Thursday October 3, 2013
Workshop on Golden Spike Human Lunar Scientific Exploration
Golden Spike is hosting a workshop to help define the high value Lunar missions that need human presence. Dr. Steve Mackwell, Lunar and Planetary Institute and Gerry Griffin of Golden Spike opened the session with the obvious question: Is there a niche for humans in planetary exploration or is robotics the way to go into space? Mackwell suggests that there is a place for humans advancing science with short duration missions in synergy with continuing robotics. Out there is promising. Can private industry open the next frontier for all mankind?
In 2010, Dr. Alan Stern asked if it was possible to get back to the moon with the technology currently available and if so, at what price. After a 10 week study confirmed feasibility, Golden Spike was formed in November, 2010 with the goal of using existing ELVs, modified earth orbital capsules and a modernized lunar lander to return to the moon. Preliminary investigations suggested two people could be sent to the moon and returned safely at about the same cost as a robotic lunar mission. Golden Spike intends to be a transportation company, providing regular transport service to the Moon. Markets include foreign space and science agencies, corporations and a few tourists. After staying below the radar while conducting studies of system requirement, modifications, technical requirements and markets, Golden Spike publicized their plans on December 6, 2012.
In the last year, Golden Spike has developed a business plan, defined funding sources, published a paper on preliminary mission architecture and finished the first round of engineering. Although going back to the moon is not easy, it is technically possible using the technology developed by the Apollo and Space Station programs. Now the question is can it be sold to either cash-strapped governments or private industry. No manned flight has been done beyond earth orbit in over 40 years. Commercial space flight is just opening up. Now we need some “mojo” to catch the same imagination that the Apollo program generated around the world. If governments are concerned about STEM, moving humans back into space is a good way to interest young people in something outside the virtual world.