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What would you send to the moon? A precious family heirloom? A lock of hair? For a price, you could send a small object of your choosing on a one-way trip to the lunar surface.
The private spaceflight company Astrobotic is offering people around the world the chance to fly their special item to the lunar surface with a new service called MoonMail. Representatives for Astrobotic — one of the competitors chasing the Google Lunar X Prize — are asking interested Earthlings to buy a small capsule that they can fill with keepsakes, which will be transported to the moon during the company's first lunar mission. The company is planning to launch its first mission sometime in the next two years.
"Today marks the beginning of a new kind of participant on the moon: the individual," Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said during a teleconference on Thursday. "MoonMail is a new offering allowing anyone in the world to purchase space on our lander and immortalize their important keepsake on the moon forever." [Infographic: The Future of Moon Exploration Explained]
The smallest moon capsule measures 0.5 inches across (1.3 centimeters) and costs $460. A 0.75-inch-wide (1.9-centimeter) capsule costs $820. A 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) capsule costs $1,660. Prices increase depending on the height chosen for the container.
Astrobotic is also offering one free capsule as a contest prize. Company representatives are asking that people submit their best ideas for what they want to send to the moon by Dec. 23. Representatives will select their favorite, most meaningful idea as the winner.
Astrobotic will screen MoonMail items to make sure they aren't potentially harmful to the spacecraft and its mission, and cultural sensitivities also will be taken into account, Thornton said.
The main goal of Astrobotic's first mission will be to win the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition. In order to win the grand prize, a team has to be the first to land a probe on the moon, move 1,640 feet (500 meters) on the lunar surface and beam images and data back to Earth.
Learn more about MoonMail and Astrobotic's contest here: https://www.astrobotic.com/moon-mail