A bitcoin headed for the moon may be lost in space

Houston, we have a problem — BitMEX’s and Bitcoin Magazine’s space mission isn’t going to plan

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Oleg_Yakovlev/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

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The bitcoin payload that departed for the moon early Monday may never make it there.

Just hours after successfully taking off from Florida’s Space Coast, the Peregrin 1 lander, including a Bitcoin Genesis Block commemorative plaque and an engraved coin with a private key unlocking 1 BTC, suffered what ground controllers call “a failure within the propulsion system.”

The resulting “critical loss of propellant” all but rules out the possibility of successfully landing on the moon.

Read more: Bitcoin hitches a ride on a rocket to the moon

That’s disappointing news for BitMEX and the groups behind the 19 other payloads on board the spacecraft. Most of the science experiments, such as NASA’s Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS) will be utterly useless if the lander can’t touch down safely.

NASA paid approximately $108 million for its five scientific instruments that are part of the Peregrine 1 mission, plus $79.5 million to Astrobotic to carry these five payloads to the lunar surface. This arrangement is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which aims to leverage commercial partnerships to deliver payloads to the Moon, thus reducing overall mission costs.

Any new technology comes with risks, and the initial outlook for the mission following a successful launch of the Vulcan rocket by United Launch Alliance was promising. As of Tuesday morning, the Astrobotic team was assessing what science can be salvaged from the mission.

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There have been a few efforts to “send crypto to space” before, such as the Copernic Metaverse to the Moon concept originally planned for 2022, in collaboration with the Lunar Outpost’s MAPP Rover, which has yet to launch.

Astrobotic itself previously partnered with a “social-auction app” called Superbid, that seems to have crashed and burned before it could get off the ground — its domain is now pointing to an unrelated app.

BitMEX planned a trading competition to run until the lander’s planned touchdown date of Feb. 23, which will continue, for now.

The firm has no contingency plan to retrieve the one bitcoin in the event the craft can’t reach the moon.

“The private key is engraved onto the physical Bitcoin under a tamper-proof, heat and pressure resistant hologram,” a BitMEX representative told Blockworks. “The engraving was done under strictest security measures by a specialized secret messaging agency.”

Still, most of the mission’s symbolism remains intact, they said.

“Bitcoin to the Moon mission serves as a powerful reminder that crypto is not only here to stay for future generations, but more significantly, highlights the remarkable progress in terms of technological advancement.”


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