Scientists in the U.K. are raising money for a lunar mission that would see an exploratory robotic probe land on the moon within 10 years. Here's what they're hoping to achieve.
It's called Lunar Mission One, a crowdfunded project with the principle goal of surveying the Lunar South pole to learn more about the geology of the Moon and to investigate the plausibility of establishing a human base there in the future.
The robotic probe will drill 330 feet (100 meters) below the surface, enabling researchers to access and analyze lunar rock that is 4.5 billion years old. By studying this ancient lunar rock, they're hoping to learn more about the Moon's origin and how the late heavy bombardment of the inner solar system shaped the history of Earth itself.
U.K. company Lunar Mission aims to raise £500 million ($780 million) for the project from public donations. But to fund the first stage, organizers have set up a Kickstarter campaign; with nine days to go, the team is just shy of its £600,000 ($937,000) target.
In return for their donations, contributors will be able to add whatever they want to a memory box that will be sent to the Moon, including personal messages, photos, audio, video, and even a strand of hair.
As noted, one of the aims of the project is to determine if the Moon might be suitable for a permanently occupied base for space exploration.
As noted by Lunar Missions:
As far back as the 1960s, scientists have been considering the possibility of a permanently manned lunar base. A lunar base would have several future benefits, including cheaper space exploration: the Moon's gravity is weaker than Earth's, so fuelling and launching rockets from or near the Moon would require less energy than launching from Earth, making the process more economically efficient.
The South Pole of the Moon has already been earmarked as a potential site for a lunar base because of its regular exposure to sunlight for solar power, stable temperature and the possible availability of water, hydrogen and other useful chemicals in nearby cold, permanently shadowed, craters.
Like other areas of the Moon, the South Pole is also subject to dangerous solar particles and cosmic rays, and these our mission can measure to predict the shielding astronauts would need. That shielding could itself come from the lunar surface material we analyse.
So, by drilling deep into the Moon's surface and by measuring the surface environment, Lunar Mission One will be able to gather further valuable evidence as to the suitability of the South Pole for a future lunar base.