Two groups are rounding up corporate support for the exploration of the moon and farther out in space, hoping to get consumers interested in the final frontier through consumer product promotions and sponsorships.
One of the efforts, called Mission Home, is backed by two famous ex-astronauts and 16 major aerospace companies, all seeking to build public support for federal space exploration and research.
The other sponsorship mission to the moon is organized by a tiny Arlington, Va., company called LunaCorp, which aims to use corporate dollars to send its own unmanned Lunar Rover to the moon in 1999, financed entirely by the private sector.
LunaCorp plans to create multiple commercial and consumer opportunities to support the expedition, and while the company says it has backing from many NASA engineers, its thrust is toward private sector space exploration.
To introduce Mission Home, James Lovell, of Apollo 13 fame, and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., the second man to walk on the moon, appeared last month at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air & Space Museum.
They outlined a five-year plan to get consumers interested in federally funded space programs, backed by $7.5 million in funding from companies including Boeing Co., Eastman Kodak Co., Honeywell, Hughes Electronic Corp., Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas Corp. and Rockwell International.
The program includes offering "Made in Space" logos and other space promotional materials to companies whose products were developed thanks to the U.S. space program. Also in the works is a national touring space exhibit and a series of five "town meetings" to be held across the U.S. to educate consumers about the benefits of space exploration.
The logos and sponsorships for the town meetings are being marketed to corporations.
The Morgan Network, Chicago, handles sponsorship sales. Fleishman-Hillard, St. Louis, conceived the concept, which is also supported by the U.S. Space Foundation of Colorado Springs, Colo., and the National Space Society, Washington.
In its separate orbit, LunaCorp last week announced plans to round up $200 million in corporate support to fund its exploration of the moon in 1999 via a robotic Lunar Rover now being developed by the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University.
The company is currently in negotiations with several U.S. companies to raise money for the effort by selling the rights to live TV coverage of the surface of the moon for a variety of purposes, and is marketing many other commercial and consumer tie-ins to the Lunar Rover Expedition.
Plans call for a contest to be the first person to guide the rover off its lander and onto the lunar surface. LunaCorp also hopes to let consumers send digitized messages or photos to the moon via a time capsule it plans to drop onto the lunar surface on Jan. 1, 2000.
"Ordinary consumers have always been locked out of the space program, and we want to create ways to let them be a part of this for the first time," said David Gump, president of LunaCorp, a three-person company formed in 1989 that so far has marketed two successful CD-ROMs dealing with space and lunar exploration.
LunaCorp's goal is to raise $45 million by selling rights to live TV coverage of its lunar landing; $45 million by selling scientific organizations and companies rights to research; and $60 million from an undisclosed theme park operator. The latter is considering building a consumer attraction around the lunar explorer, including beaming live images of the moon to the ride.
$81 MIL FROM SPONSORS
Mr. Gump hopes to raise another $81 million via corporate sponsorship of contests, promotions and sweepstakes surrounding the Lunar Rover trip, including a "Desert Trek" simulation land tour next summer, and another $8 million in sales of Lunar Rover-related merchandise and multimedia products.
Several potential sponsors have expressed interest in the program, but Mr. Gump would not disclose their names.
There has even been interest from overseas.
Last week, Japan's Mitsubishi Corp. signed a contract with LunaCorp to arrange a tour to the U.S. this month for several of its executives to be briefed on lunar exploration. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.