The Business Case

Lunar Mission One’s business case is fundamental to the existence of our project. Our revenue expectation justifies the expenditure we need to plan, develop and do the mission. The business model relies on the public to fund as we proceed, and that in turn attracts short term lending and strategic government support for key components.

Our business case is set within the background of developments in two areas – space exploration and information archiving.

  • The international space agencies have the Moon and Mars in their sights for manned exploration, with robotic missions to investigate and pave the way. Other unmanned missions go even further afield. Government funding is increasingly difficult, and commercial companies are now taking the initiative by investing to build their own spacecraft and even running their own missions, rather than just being suppliers.
  • The information age has brought together enormous resources for collecting, processing and storing data from all areas of human endeavor, from personal social media to large scale professional databases, from science and technology to our work and play. Humans have always sought to record and preserve things for the future.

Into this mix comes Lunar Mission One. You can find out more about the international context for our project here.

Read the professional business case here:

  • The Business Case - Revenues Open or Close


    Our space mission aims for serious academic science and requires serious industrial engineering. Thanks to its deep drilling we have the opportunity to create an enduring archive, a billion year record of life on Earth, with a private component for personal information, generating revenues from those who want to take part. Variable amounts of digital information can be included, but it is an individual’s DNA code, stored in a single strand of hair, that creates the crucial value proposition that anchors our business case.

    It is a niche product but for a vast number of people. There are several reasons for buying into the private archive. Mostly it is to participate in a grand vision: of long term space exploration, of having a record of humanity live on far into the future. We expect the largest group to be the on-line social media and networking generation who see Lunar Mission One as a fun and exciting challenge. We also know that a large proportion of purchases will be for gifting, for significant anniversaries and life events. There is also an element of altruism, of archiving for others in the future, and for education now. We expect purchasing by individuals, by families, and by groups of friends and other networks.

    There is a market for personal archiving, both on Earth and in space. You can send digital memories, even ashes, into space orbit or to the Moon and Mars. You can archive on Earth, including your DNA for medical purposes. Lunar Mission One is a unique combination, bringing together a global mass market consumer offer with scientific exploration, technological innovation and an inclusive global education programme. It is also the only proposal that can record information for such a long time, a geological timescale, way beyond a few thousand years.

    Capacity for digital information will have a wide range of prices, depending on the quantity you upload; from a few dollars for a short statement to a high cost for an extensive library. The exact price per byte will depend on the archive technology selected over the next few years. The strand of hair is likely to start from $90 for a simple anonymous deposit, but is expected to sell at around $300 for basic personal details to be permanently tagged to the strand. We anticipate most people will first buy as a discretionary purchase, especially for gifting, at the $90 level thereby reserving their “place in space”. This will lead to a more thoughtful contemplation of personal information and a higher priced purchase later in the sales and marketing cycle.

    The strategy is to offer the $90 reservation throughout the project from now. At this early stage we will see, and are currently seeing, take-up by the project’s enthusiasts, well before the main sales and marketing campaign. That campaign should start about half way through Lunar Mission One’s ten year programme. It would be sold under local franchise arrangements for cultural affinity, overseen by a global marketing organisation. Lunar Mission One’s global educational programme will also help to spread awareness of both the project itself, and the opportunities to take part from anywhere around the World.

    Like any venture, Lunar Mission One has revenue risks and contingency plans. People might worry about contaminating the Moon (see The Lunar Archives), the inclusion of DNA and its ethics (see The Lunar Archives), the seriousness of the idea (see Meet the Team), the business case for revenues and costs (see this section), a bias towards Anglo-American culture (check our take-up), or whether it’s a mainstream project (see International Context).

    Our revenue prediction comes from a professional market research exercise (see Market Research). It investigated the underlying motivators and barriers to purchasing, and analyzed responses from 6,000 individuals. It predicted $4.5Bn global revenues, half from the USA, and approximating to 1% of those who could afford the core $300 product of DNA plus information. Many more could afford smaller amounts, but the net contribution would be small. One key to the globalization of revenues is the sense of ownership that people feel.

    You can find out more about our revenue case here.

  • The Business Case - Costs Open or Close


    Lunar Mission One has two foremost components of cost, both potentially similar in value.

    • The space mission itself, with all its planning and development work, is approximately a fixed cost. There are several components where costs can be varied by management.
    • The cost of public engagement is highly variable depending on the take-up, in both sales and the global education programme.

    Our space mission cost prediction comes from a professional technology feasibility study, see The Technical Review. While assuming a commercially managed mission development and operation, it produced an outline spacecraft design and mission profile, investigated the status of the key technologies that require development, predicted the timings based on historic space projects, and assessed the risks to cost and timescale. Some components can be bought in, such as the space rocket launcher. Others need development, such as the remote controlled drilling.

