Golden Spike to Offer Commercial Human Missions to the Moon

A proposed Golden Spike lunar lander on the Moon. Credit: Golden Spike Company

A group of space experts, media figures and even politicians announced today a new commercial company to bring paying passengers to the Moon. The Golden Spike Company is looking to “implement and operate a human space transportation system at commercially successful price points,” the company says on their website, focusing “on generating a sustainable human lunar exploration business that generates profits through multiple high value revenue streams.”

Initial estimates for a ticket to the Moon and back with Golden Spike are a cool $1.5 billion. But they aren’t only focusing on individuals as paying customers, but also other space companies and even governmental entities.

The people behind Golden Spike include their CEO Alan Stern, Principal Investigator for the New Horizons mission to Pluto who is also involved with several other space-related ventures such as Uwingu, former Apollo flight director Gerry Griffin, former shuttle flight director Wayne Hale and politician Newt Gingrich, who touted the idea of building colonies on the Moon while he was a US presidential candidate.

Golden Spike’s video preview:

During an announcement at the National Press Club today — made on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 17, the last human exploration of the Moon — Griffin said that a group of like-minded individuals got together and concluded that time is ripe for such exploration that could be afforded by corporations, nations and individuals. Golden Spike looks to provide turn-key services such as vehicles, mission planning, mission ops, and crew training to create a reliable and affordable lunar exploration system that will be U.S. based

Stern said they will not build new hardware but adapt crew capsules already in development and use existing infrastructure and launchers. However, they are looking to developing their own lunar spacesuits and lunar landers.

Their tentative plan is to use a series of launches where the first launch sends a lunar lander to orbit the Moon and a second launch brings the crew, which will then dock with the lander and head to the Moon.

Stern said their costs per flight are not much higher than some recent robotic lunar missions that have been flown and they will offset their costs with spaceship naming rights, media rights, and other enticements, plus they hope to have several investors as backers.

They also want to bring public along as an integral part of the mission.

“We realize this is science fiction. We intend to make it science fact,” Stern was quoted as saying.

Reportedly, Golden Spike has conferred with NASA on their plans.

While there are already a number of skeptics about this new endeavor, others see it as a step forward.

“Conquering the space frontier requires leadership at NASA and a partnership between commercial companies and governments,” stated Commercial Space Fight President Michael Lopez-Alegria. “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.”

Other board members include new-space entrepreneur Esther Dyson and Taber McCallum, co-founder and CEO of Paragon Space Development Corporation. The list of advisers for the company former NASA engineer and author Homer Hickam, Bill Richardson, who has served as U.N. ambassador, energy secretary and the governor of New Mexico, space historian and author Andrew Chaikin, former NASA flight surgeon Jonathan Clark, Nancy Conrad who is founder of The Conrad Foundation and is the widow of Apollo 12 moonwalker Pete Conrad.

Golden Spike also lists United Launch Alliance, Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems and several other space-industry companies as being involved with this new endeavor.

Golden Spike was the name given to the ceremonial spike that joined the rails of the first transcontinental railroad across the United States in 1869, which opened up the Western frontier to new opportunities.

“We’re not just about America going back to the moon; we’re about American industry and American entrepreneurial spirit leading the rest of the world to an exciting era of human lunar exploration,” said Stern in a press release. “It’s the 21st century, we’re here to help countries, companies, and individuals extend their reach in space, and we think we’ll see an enthusiastic customer manifest developing.”

See the Golden Spike website

Sources: Thanks to Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) for live-Tweeting the press conference and to Doug Messier from Parabolic Arc for live blogging the event.

14 Replies to “Golden Spike to Offer Commercial Human Missions to the Moon”

  1. Every year I see some commercial organisation selling space tickets with a fantastic promotional video and then they dissepear.

  2. I don’t know how well they know their space technology, but they sure can’t do PR. Stock photos? Font animations from the nineties? Cheesy voice-over? Consider me non-plussed.

    And photoshopping their logo on an image of an Apollo astronaut on the Moon? What the …????

    1. Ha, I had thought this was a clever dig, not an actual correction. This makes the program significantly more realistic, although the apollo program worked out to ~14 billion per person (inflation adjusted) so even if paying passengers can be found, an extraordinary cost reduction is still required.

  3. 1.4 million? but it cost NASA billions to send people into space :S

    These people don’t deserve an article on UT

  4. I never thought I would be wishing Newt Gingrich the best of luck… But on a more serious note, with current launch costs, 1.4 million doesn’t even cover the weight of an individual and their personal effects to LEO, let alone them with a spacecraft to the moon. When they put out numbers like this it is literally impossible to take them seriously.

  5. Hmm, a lot of negativity/cynicism here. There’s a saying, “Those standing there saying something is impossible are usually being passed by some-one doing it!”. With the reliability of Soyuz, Arianne, Space X, Virgin Galactic,
    numerous others, and the momentum of the Chinese space program, and assuming the $1.4M is subsidized by the advertising etc, is this really so crazy?

  6. I can see how a couple of nations might want to be the 2nd or 3rd to have citizens set foot on the moon, but they will need a lot more customers than that to get the $$ required to build their lander and test their mission profile. I wish them luck.

  7. The primary market for Golden Spike are governments. At 1.5 GUSD/mission a seat will be less than ~ 1 billion $ compared to Apollo’s ~ 15 billion $/seat. (“The 1960s Apollo program, including development and testing, came to around $110 billion dollars in today’s money or roughly $18 billion per landing on the moon.”)

    This is comparable with the order of magnitude cost reduction that other commercials like SpaceX achieves. With that they claim to have a market:

    “The company believes they have an addressable market of 15 to 25 customers for lunar surface missions between 2020 and 2030.”

    So yeah, maybe.

    OT, but I like how they seem to recycle the old Russian (then Soviet) design. It is close to their COTS (Customer Off The Shelf) strategy of using technology at hand. (Only the shelf on that one is deep: try a museum. =D)

    More importantly it was always a clever more mass-effective albeit riskier solution (reusing the engine, leaving the landing legs and used up tanks).

  8. They’ll be fine, as long as they keep Gingrich away from the buttons and levers…

    I predict their biggest problems won’t be technical or financial, but legal.

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