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Fri, Dec 07, 2012

Want To Go To The Moon? It'll Set You Back $750 Million

Golden Spike Space Tourism Company Launches At The National Press Club

Former Apollo Flight Director and NASA Johnson Space Center Director, Gerry Griffin, and planetary scientist and former NASA science chief, Dr. Alan Stern, have unveiled "The Golden Spike Company" – the first company planning to offer routine exploration expeditions to the surface of the Moon by the end of the decade.

At a news conference held Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the executives described its team of leading aerospace engineers and world-class scientists, the mission architecture, and the business model. They estimate that it will cost between $7 and $8 billion to return humans to the Moon. The two seats available on each mission are expected to cost about $750 million each.

During the news conference, Stern said that getting a person to the Moon would take four separate launches. Two launches would get a spacecraft and lander to lunar orbit, and a second two launches would carry people to the moon.

"What makes this lower cost possible is the direct result of our plan to use existing launch vehicles and crew capsules already in development. We only plan to develop new systems—such as an expedition lander and surface suits—where no existing system exists or is in development. Such a system architecture, which we call a “head start architecture,” may not be as elegant as a “clean sheet of paper” approach that develops all new flight systems, but it offers enormous cost, schedule, and reliability advantages," Dr. Stern said. "We have calculated the price at which Golden Spike can offer repeated expeditions like this, while also recouping our development and flight test costs, and creating a healthy profit stream. That price is in the $1.5 billion category, which is a real breakthrough. Think about this: this price point means that we can offer human lunar expeditions at prices like modest robotic planetary flagship missions. It’s a game changer.

"In fact, we can offer per seat lunar expedition prices not much higher than some recent robotic lunar missions. And we can further lower those prices, and simultaneously increase our revenues, through the sales of associated media, advertising, merchandising, and spacecraft naming rights, that are part of Golden Spike’s participatory exploration objectives."

There are skeptics. Space policy expert John Pike with GlobalSecurity.org told Wired magazine online that Dr. Stern "doesn't have enough zeros in his budget."

While the company's investors have not been revealed, there are a couple of notable names involved with the project. Golden Spike lists venture capitalist Esther Dyson and former House Speaker and Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on its board of directors.

The Golden Spike Company is a US-based commercial space company incorporated in 2010. It is named after the ceremonial final spike that joined the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, on May 10, 1869, and opened up the frontier to new opportunities. In its news release, Golden Spike said it "intends to break new ground and create an enduring link to the next frontier, providing regular and reliable expeditions to the Moon at prices that are a fraction of any lunar program ever conceived of before."

FMI: http://goldenspikecompany.com

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