George Bailey flippantly told Mary she simply had to “say the word” and he would lasso the moon for her in the classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.
With the December 11 announcement by Strip District-based, Astrobotic, of its new MoonMail delivery service to the lunar surface, access to the moon just became easier—and more realistic.
“With MoonMail, people from around the world can send a memento on Astrobotic’s lunar lander,” says company CEO John Thornton. It’s his belief that Astrobotic is the first company in the world to offer this service.
Until this point, Astrobotic has sold payload space aboard the first commercial lunar mission to companies, universities and governments. The core purpose of the mission, due to occur within the next two years, is for scientific and exploration payloads, notes Thornton.
Those interested in preserving a piece of family history (like heirloom rings, photos or locks of hair) on the moon can go to www.moonmail.co to order their MoonMail kit and select the desired size capsule in which their item will be stored for eternity.
Costs for the hexagonal, aluminum capsules range from $460 for a .5-by-.125-inch capsule to $25,800 for a 1-by-2-inch capsule. Unlike the U.S. Postal Service, weight is not an issue, just the size.
By comparison, the Astrobotic cost for larger payloads that land on the lunar surface is $1.2 million per kilo.
Once keepsakes are sent to Astrobotic, they are placed in their containers and then into a 12-by-12-inch torpedo-like pressurized moon pod—think time capsule, Jetsons-style. The moon pod will sit on the deck of the Astrobotic-designed Griffin lunar lander that will travel into space aboard the Falcon 9 rocket built by the California-based company, SpaceX.
All items must be cleared by the FAA and the Defense Department. They go through the same process as other payloads to make sure they can fly, notes Thornton.
Retaining ownership of their mementos, participants will be provided with status updates of the mission, a map of the lunar surface and videos and photos of the pod on the moon.
“We’re targeting landing the first mission in a place called Lacus Mortis which means “Lake of Death in Latin,” says Thornton.
It’s there, he continues, that scientists believe a sink-hole-like entryway into a cave will provide natural protection from the environment—conditions like radiation from the sun, micrometeorites and thermal extremes.
A NASA contractor currently pursuing the Google Lunar XPRIZE, Astrobotic has a second mission anticipated in 2019, flying to the moon’s pole to drill for water. Thornton says they have interest from others in sending things to the moon beyond 2020.
“I think fundamentally people want to interact with space. Everyone dreams of being an astronaut. It’s about being part of something bigger than ourselves,” he says.