We have made a real effort to fulfill the LM1 vision – both ambitious and challenging! Yet since the end of LM1’s Kickstarter funded preparatory phase in 2015, we have been proceeding without any cash with only limited progress. We have always made clear that beyond the Kickstarter phase, further substantial funds and backing were required to enable the project to advance. We have long known of, and waited for, a prospective sponsor but so far it has not been able to deliver. The Trustees (who are all volunteers) have decided to wait no further, and to take two main courses of action.
The first is to seek one High Net Worth Individual, who could personally provide the at-risk cash to recover momentum and could lead to other single sources of high-level funding. The individual could be from anywhere around the World and is likely to be a billionaire. [The call for new sponsorship is available from here.]
The other course of action is to halt the core LM1 project but to keep alive the inspiring underlying LM1 idea. The future mission, including its archive with Digital Memory Boxes for Kickstarter backers, will await external funding and other developments. None of the volunteers we have spoken to want to stop their activities. So, the idea can be sustained through them.
Our chapters and pilot schools continued in 2018, and a group of chapter leads formed an Intercontinental Group – one from each of North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia (Indian subcontinent) and South East Asia – to help with the global connections of LM1’s public engagement.
Meanwhile LM1 presented last year at conferences or exhibitions in Dallas (USA), UK (Sidmouth, Bristol, Nottingham, Plymouth, Belfast), Stockholm (Sweden), Dublin (Ireland), Amiens (France) and Bilovec (Czech Republic). These activities may continue in the future.
The context and rational of both the idea and the project remain. From our 2017 update: “LM1 is ideally placed to benefit from both increased lunar focus and more private enterprise aiming for the final frontier. LM1 scientists remain in the forefront of discussions on lunar exploration hosted by space agencies, especially NASA and ESA.” We have recently seen considerable activity on and around the Moon and it is clearly now the focus of international missions.
The top aim of the LM1 idea is, and always has been, to raise new funding for public space science and exploration. Its revenue justification comes from the private archive – mainly from the DNA carried as hair. The USPs (Unique Selling Points) have not changed: (1) a billion-year time capsule of Life on Earth, (2) a genuine part of “you”, and (3) the global scale of public engagement. All these points remain both unique and selling.
The Trustees will maintain the list of Kickstarter backers, and in particular the list of those with Digital Memory Box vouchers, for if and when a new project can be set up. We also intend to maintain the “Footsteps on the Moon” images for their launch and lunar placement by Astrobotic’s Peregrine spacecraft.
For interest, this report describes how we spent the Kickstarter money, while this Forbes article highlights the issue we have faced with the UK tax authorities, which terminated funded progress at the end of the Kickstarter stage. Our higher judicial appeal will be heard in March at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, and we plan to wind up LM Ltd after that and use any money to pay off its trade creditors. All our legal work for these proceedings is being done on a no-win-no-fee basis.
The LM1 website is now archived with no further updates, but is available online for reference and detailed information for those who wish to investigate it. The Trust will maintain an archive of the project’s financial and commercial records.
We should like to maintain a social media presence, and seek a volunteer for regular updates of information that corresponds with the LM1 idea. We propose that future developments should come under a new name, the “Ark of Life”, which more accurately reflects what LM1 is about and which was selected by our market research exercise back in 2012.
Lunar Missions Trust - January 2019
It is with much regret that we have lost our higher legal appeal against the UK tax authority. We are very disappointed with the ruling and that the court did not understand the economic structure of our Kickstarter crowdfunding, by treating our capital funding as if it was revenue funding. VAT should not have been paid for vouchers whose value could only have been nominal at the time of issue.
As a result of this ruling, we now have no alternative but to close down Lunar Missions Ltd. In any event, the company has had no cash since October 2015 when the tax authority decision brought the commercial project to a premature end.
Lunar Missions Trust will continue as the custodian of the Lunar Mission One idea on a fully volunteer basis, as it has done since 2015. Our Footsteps on the Moon image bank will still be carried to the Moon by Astrobotic’s first lander; stay in touch for more details on this mission.
Lunar Missions Trust - October 2019
Questions and answers
Why did the Prep Stage not succeed?keyboard_arrow_up
Firstly, we did not reach the idea’s potential for crowdfunding. We concentrated too much on lunar science rather than the central idea for the project’s funding which is all about the archive – and its potential to fund future space science and exploration – and for which this lunar mission is the enabler. As a consequence, the idea’s USP’s (1 The Life on Earth archive awaiting discovery over a billion years, 2 A real bit of you (DNA plus data), and 3 The global nature of the project) were lost in the messaging. There was little pick-up beyond the UK where people assumed it was a UK project. In the US, it was seen as just another Moon mission idea and “not one of ours”. Although our Kickstarter reached the minimum to keep us going at the time, we really needed two or three times that to be reasonably sure of progress.
