(credit: Lunar Mission One)

Is there a business case that would support a private, unmanned mission to the moon? The people at Lunar Mission One certainly think so. If they're right, an unmanned lander will touch down on a crater rim near the Moon's south pole in 2024. Part of the lander will be devoted to scientific exploration, drilling through the regolith into the underlying rock and then analyzing the cores.

Once the borehole is drilled, the lander will fill it with what Lunar Mission One calls "the ultimate time capsule." This will actually be a pair of archives—one public, containing a digital record of life on Earth, and a second private archive. The latter, with up to 10 million individual "digital memory boxes," is what's going to pay for the mission. We recently spoke with David Iron, the founder of Lunar Mission One, to find out a bit more.

Iron has a lengthy background in the space industry, and he came up with the idea of crowdfunding a moon landing after the UK government asked him to put together the case for funding space exploration. Iron said he was thinking about how to persuade people to pay to put their stuff on the moon. "Information is OK, but you'll only get a few tens of dollars from each person, which isn't enough," he told Ars. "It wasn't until I realized that we can also store hair, because it's incredibly small and light, that people would pay hundreds of dollars for that, and I realized we had a business case."

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