Even in the midst of global crypto markets shedding over a trillion dollars in value, one group is still aiming for the moon.
Enter MoonDAO: an “international collective of people united by the mission of decentralizing access to space research and exploration.” In other words, while some crypto projects look to make a home on far flung islands or disputed territories, this group is looking to the literal moon and hopes to take advantage of the privatized space race between a few billionaires and their rocket companies.
Just over 2,621 ETH ($6,435,870) has been contributed to the MoonDAO, with the lion’s share having been raised between January 8 and January 16 when its treasury swelled from 98 to 2620 ETH. The goal for this hoard of crypto? To send a member of the DAO to space.
“Creating an economic connection with an entirely new planet will be such a massive wealth creation opportunity that few can wrap their heads around,” MoonDAO’s introductory article reads. “Trillions and trillions of dollars in mining for materials, manufacturing off-world, and constructing new civilizations. And who would benefit most from this? The people that are already the richest in the world: Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.”
To that end, the group believes DAOs could propose a viable use case here by creating an “international, decentralized, inclusive, and transparent organization” that would be more interested in “the needs of the everyday person” than the world’s richest men and their literal moonshot projects. It’s similar to ConstitutionDAO and SpiceDAO, groups that did not directly offer partial ownership or opportunities to make money through speculative price action of their “governance” tokens but instead bragging rights and votes in group decisions. Indeed, MoonDAO co-founder Pablo Moncada-Larrotiz was involved in ConstitutionDAO before its failure to buy a copy of the Constitution then refund contributors their ETH, later criticizing the group for its lack of transparency.
The big question, however, is how MoonDAO will accomplish its goal, and on that front the organization is light on answers.
At the moment, the project’s roadmap features three major phases. The first phase―deploying a governance token called Mooney to raise capital―has already been achieved. The second step then is to send a DAO member up to space this year, which may already be within reach thanks to the multi-million dollar capital raise which the DAO said it would use to “fund the workers (NFT designers, website developers, solidity developers, marketing, legal consulting, etc.)” who’d make the DAO’s plans possible.
With millions raised in ETH contributions―even though that money has technically been earmarked for worker pay―the DAO has already begun reaching out to companies like Blue Origin to reserve seats for DAO members on future flights. Last Monday, the group claimed in its Discord that Blue Origin had made Pablo Moncada-Larrotiz and Kori Rogers, the DAO’s co-founders, sign an NDA because it refused to let its ticket prices be made public. At the moment, this has complicated the decentralized governance aspect of it as the first budget proposal is coming up for a vote soon.
On Wednesday, the group announced that it had a second meeting with Blue Origin and said it was able to successfully reserve tickets with a “soft reservation” on a Blue Origin rocket in 2022, though it’s not exactly clear what this means. As the DAO observes, there’s been a huge range for just one ticket: Virgin Galactic (which is really more of a space plane than a rocket situation) prices its tickets “as low as” $450,000 while Blue Origin’s have been reported to have been sold for as much as $28 million at auction.
Blue Origin did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.
Those tickets can be won by members who purchase “Ticket to Space” NFTs that can only be bought with $MOONEY (the DAO’s governance token). It’s the capital raised from these NFTs that is supposed to primarily fund tickets to space. That’s right: the seven million dollars already raised by people will not be used to send anybody to space; NFT revenue will.
Shortly before closing the initial token raise, 1 ETH traded for 119,223 $MOONEY, of which there are 2.6 billion in circulation. New tokens were only created during the initial token raise at a fixed rate as $MOONEY was purchased so that about 50 percent of the existing supply was always staked in the central wallet where ETH exchanged for $MOONEY goes. The rest is spread across 2315 wallets holding at least 1 $MOONEY, with one holding as much as 84 million $MOONEY tokens, and a 4 percent ownership cap to limit potential for undue influence in votes.
It should be noted, however, that MoonDAO is painfully clear about how receiving $MOONEY means you are “receiving a governance token, not fractionalized ownership.” You gain the ability to vote on resource allocation and give advice on the DAO’s operations, but there is “no expectation of profit.”
Incredibly, in the current absurd landscape of DAOs, MoonDAO’s early phase seems downright sensible. We’ve seen DAOs promise to build cities, buy sports teams, or the Constitution, but we’ve also seen DAOs simply create self-styled “investor guilds”, speculative playgrounds for members, or try to adapt a creative work they may not have all the rights for.
This isn’t to say that a DAO that lists going to the Moon as a future milestone isn’t entertaining its own delusions of grandeur, just that there is a world of difference between winning an auction for the Constitution or for a seat on Blue Origin’s next rocket and, say, building a city or buying a professional sports team. The next steps of MoonDAO’s plan―becoming a funder of private space exploration―seems to be the real goal of the DAO but also the least worked out aspect of its plans.
Growing its treasury and regularly securing seats on various space tourism flights could, conceivably, put the DAO in a position to fund research and exploration, but such a possibility occupies a realm of speculation that at this time isn’t really worth considering. The real question is whether this DAO, or indeed any DAO, can succeed where ConstitutionDAO failed and buy its way into being regarded as a serious player in its respective industry—for MoonDAO, that’s the private space tourism industry. Maybe. But in an era where space travel is dominated by billionaires who’ve grown fortunes through exploitation and extraction on Earth, is that something to be particularly proud of?