Golden Spike: A New Private Way to Get Governments to the Moon


As warned on Reason 24/7 earlier this week, a big new announcement in privately operated space travel was imminent, and now it's here.

Wired has the detailed skinny on this new Golden Spike operation, less about private citizen space tourism or business, more about helping governments outsource their space programs:

A private enterprise named the Golden Spike Company announced today that they have plans to fly manned crews to the moon and back for a price of $1.5 billion per flight by 2020.

Golden Spike, whose board includes former NASA engineers and spaceflight experts, has been working under the radar for the last two and a half years to develop their mission architecture, and unveiled their company after several weeks of internet rumors. Their intended clients are not private individuals for a space tourism scheme, but rather governments….

Golden Spike will follow a model like that of the Russian spaceflight industry in the 1980s and '90s, when they charged money to take other nation's astronauts to the Salyut and Mir space stations for scientific experiments…

"We can give countries an expedition to surface of the moon for two people," planetary scientist and aerospace engineer Alan Stern, co-founder of Golden Spike and former head of NASA's science mission directorate, told Wired. He added that the company is already in talks with several countries "both east and west of the U.S.," hinting that China may be a possible customer. "Country after country, everyone will want to join the lunar club."

Get to the moon for the price of a terrestrial airport!

Golden Spike estimates starting their entire operation will cost between $7 billion and $8 billion, "soup to nuts," said Stern. "That includes developing, flight testing, and any rainy day funds." He compared the figure to the cost of a major metropolitan airport, though airports are typically funded by governments.

The company said it can cut costs by partnering with other aerospace companies and using existing rockets or rockets already in development, needing to only build a lunar lander and a specialized spacesuit for astronauts on the moon. Among their partners are Masten Space Systems, which builds vertical take-off and landing spacecraft, for the lander and the Paragon Space Development Corporation, founded by Biosphere 2 crewmembers Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter, for the suits and life support systems.

But will it work, or be cost-effective?

The private sector has definitely changed and challenged many existing models for rockets and spaceflight. But they have so far had a mixed record. Companies like SpaceX can be commended for accomplishing something that until now only governments have been able to do – orbiting a spacecraft around the Earth and docking it with the International Space Station. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, which is expected to begin testing next year, may further drive down the price of reaching space, but it remains to be seen exactly when and how cheaply they will deliver their product. Other commercial space businesses, like Virgin Galactic, have seen constant delays and broken promises with their flight hardware….

Golden Spike knows there are many challenges ahead and that, so far, they only have a plan. Based on the early speculation and rumors, Stern said that it seemed that people expected them to have constructed and filled a 50-story skyscraper in secret. "It's much more like we've created the architecture for a new 50-story building we want to build," he said.

The private science fiction visionary in me is hoping for the day when more than governments are willing to pony up for trips to the Moon, even if they are paying a private company to do it. Still, every attempt to prove there could be private profit in space is a potentially positive step toward our human future off-planet and to be encouraged.

Reason on private space travel. Our February 2012 issue had a cover package dedicated to private space travel.

NEXT: Golden Spike Company Announces Regular Trips to the Moon. Soon!

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  1. That logo looks somewhat … ominous.

    1. It appears that we are in the mirror universe.

      1. And I have control of the Tantalus Device. Who wants to be the Captain’s woman until I say they’re not? JJ?

        1. Watch out for Hoshi.

          1. ENT references? You disgust me.

            1. You’re disgusted by an attractive women in a 2 piece uniform eagerly jumping into bed with you, simply because she’s Asian? You racist.

              1. I didn’t say Linda Park disgusted me, I said you did.

                1. Here you go

         Celebrities(F)/Linda Park/linda-park-0v.jpg

                  1. I desperately wish that link worked.

                    1. I made it work. Very nice.

                    2. Now, don’t you wish a mirror version of her was willing to be the Captain’s woman?

                    3. The Chinawoman is not the issue here.

                      (Yes I know she’s Korean)

                    4. But how would you see an example of this type of scenario playing out with her?

                    1. I liked her a lot better before I saw her in this.

                      She kind of hit a wall. I mean, I’d still fuck her, but I wouldn’t, like, hang out with her afterward or anything.

                    2. I liked her a lot better before I saw her in this.

                      Nigga’s got ta eat.