    Taking everything into account, the study predicted a mission cost of about $750m, and a ten year project timescale. This included two extra years of contingency to cover drilling risk, and three years for setting up the main commercial contracts.

    We can expect a degree of government financial support for key technologies, where their development could have strategic value beyond the Lunar Mission One project, thereby reducing our cost. For example, our development of drilling and precision landing may be subsidised because of their potential benefits in robotics, software and materials. Improving the safety of remote controlled drilling alone could have significant economic benefits to the terrestrial exploration industry and the environment.

    Our public engagement cost prediction comes from operating models for outsourced business, typically from contracts in the IT sector. We anticipate a fixed cost to create the initial sales and marketing package of around $30m, followed by a variable amount taken as a percentage of gross revenues of 10% for local sales and a further 2.5% for central marketing, plus local taxes.

    The educational public engagement is treated outside of the commercial business case on the grounds that it will be funded by the project’s educational side, now underway with the support of local volunteers and normal fundraising activities.

    The Setup Stage which starts this year will cost us about $20m over the next three years, plus $10m-$15m for supplier costs as they prepare for the mission contract.

    You can find out more about our cost case here.

  • The Business Case - Plan Open or Close


    Lunar Mission One’s programme is expected to last a decade. It starts with a three year Setup Stage in which the main contracts for the mission and for sales & marketing are competitively negotiated and agreed. That is followed by the main Development Stage over six years, accompanied by the main sales campaign, and itself ending with the mission launch. The mission is likely to take four to six months, with the prospect of extended science measurements lasting a few years.

    We plan for the mission to be managed commercially by an industrial consortium. It would probably be led by a major international aerospace company which would act as programme leader for the mission and its technology development, subcontracting as required for the most efficient commercial deliverables. The full mission contract for the consortium to manage would cover the spacecraft and its mission profile, including launching, spaceflight trajectory, precision landing, lunar surface operations, science support and drilling.

    The consortium would be paid for delivering the spacecraft’s payload – the archive canisters and the science instruments – to the Moon. The instruments would be supplied by teams who normally supply instruments for space missions, typically from universities and other research institutions.

    Lunar Mission One will seek at least one government space agency to take a role acting as the mission’s regulatory authority, managing intergovernmental relations and providing underwriting support to isolate the mission consortium from revenue risk. The mission consortium will concentrate on managing technology cost and operational performance risks.

    Any revenue shortage during the Development Stage, when the cost temporarily exceeds the revenues, will be funded by the industrial consortium as a form of secured loan that is repaid later. Similarly, any shortfall in early revenues during the Setup Stage is covered under the project’s sponsorship arrangements now being put in place.

    We have identified the project risks and mitigations. They cover revenues, costs, timescales and the output deliverables themselves. Broadly, over time the risks go down as the costs go up. We address the major uncertainties early on.

    • We can expect to expand or modify the public’s product definition in the light of early sales to seek the maximum revenues.
    • We can downscale the mission’s requirement if the cost forecast is jeopardized by a significantly lower revenue forecast.
    • We are flexible about the launch date, and will set it by prioritizing cost effectiveness.
    • We can negotiate with the industrial consortium a mission that they are capable of delivering, such that they are responsible for performance and are rewarded for achievement.

    You can find out more about our programme plan here.

  • The Business Case - Legacy Open or Close


    Lunar Mission One’s financial business case is critical to the project. Yet we should not underestimate the legacy that will result, adding to its “public good” justification.

    • Record of Life on Earth: a public record of humanity and the biosphere.
    • Science: increased knowledge of the Moon, Earth and the solar system, and an investigation into a permanent lunar base.
    • Technology: the development of planetary drilling for Mars and beyond, and safer remote control drilling on Earth.
    • Education: a substantial participation in science, technology and culture around the World, inspiring the next generation of innovators.
    • Funding: to apply to further space science and exploration.
    • Big Picture: a theoretical and speculative recovery of life, and an improved public understanding of conditions for survival on Earth.


    Perhaps our greatest inspiration historically is the 1851 Great Exhibition, held at the peak of the 19th century British Empire. Not only was it a spectacular example of crowdsourcing, for both the funding of the event and supply of its exhibits, but the long term legacy it left behind is still very much alive today, in the form of the extensive South Kensington museums and university complex in London. We want Lunar Mission One to be its 21st century equivalent. To visualize the parallels, see our article on the 1851 Great Exhibition.