MoonDAO Will Pick 2 of the Next Blue Origin Astronauts With the Help of NFTs

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Eric Mack
4 min read

Blue Origin's New Shepard launches from Texas.

Blue Origin

What's happening

A decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, is giving away two seats on a Blue Origin flight to space.

Why it matters

This is likely just the second time non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, have played a role in minting a new astronaut.

What's next

On Saturday, MoonDAO will select two people to ride on Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft.

For the second time this year, a non-fungible token (NFT) will serve as a ticket for a trip to space, when a cryptocurrency-based community puts two people on the next launch of Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft. 

MoonDAO is a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, which is a digital community that makes decisions by having members vote using tokens on a blockchain. A few of the decisions it's made are to buy a pair of tickets on a Blue Origin flight and to decide who gets one of those seats via an NFT-based sweepstakes

Over 8,000 people "minted" a "Ticket to Space" NFT on the Ethereum blockchain for free (plus a small transaction or "gas" fee), and on Saturday one of those NFT holders plus several alternates will be chosen at random for one of the seats to space. MoonDAO's members will also vote on a specific person from a list of predetermined nominees to gift the second ticket to. 

The two astronauts could fly as soon as the next Blue Origin launch in the coming weeks, but no target date has been announced. 

Sending two people to the edge of space is just the first big tangible splash MoonDAO hopes to make as part of a longer-term set of goals.

"Our mission is to decentralize access to space research and exploration," co-founder Pablo Moncada-Larrotiz told me during an interview on stage at the DAODenver conference in February. 

Interestingly, Blue Origin's most recent flight, on June 4, also featured an astronaut, Victor Correa Hespanha, who secured his seat by buying an NFT. His seat was paid for by the Crypto Space Agency and he was randomly selected from a list of NFT holders. The CSA NFT was his first NFT purchase. 

In addition to sending people on a short trip to space, MoonDAO is also using funds from its treasury -- it's raised millions worth of cryptocurrency through a crowdfunding platform called Juicebox -- for community projects that include designing a small rocket and satellite. 

In other words, the ultimate vision is to build an organization something like SpaceX, but that's run as a community cooperative rather than in the traditional top-down corporate structure. 

"We definitely need more capital to get to the level of competing directly with Virgin Galactic or SpaceX," Moncada-Larrotiz said via Discord direct message on May 26. "It's for sure a long term project and I think it'll be a matter of building the right type of organization where builders are free to just focus on making awesome things in a collaborative environment."

MoonDAO didn't always have such an ambitious vision. Its origin story can be traced back to 2020, when Moncada-Larrotiz left a burgeoning career working for tech giants like Google and Facebook to dive into the nascent world of DAOs. In late 2021 he stumbled into Constitution DAO, which infamously came together to raise millions in a failed bid to buy an original paper copy of the US Constitution at auction. 

Watch this: All you need to know about NFT

Moncada-Larrotiz left Constitution DAO the day before the auction because of discomfort with some internal conflicts in the community. In the fallout that followed, he says, the ConstitutionDAO Discord server and community was basically abandoned.

"You had all this energy," he recalls of the days that followed, when a couple of other Discords popped up where people wanted to try again to buy something iconic. "One of the things they wanted to buy was the biggest lunar (meteorite) in the world ... We started to realize there is really something here in that space is this new frontier and so is crypto."

He teamed up with co-founder and engineer Kori Rogers to create the MoonDAO server and community on Nov. 24, just six days after the Constitution DAO auction. Early on, the mission shifted from buying a piece of the moon to actually going there. 

Though minting new astronauts is a big step for an organization that's existed for only half a year, Moncada-Larrotiz acknowledges there's still much to do to get to the point of actually competing with the likes of Elon Musk in the race to put new footprints on the moon and even Mars. 

"He's got a pretty sizable head start ... but once we get there, what kind of governance structures and incentive structures do we want on Mars? Do we think that something like a DAO could offer new ways of coordination that might be better?"

It's a big question, which likely won't be answered for a decade or longer. In the meantime, the question of which lucky NFT owner will be leaving the planet is set to be revealed Saturday at 7 p.m. PT.

Correction, June 15: The MoonDAO effort isn't the first time a seat on a Blue Origin spaceflight has been purchased via NFT. Crypto Space Agency sent an NFT holder on a previous flight.