An artist's rendering shows a possible design for a landing module that Golden Spike Company said Thursday would take people to the surface of the moon by 2020. The company estimated the round-trip cost for two at $1.5 billion.(Photo: Golden Spike Company)
A new company run by former NASA executives announced Thursday that it will send you to the moon by 2020.
Round-trip cost for two: $1.5 billion, which the CEO called a relative bargain.
"We're selling to nations, corporations and individuals," Alan Stern, also president of Golden Spike Company, told Space.com. "Get in line - and I think it's going to be a long one."
The name of the Colorado-chartered venture refers to the ceremonial final, gold spike that completed the transcontinental railroad in 1869. See who's on the team of veteran space program executives, managers, engineers and entrepreneurs.
Space.com put together an infographic showing how the moon shot would work (fingers crossed). Here's its summary:
Golden Spike plans to launch the landing vehicle first, placing the unmanned module into a lunar orbit, where it will await its crew.
Later, a crew vehicle carrying up to two paying passengers is launched from Earth. After arriving in lunar orbit, the crew vehicle links up with the lander and the crew transfers for the descent to the surface.
When the lunar surface exploration is done, the astronauts blast off to rendezvous with the orbiting crew vehicle. Once back inside, the crew fires the rockets for the return trip to Earth.
Like the Apollo Command Module, the crew vehicle makes a fiery re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere and descends on parachutes to a splashdown landing.
Much is still to be determined or designed - such as rocket boosters, capsules and space suits. Golden Spike said it intends to use existing boosters, perhaps SpaceX's Falcon Heavy and United Launch Alliance's Atlas V.
NASA Space Flight (not affiliated with the U.S. space agency) and Wired have more detail on Thursday's announcement. Both noted that skeptics may consider the grandiose plan lunacy.
"I would say that Stern doesn't have enough zeros in his budget," space policy expert John Pike told Wired, referring to the company's estimated $7 billion to $8 billion budget. "If you could really shoot people off to the moon for those kinds of dollars, someone would have done it."
NASA has more on the state of commercial space transportation.
One big, practical question: Will discounted trips eventually be sold on Orbitz?