Although Golden Spike Company (GSC) will be providing a lunar transportation system based on the technology currently available from US commercial aerospace providers, they don’t expect to be returning Americans to the moon. GSCs primary market will be non-US government space and science agencies. The participants at the LPI Workshop on Golden Spike Human Lunar Scientific Exploration agreed that there is tremendous potential gain from collaboration among the current robotic space efforts in EU and Asia and GSC’s manned flight capabilities. They also pointed out that most of the US plans are following NASA designs, which may not fit the aims of international space programs. On the other hand, only Americans have any experience with manned lunar expeditions and NASA has the training facilities and expertise. Collaboration is a key to success.
Howard Eller of Northrop Grumman reminded participants that a lunar transportation system might be like the 1903 Ford Model A, which produced only 1750 cars. The next test models were not even produced. Few remember the 7000 Model N’s that Ford sold, yet 17 million Model T’s changed the American landscape forever. As with the early automobile transport, training and support facilities and new infrastructure will be required. A potential market for flights is among the emerging economies in the Middle East and Asia. However, those customers lack current flight capabilities and may need lots of additional support as part of the turnkey services. To ensure maximum scientific benefit GSC may also need to provide help with planning and coordination of missions, as well as access to appropriate training and ancillary equipment such as sample containers.
Rick N. Tumlinson, Chairman of the Board of Deep Space Industries (DSI) agrees it’s time to return to the moon. Humans need to learn how to live and work on a highly irradiated vacuum surface. DSI believes “The key to opening the frontier of space is learning how to ‘live off the land’” and is developing expertise in new ways to extract and process materials and supplies from space resources, especially asteroids. Rick reminds us that it’s not necessarily a competition. ARM (Asteroid Retrieval Mission) may not be the optimal Agile starting point, but DSI’s key concept is about the ability to process resources anywhere, asteroids or the moon. Rick suggests “all are allies going somewhere together”. It’s about the AND. Ultimately, commercial use of space will require infrastructure. GSC will provide transport services. Perhaps DSI can provide the “filling stations.”