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


golden spike

A new commercial venture will offer regular cheap(ish) trips to the surface of the moon by the end of the decade to anyone who wants to fork over the cash. The Golden Spike Company makes its official debut today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. in just a few minutes.

From the press release:

Former Apollo Flight Director and NASA Johnson Space Center Director, Gerry Griffin, and planetary scientist and former NASA science chief, Dr. Alan Stern, will unveil "The Golden Spike Company" – the first company planning to offer routine exploration expeditions to the surface of the Moon by the end of the decade….

The Washington Post reports on the price of a ticket:

Stern said a two-person lunar mission, complete with moonwalking and, perhaps best of all, a return to Earth, would cost $1.5 billion.

"Two seats, 750 each," Stern said. "The trick is 40 years old. We know how to do this. The difference is now we have rockets and space capsules in the inventory. .?.?. They're already developed. .?.?. We don't have to invent them from a clean sheet of paper. We don't have to start over."

As BoingBoing has noted, the board of directors is pleasingly eclectic. Here's a sampler:

  • Max Vozoff—Business development expert and former program manager of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft development
  • Esther Dyson—Director, NewSpace investor and venture capitalist
  • Homer Hickam—Former NASA engineer, acclaimed author and screen writer, ("Rocket Boys"/"October Sky") 
  • Bill Richardson—Former U.N. Ambassador, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, former Governor of New Mexico, former U.S. presidential candidate, and commercial space advocate
  • Newt Gingrich—Former U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, U.S. presidential candidate, and commercial space advocate

The company says its goal is to be the transcontinetal railroad of space:

The Golden Spike Company is a US-based commercial space company incorporated in 2010. It is named after the ceremonial final spike that joined the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, on May 10, 1869, and opened up the frontier to new opportunities. Similarly, Golden Spike intends to break new ground and create an enduring link to the next frontier, providing regular and reliable expeditions to the Moon at prices that are a fraction of any lunar program ever conceived of before.

UPDATE: Obviously, we're all very excited about this here at Reason.

UPDATE: Here's the lunar lander concept art:

luar lander

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  1. Are cigars provided in First Class ?

  2. I propose we use this as the official thread on this topic, for several reasons:

    -Lists board members
    -Logo looks less evil
    -Explains the company’s name

    and, of course:

    -Has alt text

    1. Seconded.

    2. Picture if you will, an eye somewhere on that bit of moon at the top. Coincidence? I think not.

    3. I didn’t think the name was that big of a mystery.

      And of what value is a post that doesn’t say “Newculur Titties”?

  3. The trick is 40 years old. We know how to do this. The difference is now we have rockets and space capsules in the inventory..?.?.They’re already developed..?.?.We don’t have to invent them from a clean sheet of paper. We don’t have to start over.”

    This business model would have been impossible without prior government research and development–particularly the billions spent learning how to keep astronauts alive.

    1. You seem to be implying that since it happened involving government research, it is impossible that it could have happened without government research….

      1. I don’t think he’s implying that. He’s outright saying it.

        1. I’m not implying joe is a midget, I’m outright saying it.

          1. Man, he must be hitting the bottle early today.

            1. God, I hope so. I guess the principal’s office didn’t need him today. Tough times, eh joe?

    2. Yes, imagine that. People who do business do business in the world that actually exists. This is not exactly a profound insight. SO what’s your point?

      1. Anthropic principle is hard.

      2. It must exhausting coming up with a strawman for every damn thread.

        1. joe is fueled by inadequacy so he has plenty of energy.

          1. Holy shit Epi, that makes for an awesome idea. Spaceships powered by inadequacy engines!

            1. Infinitely improbable.

            2. The short, stupid, and ugly will populate the galaxy! Wait…

      3. Actually, I think “people who do business do business in the world that actually exists” is a pretty profound insight for many libertarians, considering that a world without coercive government does not exist.

        1. Be honest, joe. You don’t “think”. You mouth your marching orders and themes from your political masters. You haven’t thought an independent thought in your life. How does being a sheep feel? A short sheep, that is.

        2. considering that a world without coercive government does not exist.

          A world without rape doesn’t exist either, ergo it must be okely-dokely to rape.

