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Thursday, a company called Golden Spike confirmed swirling rumors that it intends to land humans on the surface of the moon by the year 2020. It may sound like pie-in-the-sky, but this is no fly-by-night outfit. They are staffed with some of the most accomplished engineers and mission planners to ever turn dreams into reality, including Dr. Alan Stern (interviewed here), former Apollo launch director Gerry Griffin and, well, some others:

The board includes former NASA engineers, astronauts and managers – including the highly respected former Space Shuttle Program (SSP) manager Wayne Hale, along with commercial space notables, such as former SpaceX program manager for the Dragon spacecraft, Max Vozoff. The company’s board of advisors also includes Newt Gingrich, former US Speaker of the House of Representatives, who cited his interest in a lunar base during his campaign as a US presidential candidate.
OK, that's one name that may not be too popular around these parts. But there is no shortage of smart progressives onboard with this, like former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who was quoted today, "Golden Spike’s plan to implement human lunar expeditions for nations and individuals across the world is an exciting new development that I am proud to be a part of. President Kennedy said at the outset of Project Apollo, “Now it is time to take longer strides—time for a great new American enterprise.” With Golden Spike, those words ring true half a century later in a whole new way.”

Golden Spike, named after the symbolic railroad spike that nailed together the east and west coasts of America over a century ago, joins a growing number of privately held concerns hoping to kickstart the U.S. space exploration effort like SpaceX, XCOR and Planetary Resources. The nascent industry, referred to collectively as NewSpace, hopes to greatly expand access to low earth orbit and beyond in this decade, in large part by dramatically lowering the cost of ground to orbit rockets, spacecraft and related systems.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:45 PM PST.

Also republished by Astro Kos.


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Comment Preferences

  •  I (22+ / 0-)

    haven't seen this said directly by anyone at GS, but obviously one of the biggest poential customers are We the People. That only makes sense if they believe they can get NASA specialists to the lunar surface faster and cheaper than the agency can using Apollo-like methods.

  •  Um, fun, but where's the business model? (5+ / 0-)

    The costs of getting to the moon, even greatly reduced, are never going to be matched by an economic benefit or a scientific payoff. Tourism? Mebbe. We'll see what the cost per passenger is without a government subsidy.

    If a private company is doing this, you can be sure taxpayers (here, maybe other countries) will end up paying for it.

    Cool, yes, but a costly distraction, most definitely.

    And, I have to say it: been there, done that.

    Some people are intolerant, and I CAN'T STAND people like that. -- Tom Lehrer

    by TheCrank on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:49:24 PM PST

    •  Yea, and what is the purpose? Mining ^3He (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      From the vid I have no idea of the purpose.

      Listen to Netroots Radio or to our pods on Stitcher. "We are but temporary visitors on this planet. The microbes own this place" <- Me

      by yuriwho on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:52:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Soverign clients for one (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JML9999, Pete Cortez

      I believe there were over 30 countries that bought a ticket for an astronaut to visit the Saylut space stations in the 80s.  (France bought multiple flights)

      Secondly, there are some possible additional business applications.  

    •  That (4+ / 0-)

      is a very good question. I haven't seen their business plan, I don't know how much they project a lunar trip might cost them or a customer. In general I have heard terms like a $100 million thrown around for a more mature lunar ferrying industry, there are reports on GS estimating development costs at almost ten billion, and first time lunar explorers at over a billion. I have to guess they might actually have one or two customers committed for a truck load of dough already, or this wouldn't have gone this far.

      Down the road, I've heard speculation on a type of spacecraft called a cycler. One that is on the lunar free return orbit. It swoops low over the moon and low over the earth, going from one to another tracing a figure eight clover leaf, round trip takes about a week. You can scale them, like a mini space station, make them larger over time, and you match with a departure stage to head for the moon in relative comfort in the cycler, land on the moon using lem of sorts, then ligt off and match with the same or another cycler, ride back, and drop capsule for air braked reentry. No idea how practical that is, but they have probably thought of cyclers, among other ideas.

      •  $750 million. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        To put that in perspective, two seats go for half the cost of a Space Shuttle launch.  I personally think this is not the smartest model they could've gone with, but then their objective is to put feet on lunar soil as quickly as possible: that's Moonshot..  Assuming they can flow in revenue, presumably they could build a more sustainable, frequent system for accessing the Moon.

        •  Hmmm. Even SpaceX gets $2-3k per lb to LEO... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pete Cortez

          So...taking the lower figure out of kindness, that means $750 million could launch 180 tons --- into LEO.

          Assuming -- for lack of any better assumptions -- that they would need to send a similar sized payload to the Apollo system, that would split out to about $650 million into LEO, then $100 million for the ride out to the moon and back.

          Maybe it works, but all that cost to LEO stuff -- it's the cost of transportation (launch vehicle, launch prep, launch, mission control, yada-yada), and doesn't include the cost of the payload or any post-launch mission control.  Certainly not the cost of keeping people alive.

          I am constantly amazed by the magic good engineers and other bright minds can work, but my quick and decidely non-expert BOE analysis makes this look pretty optimistic.

          LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

          by dinotrac on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 01:54:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Cyclers strike me as interesting and perplexing... (0+ / 0-)

        but then, I am a non-scientist.

        Here's the part that perplexes me:

        If you attain the velocity and heading to  dock with a cycler, then you have attained the velocity and heading to go where it's going without the cycler.

        Seems like you wouldn't need it.

        I could also see a large cycler -- with the appropriate space and amenities for travel -- being joined by a small craft that does little more than ferry passengers (and essential supplies, given that the cycler doesn't land).  It could dock with a parasite ship, or it could dock with shuttles at each destination.

