Privately held TransOrbital, which was founded in 1998 to develop commercial opportunities on the moon, insists that its space story is more than a publicity stunt. "At first, people thought it was a little bit of a strange idea," Laurie admits. "But weve had a lot of interest."
The 20-employee company isn't betting its entire business on orbital data storage, however. Initially, it will transport such things as business cards, cremated human remains, and other memorabilia into space.
"When you look at the commercialization issues, you really need to be diversified," says Laurie. "We expect business to be good enough." He wont reveal how much the company has received in funding to date, but he says he expects TransOrbital to be profitable after its very first mission. That mission is expected to cost the company just under $20 million.
TransOrbitals Website promises that its first TrailBlazer mission will carry "personal relics, mementos, or treasures to the moon" for only $2,500 per gram. The company notes, however, that its first spacecraft is set to orbit the moon before crashing onto its surface. Therefore, "no guarantee can be made as to the state of the payload following its arrival on the surface," the Website states.
After the first mission, however, TransOrbital is promising to keep its cargo, including precious data, intact. Laurie says the company plans to send missions to the moon every six to nine months, and that it will start sending up servers and multiple terabytes of storage on its second voyage, towards the end of 2004.