          1. I’m suggesting that you look at this issue as JFK in 1960. The government exists, has existed for centuries, and will continue to exist. Should that government invest in spaceflight?

            I think the answer is clearly yes.

            1. Again: no one cares what you think, fool. But keep on thinking we do; it’s amusing.

              God, how pathetically lonely and desperate for company are you? EPIC.

            2. I think the answer is clearly yes.


              1. Because if we don’t invest in the space race in 1960, the technology this company is using right now wouldn’t exist.

                1. joe, don’t you have a Fleshlight to go rape? Or is that lie back and think of England? Fuck, you’re stupid.

                2. Because if we don’t invest in the space race in 1960 pass the stimulus bill, the technology this company is using unemployment rate right now wouldn’texist be lower.

                  Unfalsifiable counterfactuals: the last refuge of scoundrels?

                3. The first tech to get stuff into orbit was developed so that American and Russkie politicians could have nuclear dicks to wave at each other. As for launching satellites, well, the US gov. gave you the space shuttle, managing to create a passenger transport that didn’t deserve to be man-rated and a cargo transport that cost somewhere between 10X and 20X what SpaceX charges. If anything, the private sector investment is necessary; otherwise pols will keep blowing the money on the latest geewhiz flying pork barrel.

    3. Thomas Edison call your office.
      NO, not with an Obamaphone!

      1. Ask that Bell fella if he has something you can use!

      2. Another beneficiary of government-awarded monopolies. Thousands, in his case.

        1. Hey joe, do you have any people in your life in meatspace? Anyone at all? Holy shit you’re pathetic.

    4. Most businesses models build on that which came before. Just because this model builds upon investments made by government doesn’t make government special in any way.

      1. If government was the only entity that could feasibly make those investments, that makes government special in at least one way.

        I don’t think every government investment results in technological progress. Lots of government investment is wasted. But this investment clearly wasn’t.

        1. So joe, do you like making an abject fool of yourself? You must, because you do it again and again and again. Thanks for being our court jester, joe.

          1. You want a midget for a court jester? That’s fucking stupid.

            1. Aren’t all court jesters midgets? You’re stupid.

            2. how else will they joust on the backs of pigs?

              1. Exactly. See, someone gets it, Warty.

              2. If you adjust the focus you will see what is is doing behind that pig isn’t exactly jousting. But then you might not want to go there anyway.

            3. No, no, wrong. Jesters are supposed to be grossly fat or tall and emaciated. Midgets just give everyone the creeps, kind of like how the sight of joe nauseates women.

          2. Jester is too dignified. It’s more like Punch and Judy, except Judy left because he was such a fag.

    5. The government was also investing many times more into flying, through Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian Institution with a $70,000 government grant, before the Wright Brothers came along and achieved flight first.

      Had the government been first to finish then, we’d be hearing the same bullshit “zomg, flying would have been impossible without government!”

      1. As most around here know, I’ve got the space bug hard. From what I’ve seen in the talk around the return to manned spaceflight outside of LEO, we may actually have to rethink the entire model of access to orbit, as the NASA methodology has proven too fucking expensive. That’s the main reason we’re stuck with what we have now (leaving aside for the moment that we currently have no direct manned access to space).

        Whether that means fuel depots, reusable boosters, etc., I have no idea, but the future of manned spaceflight is likely to look quite a bit different from Apollo, the space shuttle, or anything else that’s been done before.

        Naturally, it would be stupid to ignore the past. Just as it would be stupid to repeat the mistakes. There’s a reason we aren’t sharing our comments with residents of the Moon and Mars right now.

        1. I blame Bush.

          1. I thought the second Bush was right about one thing–if you’re going to have NASA involved in manned spaceflight, there should be a goal in mind. Beyond piddling about in LEO. We’re a laughing stock in this region of the Milky Way.

            Oddly, Obama’s space policy is pretty good, mostly because he doesn’t appear to give a shit about space.

        2. SABRE engine, baby.

      2. The wright brothers were heavily subsidized by the government, because they won the race to be awarded a lucrative patent.

        1. Patents aren’t awarded, dopey.

          1. I googled “patent awarded” and got many pages of results like this.

            U.S. Patents Awarded to Inventors in Minnesota (Dec. 2)

            Am I missing something?