        In that scenario, I guess you lift the mass of accommodations once, and, from there on out, it's just people, supplies, pluss the hardware required to get those people and supplies to/from the cycler (which still means attaining a speed and heading sufficient to reach the destination without the cycler).

        Doesn't seem like there's much room for a win on something as short as a lunar trip.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 01:44:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Lunar cyclers are arguably a wash (0+ / 0-)

          from what I've heard from people (I have not run the calculations myself)

          Where cyclers really come into their own is when you start talking about trips to Mars (6 months requires a lot more supplies than 3 days)

          •  That's the thing, though... (0+ / 0-)

            All those supplies still need to be lifted and need to acquire the velocity and heading of the cycler.

            I guess you wouldn't need so large a rocket -- you could use a fleet of rockets, in fact -- but you still burn the fuel and lift the mass of all those supplies (and rockets and fuel) to meet the cycler.

            The numbers must be very interesting.

            LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

            by dinotrac on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:51:18 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Its not just food and water and air (0+ / 0-)

              There are physical considerations to consider as well.  And this is where cylcers do make a lot of sense.  

              The best/easiest example to use is the Soyuz (the Russian vehicle we currently go to the station with).  Soyuz is roughly the size of a Volkswagon Bug.  And it holds 3 people.  Now, that is viable for a few days ride to station, or even the moon (at most you would be looking at a week long mission).  It gets cramped, but its doable.  

              Now imagine trying to spend 6 months in such a craft.  Or even a year or longer.  Its not really viable to spend that kind of time in a VW Bug sized vehicle.  What you want is something that would at least be the size of an RV.  But if you are going to be in space for 6 months, its not a bad idea to increase your radiation shielding.  But if you are going to do that, you are increasing the size of your vehicle pretty substantially.  

              And if you are doing that, then you have to start scaling your rocket up to launch your spacecraft (and your rocket has to be pretty big to begin with if you are doing humans to Mars).  

              Then there comes the question of how many missions are you going to do to Mars?  If you are only doing 1 or 2, well, then you don't need the stuff to last.  But if you are looking doing a a sustained number of missions, its worthwhile to start looking at making your system reusable.  

              But if you are making it reusable, and making it large enough to survive in, and have adequate shielding, you have to start wondering if it makes more sense for it to look like a space station, designed to be permenanetly in space.  

              And that is how and why a cycler makes sense - a few days in a small spacecraft, with a lot of supplies, followed by a long time in a spacecraft with the required facilities needed for 6 months to a 1 year flight.  Its like taking a small plan to go from DC to New York, and then switching over to a 747 to go to London

    •  it's long term (6+ / 0-)

      really long term. The moon could act as a gateway to the rest of the solar system, if we established a presence there and are able to manufacture fuel, then a moon base becomes a MUCH more economical launching point for missions further out. A huge part of the expense of getting stuff off the surface of earth is fighting gravity. Ever pound of fuel or other components manufactured on the moon or in orbit, is a pound that doesn't have to be lifted off earth.

      Once we get can get that cost down, the solar system really opens up and we can start mining asteroids for materials that are rare, or environmentally harmful to harvest on Earth. There is a wealth of resources out there, establishing a presence on the moon and a greater pretense in orbit is the first step toward obtaining them.

      Beyond that, there is the reality that if we don't spread the human race beyond the earth, at some point humanity will be wiped out by some thing or another, we have all our eggs in one basket. It's unsustainable, unwise, and preventable.

      "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible." -Henry Ford

      by sixeight120bpm on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:36:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Same applies for Earth orbit. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The Moon is extraordinarily valuable to the development of cislunar real estate.  

      •  "Been there, done that" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        We've been to the earth and done it, too.
        And yet -- there's always something new being learned.

        Since the last Apollo flight, we've learned some very interesting things about the moon, like -- it has water, and enough water to notice.

        Just this week, NASA released news from Ebb and Flow with surprising findings about the moon's early history and the thickness of its crust.

        The moon is bigger than a breadbox, older than I am, and possesses a whole other, darker side that we have yet to walk.

        One could do worse than to go back.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 02:00:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  That's bullshit. (0+ / 0-)

      It is 5 km/s easier to lift stuff off of the Moon than it is off of Earth.  This is especially true of hydrolox, which makes the Moon the Persian Gulf of the Earth sphere.

      And of course the taxpayers will end up paying for it, because it'll be cheaper than what the taxpayers are paying for now.  That's kind of how the bidding process works.

    •  Dollars are only good for measuring relative (0+ / 0-)

      value, not intrinsic worth. Because, of course, the dollars themselves are intrinsically worthless.

      We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 01:40:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes (5+ / 0-)

    Since we seem so hellbent on fucking up this planet, let's at least try settling ourselves elsewhere so we stand some chance of survival.  

    But, less cynically, it's nice to have someone daring to dream about our species doing great, daring things out there in the universe. We need inspiring , noble goals to put before ourselves, so we have something great to aspire to.

    This fascist kills machines.

    by drmonkey on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:51:54 PM PST

    •  No. (0+ / 0-)

      Why do we deserve to survive as a species if we succeed in destroying our home world?

      Why do we need to dare to dream great things off-planet when there are so many pressing great things that we need to dare to dream here at home on good old planet earth?

      •  you can worry about that when you meet aliens (0+ / 0-)

        Up until then we're the only planet with life in the universe, and humans are the only species capable of keeping any of that life alive off Earth. We get to give up the moral obligation to preserve the existence of life when we find somebody else to dump it on.

      •  Why assume that we can only use (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kalmoth, Batya the Toon

        the resources of earth to solve our problems, particularly when earth isn't a closed system?

      •  What do you mean by 'deserving' (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is there some theological or other external judge of our existence? Why does our treatment of the Earth determine our worth?

