I thought it would be cool to have my own robot on the moon. But it turns out, the robot is the easy part. Getting to the moon is the hard part. But maybe if we’re willing to take it slow, we could do it much cheaper. I envision five stages, each tuned for a specific part of the journey:
- Solar-powered airplane would go as high as it can.
- Standard jet engine would start building up speed at high altitude.
- Ramjet would give us very high speed at very high altitude.
- If necessary, a (hopefully small) rocket would get us completely out of the atmosphere.
- Once in full vacuum, a solar-powered ion drive would achieve escape velocity, and also fly to the moon.