While SpaceX has been in the news a lot lately, it isn’t the only private space exploration company out there. A new private company has expressed interest in exploring the vast vacuum of space, with their sights set on the Moon. For now, The Golden Spike Company is a secretive group that claims to have a major announcement about their interests this area coming this Thursday.
As reported by io9.com, if these Internet rumors are true, then this announcement could involve a planned manned return to the Moon, the first since Apollo 17 in 1972. The Golden Spike Company was founded by planetary scientist and aerospace engineer Alan Stern. He is a former NASA science chief who ran their directorate from 2007 to 2008. Also on The Golden Spike Company’s payroll is an LA-based attorney who specializes in space and aviation law, Doug Griffith, who is an advocate for commercial human spaceflight.
Although the company hasn’t announced anything concrete, the Golden Spike Company is known to have plans for a mission to the Moon. According to NASASpaceflight.com, the project is still very vague, but plans have emerged highlighting how they will achieve this goal.
The company intends to use “existing or soon to be existing launch vehicles, spacecraft, upper stages, and technologies” to start their commercial manned lunar campaign.
The details point to the specific use of US vehicles, with a basic architecture to utilize multiple launches to assemble spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The details make direct reference to the potential use of propellant depots and fuel transfer technology.
Additional notes include a plan to park elements in lunar orbit, staging a small lunar lander that would transport two commercial astronauts to the surface for short stays.
The architecture would then grow into the company’s long-term ambitions to establish a man-tended outpost using inflatable modules. It is also understood that the company has already begun the design process for the Lunar Lander.
The company has even procured SpaceX’s Falcon heavy rocket for a cost of $120 million, which can lift 54 metric tons to low Earth orbits. The price tag for a spot on the rocket to the Moon is a whopping $2 billion. That’s compared to SpaceX’s proposed price tag of $500,000 to promote space tourism and, one day, a trip to Mars.
The Golden Spike Company was named after the ceremonial railroad spike that connected the US transcontinental railroad in 1869. This already creates imagery of connecting space exploration between private companies and the US government. The company does not have an official website yet, but they do have a presence on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter (it looking like they might need a social media expert to help them out).
This is an exciting time in space exploration. There are now a handful of private companies that have either gone into space or are planning voyages to do so. It seems like the world of science fiction is getting closer to actual science than fiction.