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.


  1. Will there be any Golden Tickets, so the poor-but-deserving Charlie Buckets of the world can visit the Moon? 

    1. Yes!  Bad news is that you only get to ride in the second stage to LEO and it’s going to be quite warm for a small bit.

  2. I suppose it’s inevitable that there will eventually be tourist travel to the moon. Before that happens, though, I really hope there’s some kind of agreement reached that these future travelers stay the hell away from the Apollo landing sites. At the very least, keep a respectable distance. Not only to keep the equipment safe from souvenir hunting, but also to preserve the footprints of the first explorers.

    1. What sort of agreement? Better that access to all areas is free for everybody regardless of the consequences than we export our territorial disputes with our jaded billionaires. That is if it is inevitable, which I don’t think is necessarily the case.

      1.  I’m not talking about territorial disputes. I’m talking about preserving human heritage. The moon is a big place. People can go sightseeing without stomping through some very real historical sites and messing them up for future generations.

        1. We can.  And we should.  Doesn’t mean people are going to.

          The worst part is when they get back they’ll bring it up and say “Tranquility Base?  Meh.”

    2.  I’m not sure where, but in some fiction I have read, the author had Lunar Colonies.  All the landing zones from Apollo were museums and pretty much under glass. 

        1. U.N. Treaties are mostly good at getting nations to agree not to do things they had no real interest in doing anyway.

  3. Lunar commerce? Apart from a military installation, I’m not sure what commercial ventures are possible up there…. Call me jaded, but this seems more like a pocket mining expedition more than a  moon mining expedition

    1. Did you realize that as of 2012 there is not a single Starbucks anywhere on the surface of the Moon? It’s a COMPLETELY untapped market!

  4. The greatest value this will create will be their list of investors. There are people – Closers, the sort who deserve coffee and are unwilling to settle for the Steak Knives – who would eagerly welcome leads like those.

    1. Pretty much what I thought when I saw Newt Grinch’s name attached to this. A huckster always on the lookout for more rubes.

  5. So my takeaway from this is that they’ll be offering spacecraft to governments (and others) that want to go back to the Moon.  Except that the only real reason a government would want to go to the Moon is for PR purposes, which seems to me would rather require they build their own systems.  So unless they’re going to be sending multi-billionaires on pleasure trips, I don’t see much of a market.  There’s nothing that corporations would want there – mining wouldn’t be economically feasible, even if we knew there were valuable minerals and where they were (which we don’t), and the whole He-3 thing is a joke.

  6. I used to know a guy who claimed the U.S. government, in order to raise a little extra cash, sold shares of the Moon in the early 1980’s. He claimed to have purchased some and to have, among other things, Tycho Crater.

    I know his claim was completely bogus, but he was also the sort of person who was easily duped by such schemes, and I think he really believed the $100 or so he spent on lunar real estate was a good investment. He talked, very optimistically, about how valuable the “land” he’d purchased would be one day.

    If this was some scam I’m sure he wasn’t the only one who was taken in, and I feel kind of sad for those few individuals who really think those “deeds” they purchased are soon going to be worth something.

    1. I’ve heard variations on the same scam selling all kinds of property on the moon and beyond. Many claim that there’s a legal “loophole” in the international treaty that prevents governments from claiming extraterrestrial bodies because it doesn’t forbid individuals from doing so.

      While that’s technically true, the obvious counter-point is that there’s also no reason for anyone to take such claims seriously. A deed is only worth something to the extent that some organization (i.e. a government or a private militia) has the ability and willingness to back it up, with force if necessary.

  7. Hmmm.  “Golden Spike”?  “Extend Your Reach”?  If the moon thing doesn’t work out, they may be able to recycle their trademarks…

  8. congress should enact a law with some kind of provision that mandates 20% of seats on these space tourism shuttles be given to poor people. Space travel should not be exclusively for the super rich

    1. Good news:  They’ll make it free to go visit the moon.
      Bad news:  Getting back costs twenty million dollars.

  9. Good god that is a shit logo. I’m not sure if they’re a space agency or a chain of low budget hotels. 

    1. Yeah, given the logo, I can imagine playing Keno there. At 6am, next to a 65-year old woman who is smoking generic cigarettes and wearing a tube top. Not so space-agey.

  10. I’m not sure I’d want to put my life into the hands of any company that comes up with such a lackluster logo. Also, Newt.

  11. HAH! I’ve just purchased the first Johnny Rockets franchise for the moon…right next to the Sea of Tranquility. Perfect view I tells ya! :-)p

    1. *Rodney Dangerfield impression*
      “Right next to the Sea of Tranquility…On the GOOD side! Moons, golf courses, and cemeteries- biggest wastes of prime real estate!”

  12. Golden Spike?!

    Gives me a wonderful feeling. Better than their competitors, “Blunt Instrument”, “Impaled on Ivory” and “Shredded into 100 pieces by the Gravity Web”

  13. “….and the set designer for the movie Star Trek”. Well that puts my mind at ease about the safety of the whole project :)

  14. Is the company affiliated with “Golden Chicken”- the all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant in Patchogue, NY ?
    Additionally, there are train tracks in the logo. Can we catch the flight form Penn Station?

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