        47 is the new 51!

        by nickrud on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:00:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  How many people on this planet (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        helpImdrowning, rbird, Batya the Toon

        have nothing to do with destroying it? How many of us are doing our best to protect it, to live at peace with nature and each other? Why should the whole species die just because of the actions of some?

        And the best way to solve many of the pressing issues here on Earth is to move into space. There are resources out there that would answer all of our needs. It is the ultimate stimulus program. And moreover, the human spirit has always been one of exploration and discovery. Imagine what it will mean to our children to have a new frontier. Humanity will reach the stars and bring home their gifts.

        "The Democrats are the lesser evil and that has to count for something. Good and evil aren't binary states. All of us are both good and evil. Being less evil is the trajectory of morality." --SC

        by tb92 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 11:02:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The meek shall inherit the Earth. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The rest of us will inherit the stars.  

        So what's with all this "we" stuff?  You don't need our help to sulk, and we don't need your help in conquering space.

      •  false choice n/t (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rbird, Batya the Toon
      •  Because the pressing great problems on Earth (0+ / 0-)

        don't involve giant flying penises and wet dreams of conquest. Who cares about mitigating climate change when instead we can go roaring into the sky to bang on other planets and stuff? Don't you understand the purpose of life?

        •  false choice again n/t (0+ / 0-)
          •  Ok, let's do it like this (0+ / 0-)

            All the eager little boys can go roaring into the sky to bang on the big blocks up there, and the rest of us can stay here and make Earth a nice home for ourselves.

            Just don't come crying home to mama when you finally realize that those big blocks you love to bang in the sky don't fix you any lunch.

            •  The point isn't to segment the universe (0+ / 0-)

              We live in an open system that is the universe.  Segmenting what resources we pull from to make a better life for all would, at least to me, seem short sighted.

              •  No, we live in a biosphere that is largely closed (0+ / 0-)

                in terms of materials entering and leaving, though open in terms of electromagnetic energy flows.

                And there is a much easier way to get at the mineral resources of the solar system, assuming we need them: use robots. Robots don't require a biosphere to feed them. Little boys do.

                •  If the electromagnetic energy flows (0+ / 0-)

                  there is no reason we can't expand that to add mater flow.

                  And I don't limit it to merely mineralogical resources.  There are a lot more than mineralogical resources in space.  

                  •  Robots aren't limited to mining minerals (0+ / 0-)

                    mostly we need them to get information about what is there.

                    I'm all in favor of much more robotic exploration of the solar system.  But manned space is still a waste of money. If the new space companies reduce the cost of putting up satellites, probes, and scientific instruments at Lagrange points, that is plenty of return.  But we don't really need megabucks projects to put Newt in a hotel room on the moon (unless maybe he stays there).

                    •  Space isn't purely about science (0+ / 0-)

                      any more than the resources of space being limited to minerals.

                      And the high cost of spaceflight isn't something that is intrinsic - its much more a function of bad management and bad ROI metrics (I mean, when a space telescope is expected to be $1 Billion, and its already grown to $8 Billion, and its still not launched - there is something else going on).  

                      We can do spaceflight (even human spaceflight) much cheaper, with much better ROI.  

                      •  And there I disagree (0+ / 0-)

                        I'm not interested in funding a "conquest of space" for little boys who just want to smash big rocks in the sky. You haven't done the science needed to show you can "homestead" any other place in the solar system, which means you expect Mommy to continue packing your lunch indefinitely while you go out to play in the mud.

                        Sorry, junior, but you need to spend a lot more time in schools and grow up a bit. First we prospect mars for the materials needed to grow food there without hauling billions of tones of soil enhancement up from Earth. Then you develop ways to grow food there and test them in simulated Mars conditions on Earth. Then you use robots to build an infrastructure on Mars. Then -- and only then -- might we be able to "homestead Mars". It isn't the old west.

                        I get it that you are impatient and want to go there right away, not in 50 years. That is the problem. I don't want to waste societal money satisfying your impatience. Do the the thing properly, with a solid science base at every step. Otherwise you are just proposing another stupid boondoggle for the testesterone-poisoned crowd.

                        •  Two things (0+ / 0-)

                          Is there a reason you feel the need to be passive aggressive?  Its really not necessary.  

                          Second, I am aware of the science, believe it or not.  More importantly, I don't want this to be permanently, or even long-term, funded by the government.  (I have to love that on space sites, I get accused of wanting to gut NASA)

                          Space needs to be about measurable ROI (and has needed to be about that for a long time).  My goal/belief is that spaceflight and space development can help solve our problems.  And that this is obvious to everyone (in the way that basically everyone sees the benefit of GPS, or vaccine research).  

                          Space settlement and space development doesn't require trips to mars before it begins.  We can do substantial amounts in LEO, or even GEO.  Hell, we can even do it in suborbit, with the likes of Virgin Galactic, XCOR, Armadillo Aerospace, Masten, and Blue Origin.

                          Basic question - what would you propose we do with ISS?  

                          •  No "space" doesn't "need to be about ROI" (0+ / 0-)

                            Space can be a public good, and scientific information about space should most certainly be a public good.

                            We don't need space settlement in LEO or GEO now, if ever. But I suppose that if Sheldon Adelson wants to build a casino in orbit for Saudi princes to gamble at, we won't be able to stop him - unless we raise his taxes astronomically, which I would support vigorously.

                            But don't expect me to support casinos and spas in space, any more than I supported ISS: that money should have been spent on the Supercollider.

                    •  Or if you prefer another way (0+ / 0-)

                      the goal isn't a human on the moon, or a human on mars

                      Its about 4 million humans on the moon, 3 million humans in deep space, and 2 million on Mars.  

  •  Tax Free Zone (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Satya1, rbird, AussieforObama2ndterm

    They first thing they will do is establish a tax free zone and a bank on the Moon accessible via the Internet.