Secondly, while we were grappling with the start of an under-resourced new funding campaign – and start the Setup Stage – we found that the UK tax authority (HMRC) took the view that our crowdfunding should have been subject to 20% sales tax (known in the UK as VAT). We had formally received clear professional expert advice that our crowdfunding should not be taxable. Our view was that it was not taxable anyway as the economic reality of the transaction was a capital not a revenue funding. We were not selling DMBs (digital memory boxes) but giving vouchers as rewards for donating to the start of a project for which there was not a direct link to the eventual redemption. There is simply too much time and uncertainty between the issue of vouchers and the proper sale of DMBs. We have been in dispute with HMRC ever since, but its decision at the time left us with no money – we were no longer financially solvent – and we had to stop our funded progress at the end of the Prep Stage and look for completely new funding to continue.
If you find a new sponsor, what will you spend the funding on?keyboard_arrow_up
We need to take the project to the point where we have legally binding commitments to implement the main project – its space mission, its science, its revenues and its education. The Setup Stage during which we do this is much the same as before, and requires funding for:
1. A fully staffed procurement team to acquire the resources for the space mission from Government and industry. This will require experts in:
a. PPP procurement, to negotiate the complex commercial and financial terms;
b. Space engineering, to oversee and fund development activities needed to reduce the technology risk, eg of precision landing and robotic operations;
c. Drilling engineering, to oversee and fund development activities needed to reduce the technology risk, eg of deep drilling borehole strategies;
d. Project interfaces, to ensure internal coherence of the mission’s components, and external links to other ground and space assets;
e. Programme and project management, to bring and keep it all together.
2. A science team, drawn from universities and other research establishments, to confirm the detailed science requirements and prepare for the production of science instruments. Some of the scientists will be full time and they will all be supported by a small management team.
3. A sales and marketing team to acquire early sales revenues to help with project funding and to plan for the main sales campaign.
4. A public archive and education team, to pilot the non-profit activities of the main phase.
What is the latest timeline for the space mission?keyboard_arrow_up
Nine years from finding a significant sponsor. It could take about three years to set up the committing arrangements between government, industry and commerce. At that point a formal timetable for the mission should appear – the best guess today is six years from then.
Are you open to joining forces with other missions?keyboard_arrow_up
Of course, we always have been, but they need to be able to cope with a deep drill.
What about my Digital Message Box?keyboard_arrow_up
Most of those who donated to LM1’s Kickstarter have a voucher for a Digital Memory Box to the value of their pledges. These can be realised when the project has been set up with a commercial arrangement offering space in the private archive, under a PPP.
The Lunar Missions Trust will continue to hold the list of vouchers with the objective of passing it on as an obligation for the PPP. The more funding we get, the closer will backers be to obtaining their DMBs.
Apart from the Kickstarter backers, what happens to the other sponsors?keyboard_arrow_up
A number of individuals and organisations are recognised sponsors, either in cash or in kind, going back to 2012. The rewards for their contributions were dependent on project progress beyond the Kickstarter’s Prep Stage and remain at risk.
What did you spend the Kickstarter money on?keyboard_arrow_up
What are volunteers currently doing?keyboard_arrow_up
Giving presentations to schools, colleges and clubs.
Mentoring school projects.
Planning and holding local events, workshops and competitions.
Coordinating with other interested organisations.
What do you have to entice future partners?keyboard_arrow_up
The LM1 project brings with it professional knowledge, plans and feasibility studies. It has many supporters – industry, scientists, Chapters, pilot schools with project examples (lower/primary school to post-graduate), over 7,000 existing Kickstarter backers and other sponsors.
The project is also supported by a team of international advisors, including two former NASA astronauts, the former Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and experts in space technologies. In addition, over 40 institutions have expressed support for the project, including the Natural History Museum of London, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Geological Society, the British Interplanetary Society, the International Space University and the University of London.
Will you keep the LM1 name?keyboard_arrow_up
We had long planned to call the project “The Ark of Life”, to reflect the core value proposition of its business case. Keeping “Lunar Mission One” itself would depend on who leads its resurrection.
What if no sponsor appears?keyboard_arrow_up
The attractiveness of LM1’s benefits, especially financial, are likely to grow in the coming decade or so.
Nonetheless, in the absence of major new funding, we expect to continue as an idea for anyone to take up, especially the central idea of mass lunar archiving of Life on Earth for a billion years.