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Lunar Mission One Hits First Kickstarter Goal for Moon Shot

Group Launches Effort to Return to the Moon 1:07

Lunar Mission One's crowdfunding campaign has met its initial £600,000 ($945,000) target for a privately funded robotic mission to the moon, which means it has 0.1 percent of the money it says it will eventually need. The British-led effort plans to use the funds to deliver on its commitments to Kickstarter backers, including mission patches and T-shirts — and begin the process of planning the mission, which aims to deliver digital "memory boxes" to the moon and sample ice deposits beneath the lunar surface.

"Until now, nearly everyone involved in Lunar Mission One has been working 'at risk' or in their spare time," Will Spratt, a spokesman for the effort, told NBC News in an email. One of the key tasks ahead is to "get the online reservation system for digital memory boxes up and running to provide ongoing early-stage income," he said. The plan calls for launching Lunar Mission One's lander to the moon in 2024, at an estimated cost of $800 million. Organizers expect the educational and social aspect of the mission to cost an additional $200 million.

Update for 1:53 p.m. ET Dec. 16: British physicist Stephen Hawking, one of Lunar Mission One's backers, had this to say about the campaign:

"Congratulations to Lunar Mission One and all its backers. Today they have achieved what are the first steps towards a lasting legacy for space exploration. Lunar Mission One is bringing space exploration to the people, and I have no doubt that young people and adults alike will be inspired by the ambition and passion of all those involved in the project. As a truly scientific endeavour, I wish it nothing but success over the coming years."

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— Alan Boyle