              Yeah, joe, you’re missing something. Self-awareness isn’t your strong suit.


            2. Read closer, joe:

              To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

              1. I still don’t get your problem with the word “awarded” in regards to patents.

                I agree that the patent system is constitutional.

                1. No one cares what you agree with, moron.

                2. I still don’t get your problem with the word “awarded” in regards to patents.

                  Of course you don’t. Did you read what I asked you to read?

                  1. If your argument is anything other than pedantry, why don’t you state it explicitly?

                    1. Oh god that’s rich, joe. Once again, you prove that self-awareness is about as far from you as the top shelf in the grocery store.

                    2. I did! Patents aren’t awarded.

        2. They started and developed all of their work on their own in their shops, and their success was not the result of a government program. It was only until after they successfully flew that they pursued government contracts

          1. The pursuit of a patent was clearly a factor in their decision to build an airplane in the first place.

            I’m not saying “government invented airplanes”, I’m saying “government created an environment where the invention of airplanes was more likely”.

            1. Actually, you’re saying nothing, joe. Other than that you’re an idiot.

            2. Obviously, without a government, no private investor would have paid a large sum for aviation technology. The ability to fly is insignificant, next to the power of the Social Contract.

    6. “No one would ever be able to go to the moon if the government hadn’t wasted a bunch of money going to the moon before it worthwhile.”

      No, no, no. That’s not how the world works, Joe.

      1. Of course, a lot of rocketry R&D happened well before the government was involved. And, of course, a serious amount of heavy lifting was done by the Nazis. I guess joe is crediting the Nazis, too?

        1. Well, joe is essentially a fascist just like the rest of his TEAM, so…probably yes.

          1. “This business model would have been impossible without prior Nazi research and development–particularly the billions spent learning how to keep Londoners dead.”

            1. I’m pretty sure the Nazis didn’t spend billions learning how to keep Londoners dead. The Germans are notoriously frugal, so I don’t think they’d have spent that much on zombie fighting research.

              1. I was using 2012 dollars and making it up as I went.

                That’s funny you should call that out, because I was thinking of changing “keep” to “make” and figured no one would care.

                1. [I] figured no one would care.

                  Poor naive, Pro lib.

                  On a related note, I have an idea for another one of joint ventures, once we finish the other series. It’s basically Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, except we replace Lincoln with Hitler and vampires with zombies. Also, we add more hot chicks.

                  1. Nah, I’m bored with the undead.

                    How about a DuneBrady Bunch mashup?

                    Here’s the story,
                    Of a Bene Gesserit,
                    Who was being trained to
                    Kill with one mighty blow.
                    Jessica had hair of gold,
                    Like her father.
                    The weirding way she knows.

                    Here’s the story,
                    Of a man named Leto.
                    Who was living on
                    Caladan on his own.
                    Born of a house
                    Loved by the Landsraad,
                    Yet he was all alone.

                    Till the one day
                    When the lady
                    Met this fellow.
                    And they knew that
                    It was much more
                    Than a hunch.

                    That this group
                    Must somehow
                    Form a Family,
                    That’s the way
                    They all became
                    The Atreides bunch.

                    The Atreides bunch,
                    The Atreides bunch.
                    That’s the way
                    They became
                    The Atreides bunch.

                    1. I’m intrigued and impressed with your effort. Will we go with the Brady Bunch level of risque (showing a married couple sleeping in the same bed) or the Dune level of risque (having an orgy on screen and possibly marrying your sister)?

                    2. Dude, first of all, Dune the book(s), not the movie/miniseries versions.

                      Second, Dune should dominate. For instance, the setting is Arrakis. But Alice is in.

                    3. Go on.

                    4. I figure the kids are replaced by the various minions–Duncan, Gurney, Yueh, etc. And Alice.

        2. Crap. Sorry guys, started my response before you posted, had to step away, and didn’t refresh to see your oh-so-sweet takedowns.

    7. This business model would have been impossible without prior government research and development–particularly the billions spent learning how to keep astronauts alive.

      And everyone was adequately compensated for their time, energy, and effort. The fact that a government did something at some point in the past doesn’t mean I owe it for Life.

