ExoTerra hopes to raise $5 million for moon mission

10:52 AM, Dec 23, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA- A local company wants to make space exploration more affordable by making it accessible to everyone.

"We're trying to come up with a system that makes space more affordable for universities to do research [and] for private individuals to go and do research," said ExoTerra founder Michael VanWoerkom. "There's so much in space that we haven't discovered yet, that we don't even know to look for yet and we're limited to just a couple missions a year right now. If we can get the cost of this down we can open space up and explore different nooks and crannies of space that we didn't even think to look at yet."

VanWoerkom founded ExoTerra in 2011. Right now, it has just 9 employees, most of them are former engineers from Lockheed Martin.

"We've got a lot of experience working a lot of different space programs and we decided we wanted to go off on our own and see if we could find ways to make space more affordable, " VanWoerkom said.

ExoTerra hopes to launch its SolRider spacecraft to the moon in 2016. Instead of launching it on a rocket, they plan to utilize a rideshare program to dramatically cut costs.


"There will be a large satellite - your typical $500 million satellite launched on top of large atlas rocket, and what we'll do is ride in basically just a little spot on the side of the vehicle that they reserve for payload capability," he said. " We squeeze inside of there because we use such an efficient fuel system."

It helps them keep the cost under $10 million, which is cheap compared to other space missions. But it's still a lot of money. VanWoerkom and his company came up with the idea to use the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help fund the mission and generate excitement about space exploration in general.

SolRider Affordable Space Explorerhttp://kck.st/1fT3FH7

"It's hard to describe the feeling of knowing you put something up there and we're trying to share that with everybody and let everybody say, 'Hey, I put something up there. I was part of that mission I put something on the moon.'"

They're trying to raise $5 million for the mission, by offering unique incentives.

"We're allowing people to send what we call the right stuff to the moon. What that is, is up to the person who's sending it, as long as it's less than 10 grams and the U.S. Postal Service mails it we'll send it to the moon for you," he said.

There's space on the SolRider for about 15,000 items. That includes room for 100 items weighing 10 grams, 300 5-gram items, 1,500 1-gram items and 12,500 calling cards.

"We also offer what we call a little lunar calling card. It's a small picture on a kapton sheet, and also you can put a little Tweet on it so you can send a picture of yourself and a message to the moon," VanWoerkom said.

There's also an option for a selfie for the moon, or you can sign up to receive a live video feed from the moon during the SolRider mission.

ExoTerra hopes to launch the SolRider in 2016, but it will take it about a year to reach the moon.

"Whatever science instruments come along with us, as well as taking the selfies and the live video feed and that sort of stuff, we'll do that for one year," he said.

After that they'll deorbit the spacecraft from around the moon.

"It's not a soft landing. It's a rather high impact landing that we land in dramatic fashion. But we get everybody's stuff there and the mission will conclude," he said. "We're not promising it will be in one piece but that's not really the idea of the mission. The idea is that you can look up in space and see the moon there and know, 'Hey I sent something there. I was part of a space mission and it's not something everybody can do.'"

For more about the company and its mission click here: http://www.exoterracorp.com/ or visit their FACEBOOK page.

Right now the deadline to reach their $5 million goal is January 17. So far they've raised nearly $10,000.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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