  •  Boeing goad-ly nt (0+ / 0-)

    The 1st Amendment gives you the right to say stupid things, the 1st Amendment doesn't guarantee a paycheck to say stupid things.

    by JML9999 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:54:08 PM PST

  •  Really? Really? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soarbird, ORDem

    Alan Stern?  A director of Science at NASA?  Gerry Griffen launch director never built anything....  Newt Gingrich?  The man with the condo licenses for Mare Fecunditatis?   Yes, the latter exists and fits Newt's profile.

    Sorry, but this sounds like a scam to me.   They will spend billions and never get off the ground.

    Mitt Romney rides off into the sunset in his Audi.

    by captainlaser on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:54:29 PM PST

  •  Why? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Why push a pointless and environmentally destructive activity? Aren't there a few pressing technological issues to address on earth? You concede that Newt Gingrich isn't the best poster child for this. But then, for a "smart" progressive, you cite Bill Richardson? Seriously? Have you talked with any scientists who dealt with him when he was  Energy Secretary?

    Michael Weissman UID 197542

    by docmidwest on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:55:39 PM PST

    •  Because space has resources (6+ / 0-)

      that can help us address the problems we face on earth.  Why not embrace that idea, or at least be open to it?

    •  I (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Miss Jones, tb92

      understand your concerns. There is useful science here, in fact the feedback loop on economic growth from cutting edge, new technology is wicked and squirts off in directions that can seem almost miraculous. Having to keep a mini biome, an ecology of any kind, teaches a lot, w learn how atmosphere work in small place and on large bodies, the planetary science learned by something as seemingly crude as mining asteroids for gold could be earth changing.

      To imply Gingrich is the poster child for this is perjorative. I don't follow the part about it being destructive ... we're talking about maybe landing a few dozen people on the moon, a minute impact in a sterile environment ... this is destructive or something? Or somehow we are polluting the earth worse or will because of space exploration? I'm not sure what the point is there.

      •  destruction is from (0+ / 0-)

        enormous fuel use, primarily. Also enormous diversion of talented labor. I'm not worried about hurting the moon. A manned Mars expedition, in contrast, would destroy the main scientific interest for Mars exploration, which requires ultra-sterility.

        Any extremely difficult technical work can have surprising useful spinoffs. Highly automated unmanned exploration seems far more likely to have relevant spinoffs. It also involves greatly reduced payloads, hence less environmental problems. More prosaically, we should be replacing our fragmentary and aging climate monitoring satellites rather than catering to the whims of a few ultra-wealthy tourists.

        The biggest problem, however, evident in a number of comments here, is the encouragement of the delusional belief that a significant fraction of our species can somehow escape from this planet.

        Michael Weissman UID 197542

        by docmidwest on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 04:36:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are going to have to (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Batya the Toon

          explain why large scale space settlement is delusional.  Particularly since there is substantial evidence to the contrary.  

          •  The intrinsic energy costs (0+ / 0-)

            of launching people are enormous. Very few people would ever go anywhere.

            More fundamentally,  we're a species evolved for a particular niche. The sorts of hideous environments which people warn we may be creating on earth are far, far more congenial and familiar than those on any other known planet. If we were able to make any other nearby planet habitable sustainably, it would be infinitely easier to do that here even after polluting, warming, etc.. this place.

            Michael Weissman UID 197542

            by docmidwest on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 03:10:11 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Why not both? (0+ / 0-)
          More prosaically, we should be replacing our fragmentary and aging climate monitoring satellites rather than catering to the whims of a few ultra-wealthy tourists.
          Why not "... rather than continuing a pointless war in Afghanistan"?  Why not "... rather than remaking movies that don't need remaking"?  Why not "... rather than continuing to produce refined sugar"?

          To say "there are better things we could be doing with this money" is to ignore the countless, countless worse things that are being done with money elsewhere.

          •  with regard to money (0+ / 0-)

            all projects seem interchangeable. However, the ones I counterposed use essentially the same technical resources, the same staff.... Thus it's a more direct choice.

            Michael Weissman UID 197542

            by docmidwest on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 03:06:14 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm not convinced that it is, though. (0+ / 0-)

              Unless I misunderstand the situation badly -- which is entirely possible -- the pool of technical resources and staff is not one used by only space-related endeavors, any more than the pool of money is.

              But even if it were, is that pool of a constant size?  Is this really a zero-sum situation with regard to space projects?  I don't think it is, and I'm certain that it doesn't have to be.

        •  I think there is a political calculation (0+ / 0-)

          behind Obama's shifting this area to new private corporations: it helps defund a big chunk of the military industrial complex, which produce Republican voting blocks in many places -- e.g. government money is no longer pumping into red Huntsville AL.

          In the same way that Republicans have worked to eliminate federal housing projects that provided blue voting blocks, the privatization of space is breaking up corporate welfare that is important to the Republicans.

    •  Why? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Khun David, rbird

      Because there's a lot of stuff in space.  We're talking about orders of magnitude more stuff than you can find on Earth.  Enough stuff that you can construct thousands of times the livable surface area of the entire planet.  Enough stuff to make every man, woman and child filthy rich and then some.  And it's all ours for the taking.

      That's why.

    •  Because somebody wants to do it. If somebody (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Batya the Toon

      wants to pay for it, good for them.

      If it's a government endeavor, we get to ask "Why?" until we're blue in the face.  We can demand to be sold on the idea, and, as citizens and taxpayers, we are within our rights -- even obligated -- to do so.

      The loveliness of the free market is that we don't have to ask pointless questions like "Why" because it's not up to us and it's not our money pushing the effort forward.

      We're smart, but we're not infallible.  Good to let other smart people with skills and visions we lack push the boundaries.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 02:07:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Are they planning on using a new (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    design of surface-to-orbit vehicles and then launching from HEO (high earth orbit) to the Moon?

