December 6, 2012
Company Plans To Send People To Moon For $750 Million A Seat
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Former NASA executives are launching a private company to send people up to the moon and back for $1.5 billion.
The new business is offering countries a two-person trip to the moon, whether it is for scientific research or just to get a taste of a stellar view of Earth.
The last man stepped foot on the moon 40 years ago and the United States has remained the only country to accomplish that feat. Also, NASA's eyes are now set on Mars, rather than a trip back to the moon, so it looks as though a private company is needed to get man back to walking on its nearest celestial neighbor.
"It's not about being first. It's about joining the club," Alan Stern, former NASA associate administrator who is president of the new Golden Spike Company, told reporters. "We're kind of cleaning up what NASA did in the 1960s. We're going to make a commodity of it in the 2020s."
He said Golden Spike Company is hoping to complete the first launch before the end of the decade, and then up to 15 or 20 launches total.
Golden Spike Company plans to use existing space hardware for commercial lunar missions, sending someone to the moon at $750 million a seat.
"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," a statement by Golden Spike Company read.
The new company helps to fill a void left after President Obama's administration canceled NASA's Constellation program, which aimed to put astronauts back on the moon by 2020.
NASA spokesman David Weaver said in a written statement that this type of private sector effort is proof of the wisdom of the Obama Administration's overall space policy, which is "to create an environment where commercial space companies can build upon NASA´s past successes."
Weaver said companies like Golden Spike allow the agency to focus on the new challenges of sending humans to an asteroid and eventually Mars.
“As the private sector works to develop human missions to the International Space Station and eventually the moon, NASA will continue to develop new technologies and capabilities to advance the frontier ever further into space," Weaver said in the statement.
Stern said that Golden Spike is already in talks with several countries "both east and west of the U.S."
“Country after country, everyone will want to join the lunar club," Stern said while announcing Golden Spike.
Golden Spike estimates the entire operation will cost between $7 and $8 billion, which would include developing, flight-testing, and "rainy day" funds.
The company says it will be able to cut costs by partnering up with other aerospace companies and using existing rockets or rockets already in development. Golden Spike plans to partner with Masten Space Systems for the lander and the Paragon Space Development Corporation for the suits and life-support systems.
Wired reported that Golden Spike´s budget may be a little lower than what they should be projecting to accomplish trips back to the moon. Space policy expert John Pike, who directs GlobalSecurity.org, told Wired that the 1960s Apollo program came out to be about $110 billion in today's dollars.
Pike said that it seems unbelievable that a private company is capable of recreating Apollo at a fraction of the cost, according to the Wired report.
“If you could really shoot people off to the moon for those kinds of dollars, someone would have done it,” Pike told Wired.
Golden Spike said during their press conference that their plan requires four separate launches. At first, they will be launching two existing rockets to bring a spacecraft and lunar lander into orbit. The subsequent launches will get people to the lander.
The company said that it plans to make money with advertising, marketing and media deals, such as offering naming rights for its spaceships and landers.