LifeShip on The Virtual Campfire Podcast

LifeShip on The Virtual Campfire Podcast

Humanity’s Future Beyond Earth: Ben Haldeman’s Space Mission To The Moon 

Have you dreamt of going to space when you were a child? You can make that childhood dream come true and be part of a space mission to preserve your blueprint in the universe. In this episode, Ben Haldeman, the Founder of LifeShip, shares the unwinding of his space mission to protect and spread humanity’s future beyond Earth. This space movement allows us to preserve Earth for future generations to see. Ben also takes us into what’s next for LifeShip as they move forward towards the future. To wrap up the conversation, he also speaks about ensuring how the stories are told to the future. Let’s board the LifeShip and join Ben Haldeman on his space mission to the stars. ---

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Humanity’s Future Beyond Earth: Ben Haldeman’s Space Mission To The Moon It is my honor to introduce you to my guest for this episode, Ben Haldeman. Ben is the Founder of LifeShip, a community space movement with a mission to spread life to the stars and continue the story of humanity. How can you get better than that? LifeShip's first mission is a DNA seed bank time capsule for the moon. People send their DNA, photos, and stories. It’s amazing. Ben was an early engineer at Planet where he built hundreds of satellites to image Earth. He previously built big robotic telescopes to find new exoplanets. In grad school at UC Berkeley, he built instruments to look for life on Mars. He lives in San Diego with his daughter Luna, spends a lot of time in nature, and gets down to the rainforest whenever possible. He's also a mountain climber, a cycler, a former Ironman. What doesn't he do? Ben, I'm so thrilled and honored to invite you and welcome you to the show. Thank you, Tony. I’m excited to chat. We're going to have fun. Hearing your bio, it's great to have someone who appreciates nature but is also up to some interesting stuff in the world. We're going to have a great conversation about unwinding the journey that got you to doing all this great stuff. I've got some stories. I have a unique mission I'm on and I've done some cool stuff. It's great to see the mission that combines a lot of different things that a lot of us are mindful of. How do we protect the planet? Also, how do we think about our future as a humanity? I'm anxious to learn more. The way we're going to do this is to have you share your journey through what I call flashpoints. Flashpoints are the moments in your journey that have ignited your gifts into the world. I'll have you share what you're called to share and you can start wherever you like. With that, Ben, please take it away. I'll start with the mission I'm on and what we're doing. The organization I'm building is called LifeShip. I'm several years into this. The big mission is to spread life in the universe. That could be seeds that we send out that are meant to spread life as much as possible. That's how we got here. Something sent seeds here either intentionally or unintentionally. It could be population banks or biobanks that go on big interstellar spaceships in the future with a few humans. They land somewhere and that's meant to populate new worlds. It could be seeds that are meant to crash, terraform a planet, and evolve life in some rapid way. That is sci-fi. There are lots of books and movies that have contemplated these futuristic things. It's out there and far away. I feel life could be humanity's greatest legacy. We're either going to disappear without a trace or go on to ripple life hours. If we ripple life hours, it's probably going to involve population banks and ways that we do this. I want to take steps toward that big future. We're on this Earth and we have challenges here. I care deeply about nature, the Earth, and who we are here as well. The first mission that we're doing is a seed bank backup of Earth so that future generations have a record of all different species from the present. That both gets people to think long-term about, "We need to preserve our species and Earth. It also gives our great-grandchildren a copy of all the species that are here." The first mission LifeShip is doing is a Seed Bank Backup of Earth today for future generations to have a record of all different species from today. The first mission we're doing is this backup on the moon. We're on three different moon missions where we're sending, starting with smaller capsules and building to more of a vault up there, all sorts of plant seeds. We're also doing DNA from plants, animals, and then humanity. It's a population bank as well. It also has a cultural record and a data archive. We'll send an AI messenger from humanity that can communicate with whoever finds it. It's meant to both be a backup of Earth, like a record of Earth but then also this seed and messenger that could actively be used to communicate or populate life in the future. This whole thing is meant to be a participatory community mission to make space accessible to everyone and be like a space movement that anyone can be part of. People can add their personal stories, photos, and DNA and be part of the bank. We work with different organizations that further create movements to collect photos from millions of people or other cultural records that we add to this as well. It's meant to be this project to engage humanity, back up the Earth, and do all that stuff. That's LifeShip and what I'm working on. I love what you shared. There's a sense of building community that then creates a future for years to come. When you're bringing people together to share what's important in this time, whether it be seeds, photos, or