    Or a direct Earth to Moon transit and no HEO or LaGrange point stations?

    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization" -- me

    by Angie in WA State on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:03:16 PM PST

    •  Their intial plan (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Angie in WA State

      launches a lander, and a fully-fueled upper stage (really something that is close to a space tug) to orbit (Using 2 separate rockets).  Those 2 items dock, and fly to the moon.

      A second pair of launches places another space tug to orbit, and human spacecraft to orbit.  Those vehicles dock, and then fly to the moon.  At the moon, you dock with the lander, and go to the surface.  And to return, come back from surface, dock with spacecraft, and fly home

      •  For all of the naysayers, here's something (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sixeight120bpm, tb92

        to ponder...

        Over the history of These United States, the new fortunes of Entrepreneurs were made in new industries, by the bold and adventurous.

        Yes, the initial cost of launching Luna Industries, Inc. will be high.

        But the profits to be made, are quite literally, in this case, over the moon.

        I can't wait to the see real-world equivalent of Delos David Harriman in action.

        "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization" -- me

        by Angie in WA State on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:36:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  If they can bring back a load of H3... (0+ / 0-)

    ...they could probably pay for the whole trip.

    •  He-3 would probably be more valuable... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zipn, Miss Jones, bluicebank, marleycat

      But won't someone think of the Sam Rockwells?

      Suspicion Breeds Confidence

      by tlf on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:16:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Lunar He-3 is a gigantic, steaming, load (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pete Cortez

      ...of horseshit. It's become a mantra like people who put "quantum" in front of something to make it sound scientific.

      The primary reason is that the theoretical process in which it would be used in nuclear fusion has not been demonstrated to be technologically do-able, or even better than any of the other proposed fusion reactions that could generate power. The proposed D-3He fusion process is a second generation fusion reactor concept , and we're still decades (aren't we always?) from first generation fusion power generation. In addition to that, although a D-3He reaction provides more power than "ordinary" D-T fusion (which is used in the current testbeds), it doesn't provide that much more power, but the facilities required would either have to be significant;y larger, or be more numerous, to provide an equal level of power generation, let alone more.

      Second, the idea that the regolith is just loaded with Helium-3 ready to be harvested is--surprise!--also a theoretical idea that hasn't been demonstrated.

      To put it bluntly, at the moment anyone proposing to go to the moon to mine Helium-3 is almost at the same level of believability as someone saying we need to mine asteroids for the iridium in them because we need it to build our faster-than-light warp drives.

  •  This is the last gasp (5+ / 0-)

    of a dying paradigm.  The environmental situation on our planet in 2020 will be much more extreme than it is today.  This whole techno "gee whiz ain't this great" babble is ridiculous, but not at all surprising, given the triviality of what passes for civilization these days.

  •  I'm pumped. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tb92, Pete Cortez

    I was a space cadet in the late '60s/early'70s while Apollo was going on. I've been almost totally demoralized since then. While I am no fan of capitalism, if these projects can push the human endeavour, I can only wish them the best.

    -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

    by Wreck Smurfy on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:08:09 PM PST

  •  Newt's Moon Emperor Dream is one step closer (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, The Gryffin, Eric K, rbird

    In space, no one can hear you leaving your sick wife.

    •  I don't like Newt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MikePhoenix, DarkSyde, Batya the Toon

      generaly speaking I don't like his ideas, his policies, or how he plays politics, but when it comes to science, and space he's far from the worst republican out there. His ideas on space are bold and ambitious. His timeline is unrealistic, but the ideas aren't bad. On space. Everything else is crap, and he seems like a pretty terrible guy. Why can't we have a decent democrat with a bold and ambitious plan for space?

      "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible." -Henry Ford

      by sixeight120bpm on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:49:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We (6+ / 0-)

        do, Obama is behind NewSpace. There's a tussle going on for funding between traditional aerospace contractors who tend to work more cost plus and NewSpace firms who charge flat fee. The trads didn't want the new guys to have anything and I'm sure the new guys would have like to exclude the trads. Obama actually listened to his space and science advisors, took time to appreciate the complexities, and then came out supporting some limited funding directly for NewSpace.

        The politics of this are effin bizzaro world. Since Obama is for it, the GOP has to be agi'n it, he's kill'n America's Mighty Space Program, plus some of the districts most affected are Repub stomping grounds. So now we have a traditional big government contractor witbh a Big Government Rocket for Big Bucks and an entire maturing pork program supported by the GOP, who are in turn taking sleazy shots at a democratic president who is proposing more nimble private firms be allowed to compete for funding for vehicles and systems and services. It's like the universe where Spock has a beard.

        •  wow, learned a lot of new things. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DarkSyde, tb92

          I hadn't actually dug into the details of Obama's space plan for awhile, It's a lot more ambitious that I thought it was. For some reason I had the impression that the whole public-private partnership thing meant that the role of NASA was going to be more modest. That does not seem to be the case, and it's a good thing. I stand corrected, thank you sir.

          "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible." -Henry Ford

          by sixeight120bpm on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:06:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  We (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            spend about 80 cents of each NASA dollar on private contractors. A lot of that was cost plus, which is open to abuse but it's also necesssary, especially in the early days; aero corps won't take on a theoretically unlimited liability without some guarantees they would not cease to exist. We're still going to spend about the same of each NASA dollar on commercial firms for vehicles and systems and services.

            The only difference is how they are paid, flat fee or cost plus. We can't progress, we can't build production models for a space travel industry using cost plus, it's a system intended to develop novel cutting edge vehicles and devices using exotic materials and methods one or two at a time. It's fine for custom designed probes, rover, orbiters, or if we assemble an interplanetary spaceship in orbit, that kind of thing. Although even there NewSpace might be able to contribute some day.

