There hasn’t been a man on the moon for almost 40 years, since Apollo 17. Today, The Golden Spike Company announced that, by the end of the decade, it plans to fly there regularly.
The trip won’t be inexpensive. The company estimates it will cost somewhere in the ballpark of $1.5 billion to carry two people to the moon and back. But Golden Spike is betting there will be interest, from countries and, perhaps, companies.
According to Jim Muncy, a space policy consultant, we still have a lot to learn about our nearest celestial neighbor.
“Well, there’s a tremendous amount of science that can be done on the moon,” he says.
But there are also commercial opportunities for mining. There is ice in craters near the poles and oxygen locked up in silicate minerals. But as Max Vozoff, who is in charge of business development for Golden Spike, notes, to harness that, you have to get there.
“What we really want to do is open up the transportation system,” he says.
International treaties prohibit any one country from claiming sovereignty over the moon, but Vozoff says nothing that prevents a company like his from doing business there.
Golden Spike’s goal is to bring the cost of manned missions to the moon in line with what NASA spends on unmanned missions.
“They are spending about the same on a robotic mission, a robotic orbiter, as we feel we can charge for two people on the surface of the moon,” Vozoff claims.
But not everyone is convinced that’s possible.
"I think there’s a lot of skepticism about being able to meet that kind of cost target for such a complex enterprise,” says Jim Bell, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University.
Bell wishes them luck, but he worries cost containment could lead to cutting corners. Much of the money spent on the Apollo missions was to make them as safe as possible.