cultural items that we feel we want future generations to know about, it binds people together in connection, which is cool. Furthermore, one of the things that comes to mind around what you shared, and I'll let you then respond, is this idea of being a good ancestor. I've been reflecting on this book that I read a while back called Longpath. How do we plan for future generations so that we're being good ancestors for the future generations? The work you're doing is all about that. It's thinking about how we preserve some of the great things that we have for future generations that are way off in the future, maybe not that far off. It's a bridge. It's out there in the future and where we come from, our past, our seeds, and Earth. It's technological and natural at the same time. It’s a bridge of science and there’s spirituality part of it as well. Who do we choose to be for those future generations? What are we passing on? The obvious question is going to be, how did you get here? How did you arrive at this convergence of so many amazing things that you're doing? I'd like to know the journey that got you to think, "This is my mission." I studied mechanical engineering and then went on to grad school at Berkeley. I designed instruments to look for life on Mars. I was designing these bench-top-size instruments that look for amino acids. That got me interested in space, life, and the origins of life. I spent eight years building big telescopes around the world that have found hundreds of new planets around other star systems. That furthered my curiosity about space. I then joined a startup called Planet. Planet built over 300 satellites in the whole world every day. I designed the whole camera system on it. That was a mission. I did the telescopes looking outwards and this turned the telescopes looking inwards to record the changing Earth. I had grown up with an environmentally-minded family, living on land, and well-connected to nature. I feel deeply connected to the Earth, nature, and where we are. I've gotten this curiosity about space, technology, and futuristic things. I come from a very logical-minded engineering mindset. I started refining more time in nature, moving more into leadership roles, learning communication, learning connection, starting to meditate, and doing yoga. This opened up a deeper path inside me of who am I, why am I here, and what's our purpose. After the last company I was at, I took some time off and made a few trips down to the rainforest. I worked with shamans and plant medicines. On one of these journeys, I was deep in the rainforest staying at this ecological community retreat center. I had sat in a ceremony with elders the night before. The next day, I went on this long walk by myself in the rainforest. Deep in the forest, off the trails, I found this giant grandmother tree that had probably thousands of species on it. There are so much moss, ferns, and vines. It was the whole ecosystem in itself, this giant tree in the rainforest. There were mushrooms around too. I felt like I had this deep embodied connection with life and Earth. It is hard to describe but there was a knowing, a visual, and a story of the evolution of Earth and the evolution of life on Earth. What came through was that the Earth grew humans because the Earth wants to reproduce and is ready to reproduce and spread the seeds of life. The Earth is ready to bloom and wants life to ripple out from here. We are the mechanism to get through the atmosphere and get life outside of the Earth into space. Part of our role here is to continue life beyond. We're here to create the seeds, send the seeds to the stars, and spread life in the universe. From that moment, it was very clear like, "My mission is to create the seeds of life to send to the stars." Very rapidly, that was like, "We will start with a first product where people can join this mission, add their DNA, be part of it, start with small capsules that we send to the moon, build towards capsules that go to Mars, go out of the solar system, and build this movement in that direction.” Both have it to back up and preserve Earth, as well as take steps towards that big futuristic populating universe. What you shared is such a remarkable story. It's the sense that it happened to be you, a person who has this background and the resources to be able to make something like this happen who had this experience. If someone were to come in and say, "I have a background in finance. I went into the forest and had these conversations and this experience," maybe they wouldn't be able to connect the dots or see how to make this come to life. The reality is because of your past experience, you met this experience with the right connection, be able to connect the dots, and see how that moves forward. One of the other things I also notice is if you're someone who deals with the stars and is in astronomy or generally dealing with life on other planets, you have to have some sense of something bigger than yourself because spirituality has to weigh in. Otherwise, why would you venture to get into that field? Spirituality is probably deep inside of you always in some way. That started waking up over the years before this happened. It gave me a purpose and then a feeling like, "This is what I'm guided to do and how I fit into the whole universe." Trust that once this starts evolving, everything is unfolding as it's supposed to. "I have this role. This is me. Trust and take the steps forward. The Earth wants this to happen through me." It gave me the trust and the ability to follow my intuition and dreams. Trust that bigger things are possible and meant to happen. This is not just a solo person's mission to create something. You