            •  Not that simple. (0+ / 0-)

              Take EELV launches.  Since Buy 3, the contract covers launch services by fixed fee, but launch capability is by cost plus.  It'd be nice to get away from cost plus entirely, or reserve it for only novel ventures like you suggest, but novelty isn't the only risk encumbering activity a contractor can take.  

        •  Not much of a tussle. (0+ / 0-)

          In fact, much of what passes for a tussle is exaggeration by bloggers.

      •  Indeed. It's good that he's spending his energies (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        doing something that might actually be constructive. When conservatives actually spend their time doing something positive, that's time they aren't doing something negative.

        If there is no accountability for those who authorized torture, we can no longer say that we are a nation of laws, not men.

        by MikePhoenix on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:02:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't lend this company a lot of credence. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DarkSyde, Pete Cortez

    They don't have the crucial ingredients that SpaceX and Planetary Resources did/do:

    1.  Established funding base.
    2.  Logical evolutionary technical development plan with modest initial steps.
    3.  Path-independence (i.e., multiple possible roads to success).

    Instead, what you have are a bunch of former NASA people coming out with grandiose announcements and hoping the size of their ambitions will magically provide them with billions of dollars of funding they haven't yet bothered to secure.  Moreover, their plan leaps directly from nothing to manned lunar commercial exploration before other companies have even managed to make a go of suborbital tourism, and years before SpaceX is even ready to put people in LEO.  In other words, it ain't gonna happen.

    We've seen this song and dance before, so I'll save us all the trouble and say exactly what's going to happen now:

    • They'll release a steady stream of computer-generated animations of people exploring the Moon, maybe with some pompous historical montages.
    • They'll say they've gotten "interest" from many funding sources that never seem to pan out to anywhere near the level of investment they need.
    • They'll unleash inane newswire articles with titles like "Company promises out-of-this-world adventure."
    • Silence will descend for years.
    • Occasionally they'll announce some new "name" person has joined their board of directors, or that they've hired some marketing consultant.
    • A year or two passes, and then they announce they're "in discussions" with some entity about some deal or other, but nothing actually comes of it.
    • Once people have largely forgotten about them, they start the whole cycle over again, release a new set of computer animations, another "name" figurehead joining them, some more "discussions," some more inane newswire articles with "out of this world" in the title.
    • Not a damn thing will happen.

    That doesn't mean there won't be lunar tourism, but it won't be this company.  It'll be something started by people who already have the money to make it happen, years from now when the core infrastructural capabilities actually exist, and with a real plan to succeed.

    In Roviet Union, money spends YOU!

    by Troubadour on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:10:42 PM PST

    •  They aren't just former NASA people (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      they also have some former SpaceX people

    •  And, I should point out (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that there aren't really a lot of unknowns, from a technical standpoint (the big one being suits and lander).  Which, is what they are working on.  

      •  There are vast unknowns. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eric K

        They're not trying to replicate Apollo - they're promising to achieve safe and affordable manned lunar missions.  Even with the backing of multiple billionaires and a decade of development, the industry hasn't even achieved operational suborbital manned spaceflight - they're still testing aircraft frames and rocket engines.  And getting off the ground has a hell of a lot fewer unknowns than sending people beyond the Earth's magnetic field and landing on the Moon.  

        Thousands upon thousands of rockets have been flown, and millions of aircraft, but they're still running into all sorts of ridiculous problems with making something that can safely lob people on a parabolic trajectory above the atmosphere.  There have been exactly nine manned spaceflights beyond LEO in the entire history of spaceflight, one of which was nearly fatal, and only six of which landed on the Moon.  Of those six, as far as I can recall, two of them encountered potentially fatal problems that were only dodged by sheer luck and piloting genius.  And the cost of just building the infrastructure to make it possible was more than the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza.

        That isn't to say it can't be done, but I don't think these people are serious.  I think they're on the level of Excalibur Almaz, or that EADS spaceplane, or the Spanish space hotel venture.

        In Roviet Union, money spends YOU!

        by Troubadour on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:31:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If they were propsing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          to build all their own hardware, that would lower them down much further in my mind.  

          But what they are doing is using hardware that is already developed and flying right now.  

          Is there reason to have a somewhat critical eye?  Yes (the old adage about making a small fortune in the space industry starts by having a large fortune), partially as a result of the issue of funding.  But technically wise, its all doable, at prices they are pretty close to

          •  They have to develop their own lander (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            and there is no manned BEO system flying now.  Dragon is the most viable method of getting them to LLO, but that isn't even man-rated to LEO yet, and won't be until 2015 at the earliest - and BEO-robust is a quantum leap beyond the requirements of just ferrying astronauts to ISS with the capability to abort and be back on the ground within hours.  

            But let's just imagine they're just handed manned BEO Dragon for free - who is even close to having a flight-worthy lander?  The NASA Morpheus lander exploded on the pad in August.  Armadillo and Masten regularly lose vehicles just doing hovers and basic horizontal translations.  Blue Origin, with its billionaire owner, Big Aerospace-poached talent, and DC-X heritage, lost its vehicle last year.  The systems at the heart of Grasshopper look promising, but it's only flown twice - once 6 feet for 3 seconds, and then to 18 feet for 8 seconds, and given how every other VTVL developer has done, it would be a miracle if the original vehicle completes the testing program.

            We're talking about four major steps before they can even offer the possibility, three of which they have no control over and are unlikely to contribute much funding to advancing - Falcon Heavy, manned LEO Dragon (prerequisite for BEO), manned BEO Dragon, and then a VTVL lunar lander.

