WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, at a press conference at the National Press Club, a startup company called Golden Spike announced its intention to organize manned commercial expeditions to the moon by 2020, selling seats or cargo space to wealthy individuals, nations, and corporations.
The Golden Spike Announcement Video
The effort is led by former NASA officials who intend to use commercial rockets such as the Falcon Heavy Lift Vehicle, now in development by SpaceX, the aerospace company started by entrepreneur Elon Musk.
The company’s founder, former NASA science chief Alan Stern, estimated that Golden Spike would have to spend $7 to $8 billion to reach the moon, including the costs of designing its own lander and space suits. Thereafter, the company predicted it could begin offering “two-human lunar surface missions” for around $1.5 billion each.
A recent boom in commercial space technology is allowing entrepreneurs to dream bigger than ever. The availability of large commercial rockets for hire—the debut launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is scheduled for next year—has spurred growing interest around private exploration, including of the moon, asteroids, and Mars (see “Asteroids Could Be Mined for Fuel, Says Company”).
“Today, it’s not a problem of technology. It’s a problem of financial resources and the will to go after it,” says Jason Crusan, director for Advanced Exploration Systems at NASA headquarters. “I will be interested to know if they have a business model beyond doing a stunt.”
Golden Spike’s board of advisers includes Newt Gingrich, The former speaker of the House, who was widely mocked this year when, campaigning for president, he talked at length about ambitious plans for a permanent moon base by 2021.
Also on the board is Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor and secretary of the Department of Energy. The chairman of the board is Gerry Griffin, a former Apollo mission flight director and former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
The private venture fills a void, as it were, in the wake of President Obama’s decision to cancel NASA’s Constellation program, which was initiated during the George W. Bush years as the next step in space exploration after the retirement of the space shuttle. Constellation aimed to put astronauts back on the moon by 2020 for what would become extended stays at a lunar base.
“Golden Spike is the right name” said Jonathan Card, Executive Director of the Space Frontier Foundation. “Alluding to the first transcontinental railroad makes it clear that they are not planning single flight, flag and footprint missions. Instead we see a strategy that utilizes existing infrastructure, and builds on that incrementally and sustainably.”
Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Michael Lopez-Alegria stated: “Conquering the space frontier requires leadership at NASA and a partnership between commercial companies and governments. I’m thrilled to see the Golden Spike announcement, which harnesses space leaders with years of experience to launch an exciting new private space venture. In the last few years we’ve learned that commercial space, by speaking to the dreams and aspirations of people around the world, can create new excitement for space travel, bringing us ever closer to our shared goal of sustainably extending human activity beyond Earth.”
MORE: Read the entire story on the MIT Technology Review web site: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/508346/a-ticket-to-the-moon-yours-for-just-15-billion/
Some information in this article comes from a story by Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post.
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