had to bring people on this to, first of all, enroll them in your vision and start to move this into a reality. Tell me about the next steps in your journey. How did you put this into action? VCP 227 | Space Mission When I was on that trip in the rainforest, and this was in Guatemala, I met a good friend, Vijay. This idea started percolating while I was there. We didn't talk about it. We talked about space a bit and had a good connection. I went home, started working on this for the next month or so, and then reached back out to Vijay. I was like, "This idea came and this is what I'm doing." We connected on it. Vijay was like, "I want to help you." He started helping me 10 to 15 hours a week. We started fleshing out the concept, fleshing out the idea, and designing the first product which is a consumer kit where people add their DNA. We designed that together. We got a website up. We started the marketing and created it. Vijay was the first person to come on board and help. Over time, I've met different people who have come on either as contractors and helped a bit, as advisors, or community, and a few investors. We've sold 3,000 more kits. There is a community behind this. There are people that are excited about the mission and that feel connected to the mission. They're super excited about the rocket launches. They’re sending a piece of them to space and being part of this. It's gone on to be this bigger thing and many people are excited about it. It's still a long solo lonely journey at times too. I'm the one carrying the big vision with the big picture of the whole thing. My days bounce between big picture stuff to fixing stuff with the shipping or whatever because I know how to do it. I carry all of it, figure out the stuff, and figure out how to bring more people into it at the right times. As much as this seems so out there for most of us, it's still a business and an entrepreneurial endeavor that requires a lot of ups and downs, a lot of getting in there, and being part of having your hands in it but also having your head up in the sky of, "Where am I going? Where are we going together?" That's an important part of this. I want to know what you've learned about yourself in this journey. Besides the experience of going and having the initial idea of this coming to you, what have you learned about your skills and mindset that you had to get here? I see being an entrepreneur or a CEO following my vision that is coming through me. I don't know if it's even my vision. I was uncovering that and continuing to, at times, step forward in the dark towards, "I am trusting that this is happening. I meet the right people at the right time. The right door is open to get on the cool next space mission at the right time." There is both a spiritual evolution, if that's the word you like, or trust in my human path, the universe, and the unfolding of the universe. There's a lot I've learned. It was great being part of another incredible company and growing and building a vision. Uncovering a new vision, following that, trusting that, and discovering what my true purpose is has been a huge growth opportunity. I learned to trust the universe, lean in, keep stepping forward, show up, and do it. Every baby step you take, there's a power behind that. That stuff is magically aligning in the universe to help further it as well. The dots are automatically connecting in a way. At times, I'm like, "Am I making decisions or do I just keep trusting and stepping?" If I don't know the answer at the time, it's not made to be decided yet. The thing gets worked out. There's a whole aligning around a purpose, a mission, and a feeling of that naturally being part of the unfolding of the universe. I love what you're sharing. I'll take it a step further because what you've done is you've started to surround yourself with an environment of people who do not think the same but feel the same. With that, they're people you trust. If you are surrounded by a bunch of people who are at every turn trying to put a stoplight on you and saying, "No, this can't happen," there's no way. We're not going to be able to make this happen. You'd start to say, "Maybe they're all right. Maybe this is not possible." You're surrounding yourself with the right types of people who challenge you in a healthy way and who are trying to make this possible because they believe in the mission. That's where this trust in the universe is trust in the people that you surround yourself with. In the first year, I noticed that certain people would plant negative seeds in my mind and then I would have doubts. Over time, I learned, "I don't talk to the people about this." There is a building up, a surrounding, and a collecting of the people that amplify me. Not just blindly amplify me but these people are aligning and resonating. I feel like I'm growing into a better human because of the people I surround myself with. I'm growing as a better human because of the people I surround myself with. Think about people reading who might be on the entrepreneurial journey and they're feeling very discouraged when they keep on hitting the roadblocks. Start to question who you're around. Maybe it's about making sure that you've got the right people. I always think about the equalizer. Do you remember the old Hi-Fi stereos where they used to have the equalizer go up and down? You have to sometimes tune out the voices that are not helping. When you're hearing too much of, "You're great," make sure you tune that down a little bit too because you want to make sure there's some humility in the room too. It's great to be able to equalize the voices and make sure that they're supported in the right way. Tell me what's next. Where do you take