Government funding for space travel ain't what it used to be. Private organisations are our best hope for exploring beyond Earth's increasingly noxious atmosphere, and to get your cash they're turning to Indiegogo and Kickstarter to fund ambitious space missions. Unfortunately, most of the projects are bonkers messes doomed to fail.
Reach for the moon, and even if you miss you'll land among the smouldering dungheap of ill-fated crowdfunding missions.
The plan: To make a "spaceplane" that would shuttle people into orbit as tourists.
Bristol Spaceplanes has been around since 1991, but its longevity didn't translate to crowdfunding support. After failing on British site Crowdfunder, the team has stopped updating.
Money raised: £2715 of a £10,000 goal
Bonkers campaign quote: "At Bristol Spaceplanes, we are proposing a straightforward way of slashing the cost of access to space. This would lead to most of us being able to afford a visit to a space hotel."
Golden Spike's moon mission
The plan: Human expeditions to the moon by 2020.
Space travel startup Golden Spike is still intent on monetizing space exploration. Former NASA bigwigs like Alan Stern and Gerry Griffin are in charge, and it won a lunar lander contract with Northrup Grumman a few year ago. That said, Golden Spike has been quiet in 2015, and it will almost certainly blow its deadline.
Money raised: Nearly $US20,000, short of its $US250,000 goal.
Bonkers campaign quote: "We're sending countries and individuals to surface of the Moon before 2020."
The plan: To produce a line of mass-produced space hotels.
Thee hotels, nicknamed "Tasha9503," would come equipped with six levels of artificial gravity, six restaurants, and six independent zero gravity sections for "science sports sex and others" per spaceship. The walls would have been covered in "iPad technology," which I admit sounds fetching.
Status: Ongoing, but almost certainly going to fail due to being insane.
Money raised: $US40.13 of its $US80,000 goal, probably because its plan makes no sense and appears to be written by an ESL hallucinogen enthusiast with delusions of grandeur.
Bonkers campaign quote:
Did you laugh at, or would you invest in: Mark Coni? for dreaming of the radio. Alexander Bell? about the telephone? Christopher Columbus? Did he fall off the Earth? Henry Ford? Who needed a car? No roads any ware anyway. Thomas Edison? The oil-less light bulb? Ben Franklyn? his kite strings. Jay Edger Hover? his dream of an electrical dam. The Wright Brothers? It will never fly Orville. Man was never meant to fly. Copernicus, the Earth not in the center of the universe? Forty years after, a paper published an apology to Robert Goddard and his rocket engine. He kept lighting fire crackers upside down. All these men were laughed at. May I go on? Most people knew better and laughed at these dreamers, knowing it will NEVER happen. The rest of the people said it will take fifty years. Edgar Alan Poe? Aristotle? Michel Angelo? Einstein? Samuel Morris? Leonard da Vinci? We laugh at the people who see what we cannot and attempt to lift us to new heights. We nailed one man to a cross for trying to teach us to love and help each other and stop cheating, steeling, lying and hurting each other. Do you laugh at the design Tasha9503 wants to use as HotelsInSpace or the man who designed it or the people who produced the technology needed to make spaceships reality?
The plan: To fly a glider to the edge of space by using the power of "mountain waves".
Mountain waves are real and they're exactly what you think they are (waves of air created by the change in ground level near a mountain). But using them to glide to the end of the Earth's atmosphere is a wildly ambitious project, and judging by its social media and blog, Perlan's project has fizzled out since its crowdfunding gambit; its only upcoming events are displaying the glider in aviation celebrations. That said, this is by far the most plausible project on this list.
Money raised: Around $US20,000, short of its $US100,000 goal
Bonkers campaign quote:
"The problem was that their pressure suits expanded so much inside the cabin that they couldn't move the flight controls and safely control the aircraft anymore. So they came down, and quickly decided they needed a custom glider with a pressurised cabin."
This is a quote about what happened the first time the team's pilots tried to go as high as possible using mountain waves. Not comforting.
Pornhub's Space Sex Tape
The plan: To send porn stars to space to record the first sex tape in space. It annoys me to type those words because this is obviously a huge publicity stunt, yet Pornhub is actually convincing people to give up their money under the pretense that this is a thing that will realistically happen.
Status: Funding ongoing
Money raised: $US51,000 out of $US3.4 million, ugh
Bonkers campaign quote:
"That Pornhub would hope to become a player in a field dominated by state governments and billionaires like Elon Musk speaks volumes about the size of the adult industry." This is actually a quote from the Washington Post included in the Pornhub campaign, but let's all sit back and reflect on how seriously the Post took Pornhub's OBVIOUS PR STUNT.
The plan: To start a human colony on Mars.
You've probably heard of Mars One. Even though its Indiegogo campaign failed, it's getting a lot of press by soliciting volunteers to go on its "upcoming" one-way trip to the red planet. By partnering with advertisers and turning the mission into a reality show, Mars One is still alive. But despite the hype, it's a mess of a program that is bound to fail, poorly budgeted and almost laughably vague.
Money raised: $US314,000 out of $US400,000
Bonkers campaign quote: "The Mars One foundation will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars."
Picture: Bristol Spaceplanes