Past Efforts -- Abandoned, Stalled, or Creeping
LunaCorp, founded in 1989 by David Gump, promoted a private robotic rover mission to the Moon, to be funded by the entertainment value of having customers driving the rover around the Moon, plus commercial broadcast rights by the mass media of this copyrighted video, plus selling research data from any probes on the rover, plus supported by various sponsors who wanted their brand associated with the project.
The project actually made a lot of progress, but the company was surprisingly dissolved in 2003, not long after some high profile publicity.
Dr. Buzz Aldrin, the Apollo 11 astronaut and second man on the Moon, was a prominent advisor, and there were some highly reputable people doing actual work on the project.
The heart of the robotics work, however, became a rover named Nomad, designed and built by the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, led by Dr. Red Whittaker.
Nomad was tested under extreme conditions in the Canadian Arctic in 2001, after $1 million of support was offered by NASA. Later, Nomad was also tested in the Atacama Desert in Chile, as well as in Antarctica.
The two main issues of the rover were dealing with the extreme temperatures of the Moon, and energy storage for nights.
The first mission idea had been to visit the Apollo 11 and 17 sites plus two older probe sites (Ranger 8 and Surveyor 5), but later, this changed to possibly probing the lunar poles for volatiles, and also a proposal by mission controller Geoffrey Landis to circle the Moon at a high non-polar latitude so that the rover was always on the illuminated side of the Moon for solar power and thermal control at a higher latitude. It would need to average a speed of a few kilometers per hour to stay in the sunlight.
1990s launch dates slipped due to lack of success in obtaining funding. In the year 2000, LunaCorp had published a press release which included the year 2003 as the launch of its multimedia lunar robot called Icebreaker Moon Rover, and named Radio Shack Corporation as the initial corporate sponsor, but failed to mention another sponsor, Mitsubishi Corp., while seeking another 3 or 4 additional sponsors. Mission cost was estimated at $80 to 130 million.
There was also a plan to work with Microsoft to develop an online game to simulate Icebreaker Moon Rover, as well as other commercial items to bring in revenues. Radio Shack promised $ 1 million, and additional millions in the future. With funding from Radio Shack, LunaCorp also promoted musician Lance Brass of NSYNC as a space tourist.
In 2003, the company was dissolved. Some say it was due to insufficient support despite a last ditch effort.
In 2004, David Gump started working as President for Transformational Space Corporation (t/Space), a NASA contractor, and in 2008 switched to Astrobotic Technology, Inc., again as President. Astrobotic is covered elsewhere in this website and is associated with the same leading robotic people who developed Nomad, with another planned lunar mission.
The LunaCorp.com homepage in 2012 is run by somebody promoting various products not related to space, but retains a little bit of information on Lunacorp at lunacorp.com/lunacorp.html . The owner of the domain is hidden by an anonymizer service. However, there's lots of info on Google for LunaCorp.
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