A private startup aiming to launch manned lunar expeditions has started a crowdfunding campaign to get the public involved.
The company, Golden Spike, aims to get its first mission off the ground by 2020. To help achieve that goal, the startup's leaders are reaching out via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo in hopes of raising $240,000 — "a dollar for every mile on the way to the moon," said Golden Spike's president and CEO, planetary scientist Alan Stern.
"Ever since we launched [the company], we've been getting emails and tweets and Facebook posts about, 'How can I help?'" Stern told SPACE.com. "It just seems like there's a hunger out there to participate in grand exploration."
Contributors during the 10-week campaign can secure rewards ranging from printed "thank you's" and subscriptions to Golden Spike's mailing list (for a $25 donation), to VIP trips to see the company's first moon launch (for a contribution of $50,000). Other options include nominating names for the lunar test vehicles, and having your name flown to the moon during Golden Spike's first lunar landing mission.
Stern said the money raised would be used to help Golden Spike get off the ground. But moreover, he added, it's a way for people excited about the idea of private moon travel to get involved, and a way to raise awareness about the venture. [How Golden Spike's Moon Landing Plan Works (Infographic)]
"We hope that this campaign and all the projects it enables will generate a degree of participation in space exploration that has never existed before," Gerry Griffin, former Apollo flight director and the chairman of Golden Spike's board of directors, said in a statement.
Golden Spike plans to use existing or already-in-development rockets and space capsules to transport crews to and from the moon. The firm plans to build its own lunar lander, though, and has hired veteran aerospace firm Northrop Grumman, which built NASA's Apollo moon landers, to work on the design.
The missions will sell for around $1.5 billion and will be aimed at corporations, countries without their own space programs and even some wealthy individuals.
"I think people are really excited about the idea of sending human expeditions to the moon from countries all over the world," Stern said. "It could be all different kinds of people, for all different kinds of purposes. It's a very different, forward concept."
To help keep costs down, Golden Spike plans to sell branding opportunities and advertising time during live broadcasts of missions.
"We plan to make these lunar expeditions television extravaganzas, like the Olympics," Stern said. "We'll sell the advertising time like they do with the Super Bowl."
To learn more about the company, visit Golden Spike's Indiegogo campaign page.
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Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the Space.com team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.