      1. I’m not suggesting that you owe it anything.

        I’m suggesting that government action in some sectors, particularly emerging ones, accelerates the rate of technological progress.

        1. You are suggesting something with no proof then.

          1. The company’s statement is very clear: Their model would be impossible without prior government research.

            1. You know what’s very clear, joe? How unbelievably stupid you are. Crystal clear. Does being short make you stupid?

            2. The company’s statement is very clear: Their model would be impossible without prior government research.

              And that is evidence for your general proposition how again?

        2. Yeah, we sure are zipping along, way ahead of where we were in the early 60’s, when getting to the Moon was only a decade away.

          1. If this shows anything, it shows that government research is unsustainable on its own.

            1. I agree that government research is unsustainable on its own.

              I think synergistic relationships between public and private investment and research cause the two to be more productive together than either would be alone.

              1. But no one cares what you think, court jester. You just act the fool, and we laugh.

              2. I think synergistic relationships between public and private investment and research cause the two to be more productive together than either would be alone.

                Another assertion without evidence.

                1. So, diverting capital from private hands to public hands for government-sponsored research makes that capital more productive than it would be if left in private hands?

        3. Sure, Joe, but you also consistently assert, or at least imply, that these things are possible only if government does them. That’s the part we know to be false, and push back against.

          None of this would be possible without the Wright Brothers and they were just two guys with a vision; no government funding.

          1. The wright brothers made massive amounts of money from their government-awarded patents.

            1. Did joe just claim the government gets credit for inventing the airplane?

              1. This is what statists actually believe.

              2. I think government created an environment that incentivised the Wright Brothers to invent the airplane.

                1. “I think government created an environment that incentivised the Wright Brothers to invent the airplane.”

                  Holy fuck, we’ve reached peak retard!

                  1. Wright Brothers and Patents

                    In 1906 the Wrights received a patent for their method of flight control which they fiercely defended for years afterward, suing foreign and domestic aviators and companies, especially another U.S. aviation pioneer, Glenn Curtiss, in an attempt to collect licensing fees. Their legal threats suppressed development of the U.S. aviation industry for several years. Letters that Wilbur Wright wrote to Octave Chanute in January 1910 offer a glimpse into the Wrights’ feeling about their proprietary work: “It is not disputed that every person who is using this system today owes it to us and to us alone. The French aviators freely admit it.”[4] In another letter Wilbur said: “It is our view that morally the world owes its almost universal use of our system of lateral control entirely to us. It is also our opinion that legally it owes it to us.”[5]

                    The patent war stalled the development of the American aviation industry. In response, after the beginning of World War I, the U.S. Government pressured its aviation industry to form an organization that allowed the sharing of aviation patents.

              3. No, but he’s muddying the waters by trying to conflate their initial personally-funded breakthrough with their later financial success due to the patent system.

                IOW, the dishonesty for which he is known.

            2. Dig, short moron! Do your court jester thing!

    8. Right you are Joe, prior government research. And not just our government. Nazis. Neither the US nor the USSR built their space programs from the ground up, they started by using Nazi hardware and personnel. Can’t believe you missed such an easy way to link this to the Nazis. Nazis, Nazis, Nazis…

      Also, not impossible, even without governments. Absent government interest in ballistic missile research, eventually someone would have come up with the communications satellite and developed the rockets to put ’em up there. Maybe sooner, maybe later, but to say this is “impossible” is to claim one has perfect knowledge of all the possible ways this could have played out.

      You, like someone else here, is way out of your depth on this topic. So, please, bring it on.

      1. I don’t think private trips to the moon would be impossible for private companies to design from the ground up.

        I think that development would happen far later, however.

        The section I quoted was explicit: Prior government research allowed this company to attempt this model. Had the company not had government research to build upon, the model would not be profitable.

        1. You’re such a stupid fuck, joe. Come on, dig your hole deeper! You can’t help it, after all.

        2. Research is research, Joe. In this case many, but not all, of the precursor technologies happened to have been financed by government.

        3. You sound like Ray Comfort arguing for ID over evolution.

      2. Fuck off, Joe. Also, 3:07 PM above.

  4. If I had a few extra billion kicking around I would totally go to the moon.

    1. i think i’d send people to the moon.

