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.
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?