http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/ ... d-mission/
Internet rumors have been swirling for several weeks of a secret venture backed by private entrepreneurs that would return people to the moon’s surface. It seems that the veil will finally be lifted this week, during a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6.
“The Golden Spike Company invites you to attend a game-changing announcement about the future of commercial human space travel to the Moon,” reads the announcement for the media briefing. ”Executives from the company will describe the team, the mission architecture, and the business model.”
Many questions remain about the prospects for such a mission, including its feasibility, rationale, and how the company intends to fund the endeavor, which will likely run to billions of dollars. Early rumors suggested that backers included Warren Buffet and Richard Branson, though these have since been shown false. The plan may also include a $120 million deal with SpaceX to provide a heavy rocket to reach the moon. SpaceX had no statement about such a deal when Wired reached out to them on Dec. 2.
The Golden Spike Company is registered in Colorado to planetary scientist and aerospace engineer Alan Stern, who ran NASA’s science directorate from 2007 to 2008. Stern also worked in the private spaceflight sector that year, as an independent research representative for Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. In a 2011 interview he said, “I hope that in 10 to 20 years’ time, we are on the hills of human return to the moon, so that we could then go on with humans to explore the solar system. I think this is our destiny.”
Golden Spike is a reference to the ceremonial spike driven into the rails connecting the U.S. transcontinental railroad in 1869, which helped open up the American West. The company has recently started both a Facebook group and Twitter account.
The company has apparently been around for a while. A conference presentation from May mentioned a company called Golden Spike that was “backed by respected scientific and astronautical entities” and “envisions the development of a reliable ‘Cislunar Superhighway.’” That same presentation mentioned a “cooperative initiative coalescing between independent, national and international enterprises [that] could see 2 to 4 people on the surface for 1 to 4 weeks at an estimated cost of US$5-10 billion.” Whether this plan is the same as Golden Spike’s is unclear.