The founder of Moon Express, the company created to mine the moon of natural resources, has a new dream to be the ‘Spotify of space.’
On Monday Bob Richards officially announced his new venture, Artemis Space Network, a new space-based music platform. It has already made history by sending the first music non-fungible token, NFT, to space.
“I was always trying to find a way to bring music into Moon Express. Will.i.am (founder of the hip hop group The Black Eyed Peas) is an investor and we’d been talking about sending something to the moon but I could never do it in an integrated way,” Richards told FLORIDA TODAY.
The emerging blockchain technology NFTs became the way.
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets, like a computer equivalent of a rare baseball trading card. NFTs made headlines worldwide earlier this year when one by digital artist Beeple sold for $69.3 million at an auction at Christie’s.
Richards commissioned an original performance of Claude Debussy’s classic “Clair de Lune (Moonlight)” and then uploaded via satellite it to the International Space Station with the help of Nanoracks, a provider of commercial space services.
“We didn’t want to send just any old song as the first music NFT. We wanted to send something inspiring to give to the world,” Richards said.
After traveling more than 125,000 miles through space including a full orbit of Earth aboard the ISS, the digital music file was beamed back down to Earth and minted as a music NFT including the data and telemetry that proved it went to space.
“It uploaded over Peru and downloaded over the Panama Canal,” Richards explained.
Sending the NFT to space wasn’t a gimmick but a critical test to validate the integration of blockchain technology into the Artemis Space Network, a space-based media platform that will connect creators, fans and collectors.
Like Spotify, the Artemis Space Network hopes to make money by selling music to the public and splitting the revenues with the artists. Nanoracks would get a percentage as well.
“Another reason why we want to do this is that we don’t want big companies in between the artist and their money. We want this to be very affordable,” he said.
Richards doesn’t see his move into music as a pivot away from spacecraft development but a natural next step.
“What drives me is really the human species expansion into space,” Richards said. For a decade with Moon Express I’ve been on the technology side of trying to enable things to happen.”
Over the past couple years Richard’s company Moon Express struggled to land a NASA contract to send a rover to the lunar surface. During that time Richard’s re-connected with his first passion, which was music going back to his time playing professionally in pop and rock cover bands in college. He and his partner, Kristopher Houck, who is also a musician, founded Artemis Music in 2019.
“Where I want to be is at the edge moving humanity into space. Music is part of our humanity and it’s a unifying part of our humanity.”
Right now Artemis Space Network is for terrestrial artists that want to make their creation more special by sending it to space, but eventually Richards sees artists going to space themselves to create.
Richards’ partnership with Nanoracks could include turning the Bishop Airlock into a music lounge. The first commercial airlock was attached to the ISS in December 2020 and is a multipurpose payload deployer. Astronauts could listen to music that is stored there and would play over the Artemis Space Network.
With travel to the space station starting to become more accessible, more commercial possibilities could be on the horizon. More people in space means more need for amenities in space travelers, which could include celebrities.
Last year, NASA announced Tom Cruise is planning on shooting a film at the space station. Richards hopes his company can provide the soundtrack while in space.
“Here’s a place where maybe Tom would want to go hang out and have a little bit of quiet time and write and not be in a little sleep container that’s very constraining.”
As for his lifelong dream of getting to the Moon, Richards remains positive.
“Artemis Space Network is just in orbit for now. We’re gonna go to the Moon too.”
Contact Rachael Joy Nail at 321-242-3577. Follow her on Twitter @Rachael_Joy.