Boulder-based firm plans trips to moon

BOULDER – Golden Spike Co., a Boulder-based aerospace startup, announced Thursday at a press event in Washington, D.C., that it plans to send a privately funded and built spacecraft to the moon by 2020.

Golden Spike intends to be the first to offer routine exploration expeditions to the surface of the moon, president and chief executive Alan Stern said. Stern lives in Niwot and is an associate vice president at the Southwest Research Institute, which has its department of space studies in Boulder.

More notably, Stern is the former chief of NASA’s space and earth science programs, where he directed a $4.4 billion organization with 93 separate flight missions and a program of more than 3,000 research grants. He also is a consultant to several aerospace companies.

Golden Spike intends to use existing rockets and to provide trips to the moon for nations, individuals and corporations. Using existing rockets and commercial-crew spacecraft currently being developed by other private companies will allow Golden Spike to send its first mission to the moon for between $7 billion and $8 billion, according to media reports covering the press conference. That also would finance the company’s startup costs and investments.

A press release from Golden Spike said subsequent missions will cost about $1.4 billion. For a comparison, the entire Apollo program cost about $110 billion to send missions to the moon.

The company’s forecast believes there is sufficient demand for 20 to 30 lunar missions by 2030. Stern said 15 to 25 nations are interested in missions, and the company expects a $20 billion to $30 billion market for lunar expeditions.

Golden Spike launched Thursday at a media event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Golden Spike has been in stealth mode for two years before its launch, which sparked 9,720 stories on Google News, Stern said when reached after the press conference.

The past two years have been spent laying the groundwork for the company and designed crucial spacecraft.

“We just put together a business plan and established the technical and financial viability of the company,” Stern said.

Now it is working on a lunar lander and laying the groundwork to start raising money, “and our hands are pretty full with that right now,” Stern said.

During the press conference, Stern declined to answer questions about who the company’s financial backers are and what national space agencies, corporations or individuals it has contacted. He did say naming rights, advertising and merchandising could be revenue sources, according to a report from the website, which covered the press conference.

Later, Stern was adamant Golden Spike could achieve its goals, possibly as soon as 2019.

“We know what we’re doing,” Stern said, referring to what he called “a dream team” of NASA veterans, engineers, scientists and political figures who are advisers. The chairman of the board is Gerry Griffin, an Apollo flight director and former director of NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

United Launch Alliance, a Denver-based joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing that manufactures rockets, is a partner. Golden Spike also has partnerships with spacecraft, space suit and life support system manufacturers.

“We’re excited about bringing human exploration of other worlds to the forefront, and we’re excited to be doing it in Colorado,” Stern said.

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