things from here? What are the things that are most challenging for you? There are two questions there. What's next and what's most challenging as you venture into the next chapter of this endeavor? We've already launched the space twice. We've been on two different missions that went up to the International Space Station. We're on three upcoming missions to the moon. We're on 3 different rockets with 3 different landers that will go to the moon over the next few years. The next one, hopefully by the end of 2023, and then another one in 2024. With those, we have increasing size payloads of what we're sending up there as well. Some of the things we'll send will be tiny capsules and some will be more like a vault that we put up there. We're on a mission that'll go out of the solar system as well. We're in talks to get to Mars as well. We're looking at spreading these around the solar system and beyond. It initially starts with products for people to add their photos and DNA. We're building towards it becoming a blockchain-powered democratized community mission where it's like a space agency for humanity. Anyone who's a part of it has a say and can be part of it. It's like you're joining this club that is on a mission to populate the universe. You're one of the people that'll be populated out there. It'll increasingly build towards a community-powered movement where the community and each individual have more ability to do things as part of that. In the blockchain ecosystem, that could mean contributing and earning money or tokens as part of that. It'll be increasingly participatory and community-powered. That's the next big step as well. VCP 227 | Space Mission I've been carrying a lot myself and then I get people that have helped in different ways but getting this to be a community behind it, a movement behind it, and people adding things to it. We're creating a platform where seeds, stories, and DNA can be added. We're providing that. We want organizations and people to add different parts to it. It'd be this time capsule platform that we can add to. It's so fascinating because it makes you think about how you ensure that the right stories get told in the right way and that certain organizations don't unfairly influence things. You don't have to necessarily have an answer to this but this is the challenge with how we've also navigated our lives already. Sometimes the story gets told by the victor but the victor is not always the right person who's the victor. We have to be careful about how we dictate the future. It's got to be more democratic in a sense because we need to make sure it's fair and equitable for all who are involved to an extent. Maybe I'm off the mark. For a person, like we're talking about my story and what's gotten me here, I want the product experience to be something where a person joins. Maybe it's an AI that interviews you or something that interviews you and helps bring about a person's story. I feel that this can be a very meaningful moment in someone's life where it's like, "I am saving the billion-year record and the blueprint of me to send myself to the stars. Maybe I'll be populated against somebody." It's like a time for someone to sit back and put some intention into, "What is my story? Who am I? Why am I here?" That's the next phase of this. We’re making this more meaningful for the people who choose to propagate themselves into the universe and do this as a way to explore their place in the cosmos. It ties together a lot. It's the scientific and the tech experience of being part of the space mission but it's the spiritual, "Who am I? Why am I here," part of it as well. It's crazy in a good way. I am so awed by what you're sharing. The fact of the matter as often happens is that what we thought was science fiction is a reality. We're making it a reality every day. I say this because even some of my clients, they're people who are doing these types of things and making things happen that we never thought would be possible. What you're doing is something that's amazing but it's something we never could have imagined we would do. We thought it was the movies and it's becoming a reality. I'm well-steeped in this because I think about it every day. For a while, I was like, "What am I doing? This is crazy." I love how it naturally emerged to, "There's a logical step. We put this on the moon. That's possible. People want to be part of it. People add a piece of themselves." That's been a big learning. It's both refining the big North Star vision, which could be a billion-year vision or 10,000-year vision, as well as what is this doing now that matters. VCP 227 | Space Mission What I love about what you said is this sense that you have to dream long-term and big but you also have to bring it into the present and say, "What can I do next to make that happen?" If you keep it out there, then what happens is you think, "That's not going to happen. We're never going to be able to bring back the wooly mammoth or do that." The reality is step by step, you can see how those things start to unfold so it's remarkable. One of the lessons I learned from being part of Silicon Valley-style tech startups is, "What is the minimum viable product? We need a satellite that is perfect and does this but what can we do by next month? How do we strip everything out and make it the minimum to provide something useful?" That kind of thinking inspires, "What am I aiming for a year from now? What am I working on today? What can I move the needle on in some way to further all this stuff?" Did you ever in a million years imagine that you'd be doing this when you were a child? What did you think you were going to be when you were a child? Don't tell me you dreamed of