DHL’s first commercial payload transport to the Moon ready for launch
Jul 11, 2017: Peregrine Lunar Lander - the first private and commercial lunar mission is its way to the Moon if things go as per plan. Produced by Astrobotic, the lunar lander will not only carry science, exploration, and marketing payloads, but also small honeycomb-shaped boxes called DHL MoonBoxes that give private individuals a way to send objects up to one-inch in diameter into space. For the senders, the contents will be of great immaterial value, and much like a time capsule, they will be left in a closed container on the Moon after the landing.
This service for consumers is only one aspect of the project, however. "Our commercial lunar mission is giving institutions and countries around the world their first opportunity to reach the Moon, and at a historically low cost," explains Dan Hendrickson, vice president of development at Astrobotic. For the first launch in 2019, Hendrickson expects the lunar lander to carry numerous DHL MoonBoxes from consumers and 35kg of cargo for science and exploration. There are plans to increase the payload capacity to as much as 265kg on later missions. Currently, it costs about US$1.2 million to transport 1kg of space cargo. This is inexpensive compared with the costs of planning and executing a full-fledged independent, unmanned lunar mission. Thus, Astrobotic is offering new research projects and new ideas an opportunity to get to the Moon for the first time.
Arjan Sissing, senior vice president corporate brand marketing at Deutsche Post DHL Group, reports that the outlook for the project is positive. "For DHL, being part of the first commercial space logistics service is an exciting and inspiring experience. This means that we are not only part of a breakthrough project for research and science - the DHL MoonBox is also our very first extraterrestrial offering for consumers."
Customers can order their DHL MoonBox on the Astrobotic website right now. DHL will be in charge of the outbound delivery and transport to Astrobotic in Pittsburgh (USA), where the little packages will be stored for safekeeping until the first lunar mission. In the meantime, the senders will receive regular updates regarding the project's progress all the way up to the Moon landing. Each customer will also receive a photograph showing his or her DHL MoonBox being loaded into the transport capsule. There are also plans for a live broadcast of the 2019 mission.
DHL is not only in charge of transporting the payloads to Astrobotic; the company is also the official logistics partner of the aerospace outfit, and will transport the Peregrine Lunar Lander from Pittsburgh to the launch site in Florida. A true-to-scale prototype of the lunar lander is currently on display at the Post Tower in Bonn (Germany) and will later be on permanent display at the DHL Innovation Center in Troisdorf.
The costs for the DHL MoonBox journey have already been determined, two years ahead of launch: the price for sending one hexagonal box measuring 0.5" by 0.125" (roughly 1.27cm by 0.31cm) will be $460. Sending a MoonBox that is a full 1" by 1" in size will cost $1,660. Additional sizes are available on request. Unlike the research instruments that will be unloaded onto the Moon's surface after landing, the capsules will remain tightly enclosed in the lunar lander.
Commercial aerospace is carefully regulated and Astrobotic is working with the US government to ensure the mission will comply with the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, which regulates the space activities of all signatories (including Germany).