      1. There are too many I’d want to send. I’d want to wait for the price to drop a bit before that. Those billions add up fast.

      2. I wonder if there’s a discount for a one-way trip.

        1. No, but if you don’ts send spacesuits for your passengers, the mass charge is reduced, and you can sublet the return ticket.

        2. There’s gotta be a discount for short internet griefers. On a one-way trip.

      3. I guess I’m getting old when I wind up with the first Jackie Gleason reference. *sigh*

        1. “It was a metaphor for beating his wife!”

          1. I don’t see you with Fungineering degree.

      4. No, you only want to send the best and the brightest. Srsly.

        Of course, sometimes your petty thieves, debtors, drunks and other undesireables do pretty well for themselves. *cough* Jamestown Colony *cough*

    2. If I had a few extra billion kicking around I would totally go to the moon.

      Yes, my husband and I will get right on rounding up 1.5 billion to go. Such a delightful vacation!

      1. Send us a postcard, luv?

  5. Hmm, Mangu-Ward and Doherty posting similar articles right on top of each other. I think there should be spankings for this.

    1. I volunteer, for Mangu-Ward.

      1. I’d rather spank her, not you.

  6. Thinking of you Robert Heinlein.

    1. Thanks, Tim. Will be missed. At least he lived to see the first moon landing.

      1. But not legalized incest. Or closecest. Or selfcest.

        1. *clonecest

          Damn it Reason! Give us the edit button!

  7. Good thing Newt Gingrich is on the Board of Directors. You can be sure that he will be lobbying the Federal Government for taxpayer subsidies for this private company. Of course, these are *good* subsidies.

    1. And in this timeline, the part of The Honorable Morton Hobart will be played by Newt Gingrich. Poifick!

  8. Esther Dyson’s on the board. What is it she does, exactly? She pops up as a pundit on things like the web and has written some books. Her dad, of course, is an important physicist. And has that sphere thingee.

    1. I think she’s just an angel investor at this point, funding various start-ups and sitting on some boards.

  9. They’ve got the fabulously corrupt Bill Richardson and the merely utterly unqualified Newt Gingrich on the board. This won’t end well.

    1. It’s enough to make the Kessel run.

      1. in less than twelve parsecs?

      2. Don’t talk shit about Han Solo.

    2. I have to agree. This seems to be about soaking governments (and hence taxpayers). Getting governments to the moon will accomplish one thing expanding governmental influence beyond Earth. This cannot be a positive.

  10. I know several of the people on the Board (Max, Mike Loucks, Esther, Alan, etc) and some of the Advisors (Jeff Greason) for this venture, and previously helped cofound one of the rocket companies they’re going to pay to do studies on the lander design. All told, it’s an exciting announcement, but a real longshot that if it’s possible at all, is just barely so. I wish them a ton of luck, but they’ll likely need to sign a decent number of customers before they’d have a chance at raising the amount of money they’d need to raise…which is like 2x the market cap of Tesla Motors. Not impossible, but really, really hard.

    1. Thanks. Kewl blog.

    2. I’m all for companies competing to get people into space, so more power to them.

  11. If they’re going to do this right their architecture better be different than Apollo. It’s better to use small cheap boosters and fuel depots than big fucking single shot to unar orbit jobs. When they say “the trick is 40 years old” it makes me nervous that their idea is to dust off Apollo and slap a private logo on it, getting the governments to fund it.

  12. That concerns me, too, RC.

    1. Hopefully, they’re just there for lobbying work, and won’t have any real input into real decisions.

  13. The other really big spaceflight news this week is the breakthrough on the SABRE engine. This is a propulsion breakthrough that will (hopefully) allow single-stage to orbit vehicles, ie a true “space plane”.

    1. That’s being considered for hypersonic flight, too, isn’t it? Meaning here to Australia in a few hours.

    2. That’s pretty fucking sweet. I wonder if they can keep the helium cooling loop sealed up well enough. There are some wild temperature swings in there, and losing the working fluid in that loop could cause some catastrophic compressor blade failures–they’re banking on the cooling loop to allow them to use lighter, less temperature resistant alloys in the compressors.

  14. That actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

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