            2. w/e, everyone knows ST:ENT was the best trek tv series.

          2. hoshi? what is wrong with you people.

            1. What is up with all the SF’d links?

              1. Tried to fix it and got spam blocked


                Let’s see if it will let me just put the text

              2. God dam spam filter wont let me post it again

                1. Let’s try this again

            2. Dammit I SF’d the link and now I’m getting spam blocked.

        2. Reading your comments are like an agonizer to my brain’s shoulder.

          1. Then I have achieved my goals.

            1. I think I must be the only person who honestly doesn’t give a shit whether we go back to that worthless dustball or not.

              1. I care a lot. I vote we send all governments to the moon, 1 way trip.

              2. The moon is dumb. We’ve gotten there before on massively simple tech. The only thing that matters is whether we can get to other star systems FTL (in relative terms), such as with NASA’s new proposed warp drive. If that is feasible, suddenly so much more is possible.

                1. We’ve gotten there before on massively simple tech.

                  You mean a camera and a soundstage?

                  1. It worked for Mars and the Moon!

                  2. You mean a camera and a soundstage?

                    Oh God, you’re not one those morons are you?

                    1. I refuse to be pigeonholed.

                    2. Epi is correct, The Moon is stupid and boring.

                      Wake me up when we have FTL travel; until then, space is lame.

                    3. He’s baiting you. Remember, he is the master at that.

                    4. FoE: Master Baiter

                2. The moon isn’t dumb. We could establish a permanent settlement there and learn a lot towards actually doing the same on Mars.

                  BTW, I finally bought Borderlands last night.

                  1. Have you started playing yet? It really starts to get awesome when you get up to levels 18-20. Then shit starts to get crazy. And I hope you bought the full package with all the DLCs.

                    1. Yeah, I played for a couple of hours last night. I’m just starting to get used to the weapons. The soundtrack is awesome, but I hope it changes up a little at some point or it could get tedious.

                      I didn’t get all the DLCs because that version was $30 and my monthly gaming budget is aleady killed for this month. I got it for $16. I will find a way to get the DLCs on the cheap if I like it that much. I have to be frugal when buying a game because I buy too damn many of them. Sometimes lately I think I like buying games as much as playing them, or some crazy shit like that.

                      Also, I am about to upgrade my 5 year old system with a new board, cpu, and ram, which is going to set me back around $800.

                    2. You can have an entire new system built for you by Cyberpower for that amount.

                    3. I’ve built my own since 1992.. I think that is right, when I built my first 386 system.

                      They can’t build me anything that cheap with the quality of components that I am using. My case, power supply, video card, speaker system, monitor, keyboard mouse, etc. are newer and I am keeping. Just need to upgrade the board, cpu, and ram.

                    4. I used to build my own too, but why go through the component matching bullshit when they’ll do it for you? I had them build me a badass system last year, and the whole thing–with a GeForce GTX 560 Ti and free shipping–was $725. Excellent CPU, RAM, motherboard, and hard drive.

                      But to each their own. I got really sick of putting computers together years ago.

                    5. I am a total geek when it comes to this stuff. Ok, I am not one of those guys who sits around for hours trying to see how much I can over clock a CPU without it catching on fire and posting my benchmarks on the interwebs. But when it comes to hand picking my components and doing it all myself, I will probably never give that up.

                3. You are so odd on space technology. Tell me, where did von Braun touch you?

                  1. The above comment is directed at Episiarch.

    2. Golden Spike and the railroad ties signify their use of Chinese labor. They will use the same lavor pool to build the prisons on the moon as well.

      1. or labor pool

        1. The space Chinaman is not the issue here.

          1. But That Harsh Mistress IS!

  2. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t put captions on pictures?

  3. but among its directors and advisers are venture capitalist Esther Dyson and millionaire former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

    Ugh. It probably shouldn’t matter.. but aside from serving government driven projects, the thought of having Newt play out his big-government-in-space fantasies totally kills any excitement I had prior to this announcement.

    1. Based on that board, I predict it’s going to crater with a whimper.

  4. Could be kind of cool. I’m curious what the ITAR and other regulatory implications are. Actually speaking of ITAR (and regulations in general), I’m kind of surprised this type of business can even be contemplated in the USA. IOW, I’m surprised they aren’t based out of somewhere else, and utilizing non-US made components.

