Golden Spike Turns To Crowdfunding

Gerry Griffin announcing the Golden Spike Company's project in December 2012 (Credits: Golden Spike).

Gerry Griffin announcing the Golden Spike Company’s project in December 2012 (Credits: Golden Spike).

On February 13, The Golden Spike Company announced a 10-week Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, to enable contributors to participate in their planned space exploration ambitions.

“The funds will enable us to launch our participatory exploration program, which is more than just the perks people get for making a donation,” said Golden Spike President and CEO, Dr. Alan Stern.   “It involves apps, membership, media productions, and more, and that effort is intended to become self-sustaining after we jump-start it with Indiegogo.”

Last December, Golden Spike announced its bold project to offer human expeditions to the Moon by 2020.  The initial announcement created such a huge interest that the Golden Spike team has decided to capitalize it on it by allowing people to contribute.  The objective is to raise $240,000, which equates to a dollar for every mile from Earth to the Moon, which is to be invested not only in the company but also on outreach.  Gerry Griffin, former Apollo Flight Director and the Chairman of Golden Spike’s Board of Directors, explained that the campaign is not just about the money but is intended  to raise awareness about the company whilst at the same time generating a new way of participating in human space exploration. MarsOne has adopted a similar approach for their preparatory campaign to select astronauts for a colony on the Red Planet by 2023.

The majority of funding is expected to come from sales and investment.  A 2 person lunar mission will cost $1.5 billion, a price not much higher than recent robotic lunar missions, according to Golden Spike.

While Golden Spike is exploring alternative ways of funding before exploring the Moon, Deep Space Industries (DSI) is trying to whet the appetites of potential future investors, by estimating the value of the famous asteroid 2012 DA14.  Officials with the celestial mining firm stated that the asteroid may contain $65 billion of recoverable water and $130 billion in metals.  In the meantime, the 45-meter-wide space rock will make its close approach to Earth passing at 27000 km, setting the record for a known object of this size, on February 15.

However, many believe DSI has been far too optimistic with the estimate since the composition and size of the asteroid is not well known.  Tim Worstall of Forbes magazine explained that the $195 billion value rests upon erroneous assumptions.  DSI did not consider the cost of going up and actually mining the asteroid, counters Worstall.  In addition, he says, since no one is able to make use of those minerals in space, there is no market at all because there are simply no buyers.

In any case, space exploration, despite receiving almost zero mention in Obama’s State of the Union Address, is “boldly going where no man has gone before,” at least as far as the visionary entrepreneurs and engineers of the private sector are concerned.

Below: Is crowdfunded space exploration the way forward? Planetary Resources seems to think so:

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