            In Roviet Union, money spends YOU!

            by Troubadour on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:05:34 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Couple of things. (0+ / 0-)

          1. Who cares if there's been thousands and thousands of rocket launches?  Even if these thousands and thousands of launches (world wide) had the same heritage, we'd still be talking about the equivalent of a few years worth of data from the earliest days of aviation.  Of course, we're only interested in those heritages that will mount emerging manned vehicles, and the most experienced of those has about 30 launches.

          2. Our current approach to safety in manned spaceflight is ludicrous.  We either abandon it entirely and deal with inevitable loss of life so we can learn, or we stick with the program to nowhere we have now.

          3. Excalibur Almaz might be an apt comparison, especially if Golden Spike sees itself more as a service contractor.

    •  We'll (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, nickrud

      get to find out who ends up doing what if anything, that;s for sure. I'd rank them in terms of speculaiton, i.e., risk, as SpaceX, PA, and GS. I would guess GS definitely depends on SpaceX or a competitor to succeed more than PA. Right now it costs about $50 million for a seat to LEO which means only a dozen or two people go a year. If a NewSpace company can knock that down to $5 million, it means thousands of people can go. You can't build an LEO space travel industry on dozens, but you might be able to start building one on thousands. That LEO cost reduction is critically important, at least that's how it seems to me.

      •  I'm drawing a blank on PA - which one is that? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        In Roviet Union, money spends YOU!

        by Troubadour on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:38:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          meant Planetary Resources or PR. Dunno what I was thinking Troub.

          •  Well, I don't think "speculation" is the problem (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            with GS - if they don't have a real plan to generate revenue and build up to the capability they want, then there's no risk at all because they're guaranteed not to go anywhere.  PR has a real plan to evolve their desired capability from off-the-shelf technology, and they have the backing to deal with the inevitable setbacks of a substantive innovation process - they're covered from both ends, and they're in a position to both fall back on more secure revenue streams when they hit barriers and launch ahead with big investments when they see a clear path to a big forward step.  

            GS doesn't sound like they've got either base covered: They need billions of dollars just to begin, and all they've got so far is money for feasibility studies.  And once this really does become feasible, the people with the resources are just going to launch their own operations, not invest in some press release group that by then has been puttering around for years making promises they can't keep and panhandling for money to do more studies.  It just sounds like a lose-lose to me.    

            In Roviet Union, money spends YOU!

            by Troubadour on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:20:27 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              was thinking about that VTL point, that's a good point. The LEM made it look easy but dang, they were lucky as shit with the LEMs. I almost wonder if they think they anticipate a solution on the horizon. If they do, it's not one that's been reported, not as far as I know.

              •  Throw enough money at a thing (0+ / 0-)

                and you can almost - almost - guarantee that it will work once.  That's what the LMs were, and really the entire Apollo infrastructure: They weren't made out of metal - they were made out of money.  No expense was spared to ensure short-term success, and unfortunately that meant a guarantee of long-term failure.  So I don't fault today's rocket builders at all: They're aiming for reusability and economy, and they're achieving it - ever so gradually.  I just don't know what a company like Golden Spike can possibly achieve, since they bring nothing to the table but press releases.

                In Roviet Union, money spends YOU!

                by Troubadour on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:50:08 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Heh, sounds just like Tesla (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Pete Cortez

              before Elon Musk got involved. Funny thing, they were able to attract him and his funding. Now Tesla is a profitable enterprise that actually sells marketable products. But it all started with an engineer, a dream, and not much else...ok a somewhat working prototype too. These guys don't have that but they do have the know-how.

              On the other hand it also sounds a lot like EESTOR, which pretty much followed the pattern you layed out. So I'm thinking it could go either way.

              "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government" -Thomas Jefferson

              by Phil In Denver on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 11:08:10 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  What is this "real plan?" (0+ / 0-)

              How is PR evolving their capability from off-the-shelf technology any different from GS...well...evoling their capability from off-the-shelf technology?  The real difference seems to be that a third party group of investors that includes some billionaires. is behind PR.  GS doesn't appear to have similar backing at this time.

              And let's not forget that Eric Anderson "panhandled" for years before scoring big by netting Perot Jr., Page and Schmidt.

      •  No law says it has to be a NewSpace company (0+ / 0-)

        $5 million is RLV territory, and Boeing's in that game.

    •  I'm going back and forth on whether (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, tb92

      they have a realistic chance at making this happen, or whether their business plan involves funding from the agency currently keeping track of the bad guys from Transformers.

    •  Not very charitable, are we? (0+ / 0-)

      1. If "established funding base" means "the guys who started it are already billionaires," then no.  But then again, most new commercial space companies are in this boat

      2. More modest you think; Golden Spike is apparently not interested in getting into the spacelift business.  Their technical challenge is an upper stage one: a TLI architecture that can fare atop existing and emerging launchers and lander/ascenders.  They may even punt on that, given their list of "partners," and may just focus on business development.

      3. Again, they're devolving a lot of the hard work to other companies already on the issue.  Planetary Resources is largely doing the same thing.  Since there is already competition in all but TLI and landing/ascent arenas (and ULA already dominates TLI), how is that not multiple paths to success?

      There's certainly some ex-NASA involved, but hardly all.

  •  "I'm Robert H. Heinlein (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nickrud, DarkSyde, tb92

    and I approve this message" is what he would say if the Grand Master of Science Fiction were still with us. May the spirit of Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis ride with them.

  •  Corporations control earth, why not space too? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DarkSyde, Positronicus, a2nite, wonmug

    I can't see any downsides to this whatsoever.

    •  I (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nickrud, a2nite

      know what you mean about corporations. Maybe these firms or others like them will turn into Exxon one day. But the people funding them now are risking huge fortunes. I've met some of these guys and gals, they come in all backgrounds. They're not into space or wiulling to invest huge into space travel for politics, they're actually not even that into it for bucks. Bucks is just a viable path for necessary progression to them. They're into space for the same reason a good actor is into acting, they love space, they eat and breathe space, it's downright spiritual for many of them.

