Initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the non-profit organization hopes to drill ten times deeper into the lunar surface than has ever previously been attempted and use the borehole to store a giant digital time capsule of human knowledge.
Under development for about eight years, the UK-based Lunar Mission One had its public launching this week at the the Royal Society's 12th Reinventing Space Conference in London. The effort was founded as Lunar Mission Ltd by former Royal Navy Engineering Officer David Iron, and is partnered with the University College of London and the Open University among others. Its goal is to develop and land a probe at the Lunar South Pole by 2024 as part of an effort to not only gather more knowledge about the Moon, but also to promote public interest in space exploration and develop new means of funding future missions without government support.
According to Lunar Mission, the South Pole was chosen because it has the advantages of regular sunlight during the lunar southern hemisphere summer, and it's where recent space probes have shown the possible presence of water ice in the shadows of craters. The idea is that the spacecraft will act as a platform for a wireline drill that will bore a 5 cm (1.9 in) hole at 15 cm/hr (5.9 in/hr) down at least 20 m (65 ft), which is 10 times deeper than anything previously attempted on the Moon. The organization says that it could even reach 100 m (328 ft) if conditions are right.