SpaceX to launch lunar mission paid with dogecoin, which lost third of price after Elon Musk calls it a ‘hustle’

Dogecoin was quoted as low as 41.6 US cents on crypto exchange Binance before the show.
Dogecoin was quoted as low as 41.6 US cents on crypto exchange Binance before the show.PHOTO: REUTERS

TORONTO (AFP, REUTERS) - SpaceX will launch a satellite to the moon next year funded entirely with the cryptocurrency dogecoin, Canadian company Geometric Energy Corporation (GEC), which will lead the lunar mission, announced on Sunday (May 9).

The satellite, dubbed Doge-1, will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the first quarter of 2022, the company said in a statement.

It will be “the first-ever commercial lunar payload in history paid entirely with” dogecoin, GEC said, without specifying how much the project cost.

“This mission will demonstrate the application of cryptocurrency beyond Earth orbit and set the foundation for interplanetary commerce,” Tom Ochinero, SpaceX vice president of commercial sales, said in the statement.

The announcement comes the day after dogecoin lost more than a third of its price after SpaceX founder and cryptocurrency supporter Elon Musk called it a 'hustle' during his guest-host spot on the Saturday Night Live comedy sketch TV show.

Dogecoin was quoted as low as 41.6 US cents (55 Singapore cents) on crypto exchange Binance, down 36 per cent from levels around 65 US cents before the show. It retraced some of that move later on Sunday, and was last trading around 56.9 US cents.

The billionaire Tesla chief executive hosted the SNL show at 11.30pm EDT on Saturday (0330 GMT on Sunday).

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts had for days been eager to see what he would say, after his tweets this year turned the once-obscure digital currency, which began as a social media joke, into a speculator's dream.

Asked 'what is dogecoin', Mr Musk replied, "It's the future of currency. It's an unstoppable financial vehicle that's going to take over the world."

When a show cast member Michael Che countered, "So, it's a hustle?", Musk replied, "Yeah, it's a hustle," and laughed.

Mr Musk is the rare business mogul to have been asked to host the venerable comedy TV show.

His appearance on the iconic late night show puts Mr Musk back in the spotlight just as Tesla's stock is losing steam following last year's monster rally.

The unconventional CEO has posted numerous comments about cryptocurrencies on Twitter and criticised regular cash for having negative real interest rates.

"Only a fool wouldn't look elsewhere," he said in February.

His cryptic tweets "Doge" and "Dogecoin is the people's crypto" that month kicked off a rally in dogecoin - created as a parody on the more mainstream bitcoin and ethereum .

On Thursday, Mr Musk tweeted: "Cryptocurrency is promising, but please invest with caution!" with a video clip attached in which he said, "it should be considered speculation at this point."

But he also said, in the video, that cryptocurrency has a"good chance" of becoming what he called "the future currency of the Earth."

Some financial commentators questioned whether it was responsible for Mr Musk to comment on the cryptocurrency, given he has the power to move its price.

"I think he's having a lot of fun ... He can say anything he wants about dogecoin or cryptos fully aware that just him saying something moves the price," said James Angel, associate professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, who specialises in financial markets and cryptocurrency.

"Anyone who wants to play the Elon Musk game should be prepared to lose all their money."

The flood of selling appeared to cause problems for popular retail trading platform Robinhood, which tweeted early on Sunday that due to high trading volume and volatility some customers had experienced "intermittent issues" trading cryptocurrencies.

The company later said the issues had been resolved and that it would contact customers affected by the downtime.

On crypto data tracker CoinGecko.com, dogecoin has jumped more than 800 per cent over the last month and is now the fourth-largest digital currency, with a market capitalisation of US$73 billion.

It hit a record high on Thursday above 73 US cents.

Tesla said in February it bought US$1.5 billion worth of bitcoin and would soon accept it as a form of payment for its electric cars, a large stride toward mainstream acceptance that sent bitcoin soaring to a record high of nearly US$62,000.

Tesla shares closed 1.3 per cent higher at US$672.37 on Friday.

Some crypto experts said that Sunday's dogecoin selloff was driven by speculation and that Musk had not hurt its long-term prospects.

"Long term fundamentals of doge are intact. This is a buying opportunity," said Jehan Chu, managing partner at Hong Kong blockchain venture capital firm Kenetic Capital.

"It's a true social currency - that's its value."