Last week we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 17, NASA’s final manned mission to the moon.
As Neil deGrasse Tyson has said:
“Our space program would look awesome to anyone living backwards through time.”
That may change in the not-so-distant future, though, thanks to a number of private enterprises hoping to turn spaceflight into the 21st Century’s premiere tourist attraction, including recently announced Golden Spike.
Bringing together the likes of former NASA flight director Gerry Griffin, former NASA science chief Dr. Alan Stern, and many other former NASA specialists, Golden Spike is hoping to charge $1.4 billion for expeditions to the moon by the end of the decade, trips that will include landing on and exploring the moon’s surface.
“A key element that makes our business achievable and compelling is Golden Spike’s team of nationally and internationally known experts in human and robotic spaceflight, planetary and lunar science, exploration, venture capital formation, and public outreach,” said Dr. Stern in a statement on Thursday.
It’s ambitious (and expensive!), yes, but their plans aren’t outside the realm of possibility. In fact, here’s a fancy infographic.
“The company’s plan is to maximize use of existing rockets and to market the resulting system to nations, individuals, and corporations with lunar exploration objectives and ambitions. This approach, capitalizing on available rockets and emerging commercial-crew spacecraft, dramatically lowers costs to create a market for human lunar exploration.”
Of course, $1.4 billion is a bit more than the average person can afford. If Golden Spike succeeds, however, it could open new avenues for governments and other agencies to perform scientific space expeditions more efficiently. And, of course, you would imagine the cost of such missions would decrease over time.
Will It Work?
I purposefully avoided a similar claim earlier this year by an organization wanting to launch a Mars mission supported by some kind of terrifying reality TV gimmick. In fact, I’m still avoiding it.
Golden Spike is (hopefully) different, cheesy Youtube video notwithstanding. But it has its own problems.
Who will pay? Governments and corporations may consider it as an alternative, but individuals? That’s a lot of money and training.
We’re not quite to the point where average people can just waltz onto the Millennium Falcon and blast away like they’re on a regular commercial airliner. Entering space is slightly more complicated.
Even so, the private sector seems to be where meaningful spaceflight is going, and while we may be suspicious, sooner or later an organization will successfully provide flights to our moon, and perhaps even to other planets. Golden Spike may very well be the first.