Golden Spike Company announces plan for commercial lunar space expeditions

Apollo 17: Last on the Moon. Photo: NASA.

An announcement of note this morning about The Golden Spike Company, a new private space travel venture, backed by private investors. Their tag line? "Extend Your Reach." Snip from today's press release:

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 17, the last human exploration of the Moon, Former Apollo Flight Director and NASA Johnson Space Center Director, Gerry Griffin, and planetary scientist and former NASA science chief, Dr. Alan Stern, today unveiled “The Golden Spike Company” – the first company planning to offer routine exploration expeditions to the surface of the Moon. At the National Press Club announcement this afternoon, Dr. Stern, Golden Spike’s President and CEO, and Mr. Griffin, chairman of Golden Spike’s board of directors, introduced other members of Golden Spike’s leadership team and detailed the company’s intentions to make complete lunar surface expeditions available by the end of the decade.

Their board of directors (PDF) is an interesting hodgepodge, and includes Newt Gingrich, Esther Dyson, and the set designer for the movie Star Trek.

The company says it plans to "maximize use of existing rockets" and market the resulting system to "nations, individuals, and corporations with lunar exploration objectives and ambitions," promising "prices that are a fraction of any lunar program ever conceived until now." A tall order, to be certain. Those I've spoken to in the space biz are skeptical, but of the mind that the more entrepreneurial efforts and private sector innovation we see in the Space space, the better.

More background on the company in a Wired News article from a few days ago, and from this New Scientist piece back in November.

The company is registered as a business in Colorado, where marijuana was just made legal. COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT.

Here's more from today's press release from Golden Spike:

This approach, capitalizing on available rockets and emerging commercial-crew spacecraft, dramatically lowers costs to create a market for human lunar exploration. Golden Spike estimates the cost for a two-person lunar surface mission will start at $1.4 billion. This price point enables human lunar expeditions at similar cost as what some national space programs are already spending on robotic science at the Moon.

Dr. Stern and Mr. Griffin described Golden Spike’s "head start” architecture that has been two years in the making and vetted by teams of experts, including former space shuttle commander Jeffrey Ashby, former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale, and Peter Banks, a member of the National Academy of Engineering. It has also been accepted for publication in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ (AIAA) Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, a leading aerospace technical journal.

All of this will be available on Golden Spike’s website, launching sometime today.

From 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (EST) today, Thursday, December 6, 2012, company executives will host a press conference in DC at the National Press Club.

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