Golden Spike announces plans for commercial lunar exploration
It was forty years ago this month that Apollo 17 took astronauts to the Moon for the last time. Since then, the satellite has only been visited periodically by unmanned probes, but that may change inside the next ten years. On Thursday, the day before the anniversary of Apollo 17’s launch, a new company called Golden Spike announced at the National Press Club that it would be sending commercial exploration missions to the Moon within a decade with a ticket price of US$750 million.
Golden Spike is named after the spike that was driven to commemorate the completion of the United States’ Transcontinental Railroad. It’s led by former Apollo Flight Director and NASA Johnson Space Center Director, Gerry Griffin, and planetary scientist and former NASA science chief, Dr. Alan Stern, so it isn’t lacking for credentials. The company will not only use former NASA leadership, it also intends to build on NASA technology.
Golden Spike calls its approach "’head start’ architecture. Two years in the making, it will maximize use of existing rocket technology and current developments by commercial spacecraft companies to build manned flight and landing systems. A series of studies has already begun and work is underway by various aerospace companies on a lunar lander, lunar space suits, and lunar surface experiment packages to be used on Golden Spike missions. The company will also sponsor an international conference for the scientific community in 2013 on science projects for the Golden Spike lunar expeditions.
Golden Spike sees its market as anyone from individuals to nations who want to go to the Moon for reasons spanning the range from scientific exploration and discovery to entertainment or personal achievement. With the cost of the first landing for a two-person mission set at US$1.4 billion, that will set “personal achievement” at a premium, but Golden Spike is confident that the market will support up to 20 expeditions in the decade following a first landing.
Below is a video released by Golden Spike to announce its plans.
Source: Golden Spike
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A prerequisite for any moon mission would be the ability to put large spacecraft into orbit, and the one machine that could do it has just been retired and shipped off to museums without a successor, which technologically speaking is a tragic step backward in aerospace technology, but a lot of people seem to be happy about killing off a big ol' tax-hungry white elephant.
The Soyuz, or the Dragon capsule won't cut it, and making even bigger vertical-launching bottle rockets like the Saturn's are going to be just too expensive to be viable for repeated use. We need a new approach, a scaled-composites mothership and rocketplane approach, or a hybrid concept like the Skylon seems to be the way forward.
But let's just make one thing clear; the space race ISN'T_OVER!
Without a manned crew on board, the extra time and rads shouldn't matter much. The advantage would be the ability to move cargo between orbits without expensive refueling.
& then later price wars with other Manned SpacePvt ventures later.
A space plane would be great but Dragon or a Soyuz clone would do. The orbital hotel could be the ship to take them from LEO to LO (Lunar Orbit). This ship need an efficient engine. Ion engines would be efficient but with the length of the journey probably not the optimal answer. A nuclear engine like NERVA would be great but private industry is not going to get one for the foreseeable future. I propose an engine that uses hydrogen as the reaction mass like NERVA but uses concentrated solar to provide the heat instead of a nuclear reaction. This engine could also be used in a slightly modified form for the lunar lander using moon or mother ship based solar concentrators or lasers. I would lift the space engine reaction mass and oxygen supply from earth as water ice to provide a compact and stable mass for launch.
Before we go sending civilians to the moon, we'll want at least a couple of nice, reliable moon bases.
Before we send people back the moon, let's do a serious amount of remote exploration of the territory using robots.
LOTS of people will pay to pilot a remote controlled (RC) vehicle with First Person View (FPV) on the moon; carve their initials on a moon crater wall, etc.
I can envision an electronically limited area of a square mile or so where these remote controlled vehicles will be allowed to explore, jump moon hills and do lunar doughnuts.
I wonder who's working on those collapsible solar powered RC devices.