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What is CSTART and why does it exist?

The Collaborative Space Travel and Research Team (CSTART) is a non-government space agency engaged in research and exploration of the solar system. Our work is based on an open model, and depends on the collaboration of volunteers located around the world. In short, you can think of us as an “open source NASA”.  The group’s first and current goal is a successful manned mission to the moon, the Collaborative Lunar Landing and Research Expedition (CLLARE).  See our about page for more details.

Is it really possible to have a non-government space agency?

Most people think of space programs as gigantic, super expensive undertakings, completely out of reach of private companies or non-profit organizations.  This view may once have been true but in 2009 it is rapidly becoming out of date.  In May 2004, the Civilian Space eXploration Team launched the first amateur rocket into space.  5 weeks later, the private company Scaled Composites completed the world’s first non-government funded suborbital human spaceflight, winning the $10,000,000 Ansari X Prize.  In 2008 and 2009, the private companies Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space Systems won the 1st and 2nd levels of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge by building vertical take off rocket systems suitable for landing on the moon. Today, a number of private companies and volunteer organizations are seriously competing for the Google Lunar X Prize by designing, building and testing systems designed to put a robot rover on the moon. Space exploration is quickly moving into the realm of what non-government entities can hope to achieve, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.  The formation of a non-government space agency is just another logical step in this steady progression.

How will CSTART be funded?

We expect our initial funding to come from small individual or corporate donations and from the sale of merchandise like tshirts and mugs (we are working on making these available soon). Once the team is more established and we have more solid plans, we hope to be able to secure additional funding through larger corporation donations and sponsorship deals. As CSTART acquires actual launch capabilities, we hope to begin selling services such as launching low mass satellites into low earth orbit, and eventually work our way up to selling suborbital and orbital “joyrides” to space tourists. All revenue generated from these sales will be directed toward research and development for future projects.

What is CSTART working on currently?

CSTART currently has two projects.  As a comparatively simple, short-term goal, the OHKLA project project (Open Hybrid Karman Line Attempt) aims to build and launch a hybrid rocket which can travel more than 100km above the Earth’s surface, the internationally recognized boundary of space, also called the “Karman Line”.   As a more ambitious, long-term goal, the CLLARE project (Collaborative Lunar Landing and Research Expedition)  has the aim of putting a human being on the moon and then return them safely to Earth!

Do you really think you can send a human to the moon?

Yes, we do. It’s easy to see why people would be incredulous, though. When we think of sending humans to the moon, we naturally think of the Apollo program – a giant project which cost the equivalent of hundreds of billions of US dollars in today’s money. But a lot has changed since 1960s. The weight, size, cost and power consumption of computers have decreased by several orders of magnitude, while their performance has increased even more dramatically. Similar improvements have occurred in fuel cell and inertial navigation technology. These advancements mean spacecraft can be significantly smaller and lighter.  By taking advantage of these and other advancements, and by sending a lone astronaut instead of a team of three, one ends up with a project which, while by no means easy, should be much simpler and much cheaper than the Apollo missions of the past.

Can I volunteer as an astronaut?

The CLLARE project is currently in far too early a stage of development for us to have decided on or even thought about a process for selecting candidate astronauts. Please check back later.

How can I help CSTART?

Anybody can help CSTART by donating money or purchasing merchandise (these options will be available soon). If you would like to actually get involved in the team, see our get involved page for details. You don’t need to be a scientist or engineer to be involved in CSTART: we need people with experience in business, marketing, law, graphic design and other fields just as much as we need rocket scientists!

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