The Space Reviewin association with SpaceNews

Lunar Express illustration
You might not need American Express to fly the Lunar Express architecture. (credit: Constellation Services International, Inc. courtesy of FreeSpaceShot)

Pay attention: get a free trip around the Moon

The Moon belongs to everyone;
the best things in life are free.

– Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown, Ray Henderson, 1927

Today is the grand opening of We are offering several firsts in world history. We are offering free trips around the Moon. We are also offering free trips to orbit, as many as people want. Let me tell you how we do it and what it means for the personal spaceflight industry.

Pay attention

Google AdSense is proving to be the “micro money” that everyone thought we needed to make the web run, except that it works better than people imagined. Time Warner has made AOL content advertiser supported and thus free now. At we are saying that you can get a trip for two around the Moon and $100 million for free if you pay attention, play our game, and watch our Google ads.

On the radio, there are frequently contests some of which are called in industry lingo, “forced listening”. Listeners in these contests must listen to their radios and stand by their telephones in order to win the radio contest. By giving hundreds of thousands or even millions of people hope and access to prizes, the radio station “forced” them to pay attention (or at least listen) to radio advertisements. delivers forced listening to the web.

There have been a series of web startups that offered surfers a portion of the advertising proceeds. That culminated with a multi-million dollar giveaway of iPods from (now for signing up for lots of advertising. The fundamental premise was that one person’s attention is valuable enough to be paid for.

On the radio, there are frequently contests some of which are called in industry lingo, “forced listening”. delivers forced listening to the web. takes that premise three small steps and one giant leap further. Such companies function by collecting information, then marketing to their audience. This creates several dynamics. The first is that once the iPod is delivered, the audience fades out. At, hope springs eternal because a large number must play for a small number to win. The second is that since the audience for was not pulling content, their audience is not engaged and is likely to grow to more distant over time. establishes a long-term relationship with players and provides ongoing value and affinity. The third is that they can’t get twice as much value from someone who wants to complete the survey twice, once to get an iPod nano and once to get an iPod shuffle. Some players competing for a free space shot can play twice as much as others and because they are seeing Google ads for many different products, they are nearly twice as valuable to advertisers in aggregate. This threshold affect also allows people to play only a few times and in turn only get a few game counters for the game.

Finally, if can collect $250 in advertising revenue for each free iPod and still have money left over to run a company, perhaps we can pool all this attention and buy something really cool, like the first human trip around the Moon in more than thirty years.

If I volunteer to watch advertising, advertisers will happily pay someone to “deliver me” as a viewer. If narrowcasting of ads can be perfected, I can get a free carton of milk if it can be printed with an advertisement that I can look at while I am eating my cereal in the morning. If I am sitting at my computer, Google has built a fabulous neural net that knows what I am thinking based on what appears on my computer screen.

Get a trip around the Moon

FreeSpaceShot doesn’t have a huge bankroll for advertising. If it did, I would use part of it to buy a spaceflight for myself instead of spending enough for a spaceflight to open up the dream of spaceflight to everyone else in the world. FreeSpaceShot needs to have its message spread primarily by word of mouth. We don’t want to wait until the age of personal spaceflight is well underway, we want to start giving away flights now. So we must be very eclectic in who we target. In particular, we are targeting kids aged 9–13.

In our visits to conferences, air shows, science fiction conventions and space trade shows, we found that the people most excited by our product were kids. This stands to reason. Kids have been “pre-sold” on space. Kids have been told since they were born that they could grow up to be astronauts. Starting at about 13, kids become jaded and lose their childhood dreams of spaceflight. In fact, they develop a cognitive dissonance that makes it more difficult to sell them spaceflight once they have grown up than something that was never sold to them in the first place, (e.g., hybrid cars).

To address this demographic, we need access to influencers such as teachers and parents. To that end, we have produced a lesson plan for grades 3–8 available on our web site and dressed our site suitably for kids.

I can’t use many of these valuable features of the web for Kids won’t be able to make impulse purchases. They don’t have credit cards. They are often only influencers on purchase decisions. That has a nice symmetry; appeal to parents to influence their kids to play FreeSpaceShot so that they, in turn, can influence their parents to buy the latest and greatest kid stuff.

Seeing kids gushing with anticipation after winning a flight they can take when they turn 18 might rekindle their parents’ own quest for space they gave up as teens.

Kids, though, do have time. If I can get one percent of kids 9–13 to play three hours a day, 30 times per hour, watch 15 ads per play, and charge $1 per thousand ads, I can put together a prize pool of $150 million in a couple of years. If I can match the $16 ad rates of IGN, a gaming and entertainment site, I can put together ten flights to the Moon per year. That would more than triple the amount that Futron saw in the personal spaceflight market. And better yet, adults actually seeing people fly would likely overcome their overgrown skepticism. Further, seeing kids gushing with anticipation after winning a flight they can take when they turn 18 might rekindle their parents’ own quest for space they gave up as teens.


By turning on the switch of FreeSpaceShot, we are showing the way. Players can play and get successively closer to their goal of a trip to space and outer space development. Even if they lose, players support the future of spaceflight directly and measurably. Each moment spent online can further the dream of spaceflight, bring it closer to fruition.

Each moment humans spend in space brings us a little bit closer to the ideal of a multiplanet species learning to expand to the heavens. Such an expansion would bring back the frontier, and places to expand and grow. We gain an insurance policy for species survival as distances grow so far apart that no single catastrophe can destroy us. We gain more real estate, more energy, more drive, more richness of spirit, and more sense of common purpose.

Finally, we gain more freedom. An expanding sphere of humanity can have many religions, governments, technologies and cultures. More people further apart means more diversity and more opportunity. Join me and look outward to our future, our birthright, our new home.