A Japanese space startup company plans to launch a lunar mission to set up a projection mapping service allowing them to place advertisements on the surface of the Moon.
Business Insider reports that Tokyo-based startup company Ispace has just received $90 million following a new round of funding to help in the development of a lunar lander that will make two unmanned missions to the moon by 2020. Ispace has said that their initial revenue opportunity comes from marketing. The company will be placing company logos on their lunar lander and lunar rovers and plans to set up a “projection mapping service” on the surface of the moon, allowing them to project a small billboard on the moon.
The projection will be displayed across the company’s lunar lander and will act just like a traditional billboard. Advertising on the Moon is legal for all countries due to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which was signed by Japan, which states that space is free for exploration by all nations, no celestial body can be claimed by a sovereign state, no weapons of mass destruction are allowed in space, and all countries must aim to not cause any damage or pollution in space. It is unlikely that a projected billboard on a lunar rover based on the moon would violate any of these rules.
This isn’t the first time that advertisements have been placed in space, in 1990 a Japanese television network sent one of their reporters on a Russian flight into space and featured their network logo on the side of the Soyuz rocket. Ispace, however, is the first company to attempt to actually advertise on the moon itself. In 1993, U.S. company Space Marketing Inc. proposed sending a one kilometer by one kilometer billboard into low earth orbit. The billboard would be approximately the size and brightness of the moon at night and would have traveled all around the planet, but the plan was abandoned when the company realized that space debris would destroy the billboard.
However, the proposal resulted in Rep. Ed Marke (D-MA) introducing a bill into Congress that banned the U.S. from advertising in space, but the bill was altered to clarify that the U.S. was banned from placing “obtrusive advertising” in space allowing for the advertisements across space exploration vehicles. Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, professor emerita in space law at the University of Mississippi and editor in chief emerita for the Journal of Space Law, discussed the bill saying, “Earth-based billboard-studded country roads provide a cautionary statement about advertising in space. The sky — if you can see it from where you are — is beautiful. Be careful with it.”