  5. Crap, I was hoping we could physically transfer the people in govt to the moon.

    Thanks for getting my hopes up for NOTHING, Reason.

    1. That won’t work. The moon is only 5 day round trip from here and is stuck in our gravity well. All of the people in government need to be put on a ship and sent to another galaxy that is hurtling away from us at faster than light speed.

  6. I’d love for this to happen – and I believe it will, one day – but this has the smell of vaporware and government contracts.

    This is still better than the NASA plans for L2 station [no one has a fucking clue why] and convoluted Mars sample mission that looks like a particularly stupid boondogle and pork barrel mission.

    NASA delenda est!

    1. After decades of grandiose plans that went nowhere, NASA seems to be going for half assed plans (that go nowhere).

  7. The name and logo are alright. There’s nothing interesting about the moon anymore. They should go to Mars, or take celebrities on tourist cruises to Mercury.

    1. They should go to Mars, or take celebrities on tourist cruises to Mercury the center of the sun.

      FTFY. And I vote we send the Kardashian’s on the first flight.

  8. To the mooooooooon!

    1. Alice Kramden will be going?

  9. To succeed they need to base this in China. If it is US based, well, taxes, regulations, lawsuits, and the fucking SPACE TSA will strangle it in the crib.

    1. I thought you were going to go with some sort of rare Earth materials conspiracy.

      1. TSA TREK:
        Space, the final frontier. The line forms on the ight and is seven light years long. Please be patient. Remove space suits and put tricorders on the conveyor. Bottled oxygen is restricted to containers of three ounces or less.

  10. OMFG. Don’t you people get it? Haven’t you figured it out yet? We don’t need to go to the moon because we are already on the moon. We were secretly transferred without our knowledge of consent to the lunar surface decades ago in a massive plot to scare us into thinking we needed to get to the moon, which from our perspective is actually Mars. They just want us to get to Mars for them, thinking it’s the moon the whole time. Understand?

    1. All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again,

  11. founded by Biosphere 2 crewmembers Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter
    Were they the ones that caused trouble in the bubble?

    “Rest assured, if it rhymes, I can cause trouble in it.”

  12. This idea is doomed as hell. Why? Governments, that’s why. Getting governments into space is the dumbest idea ever conceived. The only way that works out well is you get a population going on some rock and after a while, the people rebel against the governments. The single best reason to go into space is to get the fuck away from governments and their minions of freepers and griefers who keep them in power.

  13. And if They need something to drink I’d be happy to give them a Golden Shower.

  14. Any government controlled moon mission will be bogged down in regulation forever. We would need 100 new tax payer funded government agencies just to handle the new regulations for stepping foot on the moon. The greifers will howl and whine about starving childins and wimins who don’t have free abortions while we waste our money on silly space programs. The greens will have lobbyist in DC howling 24×7 about how we should ban humans from ever touching another celestial body lest we ruin it. All of this means, this mission will stuck in low orbit, forever. If you don’t believe all of that, you obviously have not been paying attention to the pathetic condition of humankind here on mother Gaia.

    1. It will probably end up like my job, where you have teams of people who are only allowed to do what some government committee says they may do. The rest of the time they sit around and post on Reason.

      1. I believe you. I think that probably 50% of my orgranizations time and energy are spent on compliance with new regulations that are piling up like mountains, new ones every day. Before long, that will be the only purpose of all companies in the USA, regulation compliance. No real work will ever be done.

        1. Our complaince department got so big they had to start splitting it into divisions. We lay off risk engineers, but hire government compliance folks. Ugh.

      2. You can do that from work?

  15. Golden Spike will follow a model like that of the Russian spaceflight industry in the 1980s…

    The Soviets took on Space tourists as well?

    1. Mostly dogs, on one way trips.

  16. The problem is the political mindset. SpaceX is running into this with the Senate Launch System which was devised to distribute as much pork as possible to as many districts as possible. SpaceX may be able to lift the Falcon Heavy for $120 million but the politicians would rather spend $15 billion developing an alternative that costs $1 billion per launch.

    I’m afraid it will be the same with Golden Spike and the moon; maybe they could do it for $1.5 billion but if the government decided to go to the moon, the politicians would rather spend $60 billion developing it inside NASA and then another $10 billion per mission.

  17. There is a dude that really seems to know whats going on man. Wow.

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