being an astronaut. My nickname in Boy Scouts, I was an Eagle Scout, was Spaceman but I didn't like it at the time. People put it on me because I was spacey. I don't remember being too spacey but for some reason, the nickname stuck and I didn't like it too much. I had some space Legos that I was interested but I wasn't fanatical about space. I don't think I had a big, this is what I'm doing and feeling. Once I got to college, I navigated towards it. Space, robotics, and stuff were interesting to me. Space kept drawing me more. Sometimes we have things that are planted in us when we were kids that become part of our mission but we ignore it. Maybe that was part of it. People were trying to tell you something early on that you didn't want to listen to. This conversation has been amazing. I love all your insights and stories. I have one last question, which I ask every guest and I'm dying to find out. What are 1 or 2 books that have had an impact on you and why? Sometimes, we have things planted in us when we were kids that become part of our mission. I was working in Santa Barbara at this telescope company. The engineering part was coming close to an end. I read Richard Branson's biography, autobiography, or something. I also read the story of the Google founders. I know both of those were like, "I got to go to San Francisco and change the world." It planted this "change the world" in me. I was living in a beautiful house in Santa Barbara. Part of me was like, "I could live here forever. I could retire in this home." I have a dog and a wife. Santa Barbara is gorgeous. I had an almost 180-degree ocean view from the house. That's still the favorite house I've lived in. I'd never lived in a city before but something was like, "I got to go to San Francisco and change the world." That's where the big things are happening. I'm not going to do it from here. I started looking. All of a sudden, an old friend reached out to me out of the blue and was like, "I found out about the secret company that I'd like to introduce you to." It was Planet, building these small satellites to image the whole Earth every day. I got a seed planted from Richard Branson's book about changing the world, dreaming big, and all of that. I don't know if this was a huge one but it's popping up. There were some more spiritual ones that woke me up in ways. Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek planted a seed of, "How do you come up with a minimum company?" I worked with him but it planted the seed of, "You can create these things like automated systems. Systematize it and build something." I'm living here on a farm in North County San Diego and building a galactic space company that I can build out of my garage essentially. I was living in San Francisco. I was part of the big tech companies but I'm like, "How do I automate this? How do I keep it simple?" The thing we're sending to space is a tiny capsule that I can work on a bench. Maybe someday we'll be building something bigger but it also planted that seed of getting started, designing something, trusting in it, launching a product, and getting it out there. First of all, Richard Branson has Losing My Virginity or something to that effect but his autobiography is fantastic. It’s such a great book. Tim Ferriss is brilliant but that particular book was such an interesting read because it challenges your thinking. We don't have to do things as we always have done them. Why not flip the script a little bit, see how we can do things differently, and enjoy our lives a little more? Why not? Why not flip the script and see how we can do things differently and possibly enjoy our lives more? Sometime around then, I made a decision, which was that I was going to live a cool life. I'm going to go to the rainforest and go on trips. I'll go to Burning Man every year. I go to cool festivals. I get to cool music and things. I'm like, "I'm going to build cool stuff and do cool stuff in the world but I'm going to live a cool life." That's going to be part of who I am and what I'm doing. I go to Burning Man and meet a cool person that impacts my company or I get an idea. I go to the rainforest and get a vision for my company. This is part of the path and who I am. It's like building a lifestyle and building a life. VCP 227 | Space Mission You don't get all these brilliant ideas by sitting at your desk every day. People think working hard is great but the best ideas come from interacting with people and most of the time in the real world. Where the brilliance comes from is getting out of your patterns and comfort zone. I love what you shared. This is cool. Ben, thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm grateful for you coming on. Thanks, Tony. This was refreshing and great to get into the more meaningful stuff of why this is here and what got me to this point. Before I let you go, I want to make sure that I give people a chance to find out where they can find out more about you. If they want to learn about LifeShip or yourself, what's the best place? LifeShip is We sell a kit for $99 to add your DNA and go on the mission. We're also on social media. On Twitter, it's @GoLifeShip. On Instagram, it's @LifeShip. On Facebook, it's @GoLiveShip. On LinkedIn, it's @LifeShip. I can be found on most channels as well. If someone wants to reach out, I'm Thank you so much again. Thanks to the audience for coming on the journey with us. I know you're leaving with so many great insights and also inspired. That's a wrap. Thank you. Important Links LifeShip Longpath The 4-Hour Workweek Losing My Virginity @GoLifeShip – Twitter @LifeShip – Instagram @GoLiveShip – Facebook @LifeShip – LinkedIn

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