The OpenLuna Foundation aims to return mankind to the moon through private enterprise. Initial goals focus on a stepped program of robotic missions coupled with extensive public relations and outreach. Following these purely robotic missions, a short series of manned missions will construct a small, approximately 8 person outpost based on a location scouted by the robotic missions. This outpost will be open for anyone's use (private individuals to government agencies), provided they respect our ethical conduct and heritage policies. Most of the work on the missions is being done on the wiki.
The OpenLuna Foundation takes a unique approach in that:All aspects of the mission plan and hardware will be open source. This information will be publicly available and community support and involvement will be actively pursued and welcomed. Special efforts will be made to involve students, educational facilities, and amateur space enthusiasts. A strong media presence will be a priority. The entertainment and educational potential of the mission will be exploited to allow the mission to reach the maximum number of people possible. This furthers the educational potential of the mission, provides publicity for sponsors (which will encourage support for future missions), and demonstrates to people that this is possible in the present and inspires the next generation to continue and exceed these mission goals. Mission hardware will be light and geared toward continuity from one mission to future missions. This will save costs and simplify the mission and hardware development. Superfluous hardware will be removed from missions and each component will be made in the lightest fashion possible. This may create initial complications, but it will balance out over the span of the program. Risk levels will be assessed and considered to balance risk with the cost of safety to the ability of the mission to continue forward. Much like an Alpine expedition, moderate risks will be acceptable in favor of exploration. Access to all scientific data and acceptance of outside research proposals will be encouraged.
Phase one - "Scout" class mission
Multiple small scout rovers, delivered by a single lander. The lander will "hop" around to deposit the rovers, similar to an upside down candy-dispenser. There will be two of these lander/rover combinations in the initial launch, one being left in orbit until the results from the first landed unit are analyzed. Based on determinations from the Science Team, the second lander will either land at a secondary search location, and distribute it's rovers there, or distribute rovers around the existing sites for greater detail. A communications satellite will be placed in orbit around the moon with this launch.
Phase two - "Boomerang" class sample return mission
The locations for these sample return missions will be determined by the rovers from Scout class missions. We plan for 180-200kg of samples returned and a rover that can loiter indefinitely "prospecting" and gathering further information. The landing is planned for the southern pole. We will be looking for water, He-3, and a good location for a future shelter and outpost. Land will be "claimed" for the project (as provided for by international law and treaty, see growing and evolving discussion of lunar and other non-Earthly land ownership debates/policies). Place at minimum one communications satellite in orbit with the first launch. At least two of these missions are planned to give a good spread of target areas and rigorously test the technology. Rock samples will be returned to the University of Western Ontario, CPSX and, after being safely cleared, then distributed to those who requested them or auctioned. Profits from this and other income opportunities will be used to fund the next mission. Media opportunities will include auctioning samples, contests to include students at various levels, naming rights as appropriate, documentary rights, etc.
Phase three - "Pathfinder" class mission
Presuming satisfactory site characteristics, tests, and technology development, this mission will be manned. A person with a lunar "tent" as a safety stop will stay as long as safely feasible, testing technology and preparing the site for future construction. This first manned lander will be named "Tranquility" in honor of Apollo 11 (and Firefly/Serenity). Formal announcement of outpost construction plans for Phase four. Development of licensed merchandise, mock and real space/surface suits, other things as they are thought of.
Phase four - "Explorer" class mission
Launch up to three more astronauts (as many as possible given technology and supplies). Bring shelter materials as determined by Phase three and spend approximately one to three days building an outpost. If feasible and safe, leave two volunteers on the surface.
Phase five - "Shakedown" mission
Launch up to five more astronauts (as many as possible given technology and supplies). Bring shelter materials as determined by Phase four and spend as much as two weeks testing every system by use in the outpost. If feasible and safe, leave a volunteer on the surface. Announce the completion of the outpost and offer reservations and use to NASA, ESA, JAXA, other space agencies, and private individuals and organizations.
Develop mining, a scientific outpost, in-situ life support as quickly as possible. We will start looking at better surface transport, and a secondary site for a second or third outpost, preferably on the far side for a telescope, or lava tube sites. Work with a launch provider to improve launch and landing capabilities. Work on a capsule to increase crew comfort. Primary concerns will be given to making the facilities self sufficient, developing infrastructure to further exploration, and Lunar utilization, and working to further educate and inspire the general population.