aims to launch a lunar probe and study the moon using money raised on crowd-funding website Kickstarter.
Lunar Mission One is currently working to raise $1 million on Kickstarter. The initial funds will be used to earn the project some early momentum, with planning and additional fundraising set to ramp up in the new year.
To see the mission through -- and to land a probe in the moon that can drill deep into lunar rock and collect samples -- the group will likely have to raise several hundred million more dollars. The moon's interior has never been sampled; rocks several feet beneath the lunar could offer new insight into the formation of the solar system.
The non-profit organization has partnered with Rosetta collaborator RAL Space for technical advisement, University College London for science advisement, and Open University and Institute of Education.
The current incentive is the opportunity to have one's digital and genetic likeness delivered to the moon. Donors who fork over $95 will have their name, photos, text and even a DNA sample stored in a time capsule that will be buried on the moon. Their Kickstarter page offers funders the opportunity to pledge as little as $4.75 and as much as $7,800.
"It is increasingly difficult to fund space science and exploration of the kind aimed at developing understanding and knowledge," David Iron, the founder of Lunar Missions Ltd. and its Lunar Mission One, told the Guardian. "We are introducing a new form of funding, and if it works we'll have a legacy that shows it's possible to fund these missions very differently."
Iron and his colleagues will have to find inventive ways to keep their funders engaged, as real action isn't like to happen for at least another four years. But Iron says participation won't end with donation.
"Rather than just watching the mission, people can be directly involved," he told BBC, "not just through funding but helping to make key decisions such as the selection of the landing site or what should be included in the public archive."