How much do you think it would cost to send a paperclip to the surface of the Moon? Do you think a private space company could do it for less than NASA? We’re about to find out as a group of private rocket engineers has launched a 30-day fundraising campaign to send a 1 gram payload (that’s the weight of a large paperclip) to the lunar surface.
Moonspike co-founders Kristian von Bengtson (a Danish spaceflight architect) and entrepreneur Chris Larmour started the company in February 2015 with the goal of building a rocket from scratch and using it to launch a tiny payload to the Moon. There would be no scientific mission for the payload – it’s sole purpose would be to allow the team to say “Dudes … we sent a rocket to the Moon!” In keeping with that spirit, Larmour gave his team two simple rules:
No scams and no jail time.
The rocket they envision is a 22-ton, three-stage, liquid-fueled craft that will be launched into lower Earth orbit where it will send a small spacecraft to the Moon to release the one-gram payload that will descend and crash into the lunar surface.
Drawing of the Moonspike spacecraft that will transport the payload to the Moon
What are these guys sending to the Moon that weighs a gram? A paperclip? Not quite but close. It’s a small spike (hence the company name) made of radiation-proof titanium that will contain digital images, video and other data from financial backers.
The initial fundraising goal of $1 million will allow backers to follow the design and production process of prototypes. The total cost will be much more than that (sending an Atlas V rocket into orbit costs an estimated $225 million) and will be raised through private investments.
Will it work? Is it a good idea to send an object crashing into the Moon just for the sake of doing it? Wouldn’t Moonspike be a great name for a band?