Writing in the September 22, 2013 issue of “Space News” Apollo astronaut Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13, endorsed the efforts of Golden Spike, a company attempting to develop a low cost method to land humans on the lunar surface for the first time since December, 1972.
Lovell has already signed on as an adviser to the commercial company. Nevertheless, the public endorsement of an Apollo astronaut who has at least been twice to the vicinity of the moon, once on board Apollo 8 and once on Apollo 13, a mission that was the subject of a blockbuster movie directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks as Lovell, is significant.
“But for many people, including old astronauts like myself, the human exploration of the Moon remains America’s crowning achievement amid the stars. It is certainly an event worthy of repeating, and many of us have long argued for sending new generations of explorers back to our closest celestial neighbor as a first step toward developing the skills and technologies needed to travel deeper into our own solar system.
“Sadly, it hasn’t happened, though not for a lack of trying. A series of false starts, dashed attempts and woeful budget shortfalls have meant that government-led efforts to return humans to the Moon have foundered on the ground.
“Some in Congress are at this very moment talking once again about forcing NASA to establish a program to sustain a human presence on the Moon. I, unfortunately, am not optimistic as we have been here before. “
Lovell was one of several Apollo astronauts who excoriated the Obama administration for abandoning the Constellation return to the moon program. Now, however, he is suggesting a kind of public/private partnership to restart efforts to return to the moon.
“In fact, NASA itself should look carefully at what Golden Spike is doing and incorporate its plans into America’s national space ambitions. The agency, in my opinion, should be among Golden Spike’s first customers and biggest allies.”
NASA is already building two elements of a return to the moon architecture, the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System heavy lifter. Lovell seems to be suggesting that a commercially built lunar lander by Golden Spike might provide the third and final element necessary to get moon boots back on the ground.