A British company plans to launch thousands of miniature probes to the Moon, each of which can be bought for 199 pounds and personalized by the sponsor. (Agencies)
The probes, to be launched by Pocket Spacecraft, are the size of a CD and as thin as a piece of paper. They will be released above the Earth in June 2015 and over the Moon in June 2016.
Explorers can personalize their own spacecraft by adding a picture and customizing the message it transmits using just their web browser.
People can watch online as their Pocket Spacecraft is built in the lab and loaded into an Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership.
Having hitched a ride into space on a commercial rocket, some Pocket Spacecraft will be released into space to flutter to the ground to demonstrate landing on a planet with an atmosphere (the Earth).
The mothership will set off to the Moon where, when it arrives many months later, the rest of the Pocket Spacecraft will be released, photographed and then land on the Moon to complete the mission.
The owners can monitor progress with their own Pocket Mission Control app to track the progress of their spacecraft as it is designed, built and travels through space.
The data from an individual's spacecraft's instruments as it arrives is relayed from space by a global ground station network direct to their smartphone.
Users can also hold their phone up to the sky and use the augmented reality feature to point out exactly where their spacecraft is, the company said.
The Bristol-based company hopes that when the probes are launched in June 2015 they will usher in a new era of low-cost, disposable space science.
"The economies of space exploration are all about mass. Because these are so light, they are also extremely cheap," the founder of Pocket Spacecraft, Michael Johnson, said.
Ultimately, the company hopes to use similar probes elsewhere in the solar system.
"If you drop 1,000 of these on Mars you could do a planet-wide seismic survey. The great thing is that they are so cheap it does not matter if some fail. There's security in numbers," Johnson said.
A British company plans to launch thousands of miniature probes to the Moon, each of which can be bought for 199 pounds and personalized by the sponsor.