling it the ‘Lunar Penetrator.’ ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Inside this penetrator will be the effective payload, a protected data storage device containing whatever the backers chose to send up there. Let’s hope they’ll prove themselves more mature than I am and refrain from sending dick pics because I wouldn’t even know what else to put inside a thing called a penetrator.
If this plays out well, the surface of the Moon is going to suffer some changes. It’ll seem much more accessible to people outside of the established space programs, people like me and you. Even though the physical Moon is slowly escaping Earth’s gravity, the Moon as a symbolic faraway land will draw closer.
You see, at the moment, the only ones getting up there are government-run space agencies and Big Rocket. It’s an airtight industry controlled by the major players and we all know that monopoly is bad for business. Let me correct myself: it’s bad for our business.
When only a handful of players get to make the rules, they tend to ignore common sense. But if more were to join the party, it would invigorate things. Space Frontier Foundation policy consultant James Muncy explains:
I can’t tell you whose rocket is going to be the best rocket, but if we have competition where people are trying their own approaches, we’ll get to a lower-cost access to space. That will, in turn, create a whole bunch of new industries.”
The team behind Moonspike are ambitious, to say the least. Although a million dollars is a million dollars, it doesn’t even come close to covering the entire cost of launching a 22-ton, 3 stage rocket that’s almost as long as a blue whale.
The project founders know that crowdfunding is merely the beginning and that at some point, private donations will be needed to financially sustain Moonspike’s flight. Hey, nobody said going to the moon would be cheap or easy. But one way to manage it is to keep it simple. That’s why this project only aims to get there. No data collecting, no scientific mission, no experiments with moon rocks.
We’ve figured out a way to make a real space mission possible on a reasonable budget by focusing on a relatively simple and highly-focused goal – just get something small to the Moon. We think this will allow us to achieve real results.”
Man, I wish my dealer showed this kind of commitment.