Fly me to the moon! A company building a small lunar rover as part of the Google Lunar X-prize competition is now offering, for a small fee, to include private packages with its lander.
Astrobotic Technology on Thursday (Dec. 11) announced the launch of its new “MoonMail” program, which offers to send heirloom rings, family photos, locks of hair and other small personal items on the company’s first private moon mission set to launch in the next few years. With prices based on the item’s size, MoonMail rates start at $460 for a half-inch wide by 0.125-inch tall (1.27 by 0.3 centimeter) capsule and increase to $25,800 for a one by two-inch (2.54 by 5.08 cm) payload. “You can think of the pricing for it to be very similar to ‘it fits, it ships’ at the post office,” John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO, told collectSPACE.com in a call with reporters. “It is essentially a flat-rate box.”
They hope to launch on a Falcon 9. More interestingly, they want to land and explore one of the Moon’s skylight caves.
The first Griffin is slated to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and land at Lacus Mortis, or the “Lake of Death,” a plain of basaltic lava flows in the northeastern part of the moon as viewed from Earth. “There is a unique feature there called a ‘skylight,'” stated Thornton, adding that only about 300 of these sinkhole-like entrances into subsurface caves have been discovered on the moon. “What’s very unique about the skylight at Lacus Mortis is that its walls have collapsed creating a ramp into the cave. … Caves on the surface of the moon could be our natural shelter,” Thornton explained. “So our first mission goes to one of these caves where we hopefully think someday we could settle on the moon. We think it’s a fantastic location to place MoonMail, which ultimately will be a time capsule of our generation for future moon explorers.”