      And while there are indeed conservative among them, that doesn't have to be a terrible thing. And there are lots people in the NewSpace community who are super progressive. My anecdotal experience progressives are represented by three to one.

  •  They will find the monolith. (0+ / 0-)

    "The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts and continues long after a war ends." -Julian Assange

    by Pierro Sraffa on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:15:57 PM PST

  •  The Gentleman-Adventurers of the Virginia Company (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    crossed the sea to America in search of gold and spices. They founded what eventually became a trans-Atlantic trade in sugar, tobacco, indigo, timber, gold and slaves.

    There are no such resources on the Moon. This looks like a scam to separate some venture capital fools from their money.

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:17:11 PM PST

  •  Maybe The Donald will open a line of casinos (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Caesar's Palace of the Sea of Tranquility.  

    Shirley Chisholm was right. Our Republic is in deep trouble.

    by Big River Bandido on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:21:51 PM PST

  •  bah on the nay-sayers (6+ / 0-)

    I don't give a shit is Gingrich is hitting one of the clock points, and if some billionaires dump a fraction of their net worth on visiting the moon more power too them. There are demonstrably worse ways for them to spend their money.

    Extension of the human habitat doesn't require that we neglect our current habitat.Yearning for an expanded human presence doesn't mean we don't give a shit about where we live now.

  •  Callista's been developing that helmet. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    my pet rock

    skipping over damaged area

    by Says Who on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:29:12 PM PST

  •  Can we send Newt to the moon? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I mean, so he can direct this endeavor from a more "hands on" vantage point?

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:36:36 PM PST

  •  A helluva joyride for billionaires (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shuksan Tahoma, DarkSyde, docmidwest

    This is bad news for progressives. It's a sign of outrageous inequality.

    It had to happen: A start-up company is offering rides to the moon. Book your seat now — though it’s going to set you back $750 million ... “Two seats, 750 each,” former NASA associate administrator Alan Stern said ... link
    Companies are doing what companies do: Going after the money.

    WTF? Who the hell can afford $750 million for anything? Apparently there are a tiny number of people who can.

    So instead of rebuilding our infrastructure, making massive investments in renewable energy, and rebuilding our economy, we are investing in weekend joyrides for billionaires.


    “Americans are fighters. We're tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one - no one - can stop us. ”-- Elizabeth Warren

    by Positronicus on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:38:53 PM PST

    •  Its not about "joyrides" (4+ / 0-)

      Its about opening up the resources of the moon for humanity.  And that may start with sovereign nations, because its important to them.  

      And part of our future should include viable space infrastructure.  

      •  um, yes it is about joyrides and profit. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Positronicus, Major Kong

        I don't believe for a second any of this is being done for the benefit of humanity.  

        You don't spend a billion dollars to build a rocket to benefit an abstract called 'humanity' if you could spend the same billion dollars to actually, you know, maybe do something to help actual living human beings.

        I'll grant there is an altruistic element to the idea of space exploration.  I just don't believe that it is the driving force.

        And even if it were, I certainly don't believe in the rest of society's agents to honor the altruism of those who have it.

        When one shit's in ones own bed, refuses to clean up the mess, and then moves on to shit in the neighbor's bed, one isn't considered to be acting very altruistically.  As a species, we are the bedshitters.  We don't deserve to visit the neighbors, let alone to colonize other worlds.

        •  A few points (4+ / 0-)

          1.  The earth isn't a closed system.  Therefore, it isn't correct to think that our only domain is the earth
          2.  Why assume that we cannot use the resources of space to help make the world a better place?  Alternatively, I'd argue that we have gotten better as we've gained experiences.
          3.  What do you propose we do to get better?  Or failing that, do you think we should just go extinct?

        •  I really wonder how you survive (0+ / 0-)

          with an attitude like that. If I had such a low opinion of my own species, I would have killed myself by now. It's depressing enough just to read.

          "The Democrats are the lesser evil and that has to count for something. Good and evil aren't binary states. All of us are both good and evil. Being less evil is the trajectory of morality." --SC

          by tb92 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 11:11:21 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      it's got to get way, way cheaper. I don't know how their business plan works. It's hard to see how you build an industry on a dozen people. Hundreds maybe, thousands probably. But for thousands to be able to afford a moon trip it would have to cost in single digit millions. If we can get a ride to LEO into single digit millions in the next five years it will be a huge cost breakthrough. So I dunno, how Spike's numbers work, and I doubt they're gonna show me.

  •  Compared to the red planet for me, our moon is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sixeight120bpm, kerflooey, kalmoth

    a pile of dead gray dust and rock. Landing on the moon does nothing for me, but the idea of astronauts walking through the Valles Marineris before I take my leave of our home planet endlessly excites me.

    "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." --Joel McCrea as "Sully," in "Sullivan's Travels."

    by Wildthumb on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:39:42 PM PST

    •  the moon is the first step... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tb92, helpImdrowning, Batya the Toon

      to Mars. Luna may look like a cold gray rock, but she's got all the fixin's for making fuel and other components that would make a trip to Mars much more feasible.

      "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible." -Henry Ford

      by sixeight120bpm on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:11:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Got that; but too bad it's just a way station. (0+ / 0-)

        I can't get excited about moon landings.

        "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." --Joel McCrea as "Sully," in "Sullivan's Travels."

        by Wildthumb on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:32:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nothing Better (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DarkSyde, tb92

    Nothing better than a little space.

  •  Too bad we can't get the US government (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to do things like this anymore.

    At some point it might dawn on countries (again) that countries (or corporations or rich people with bad attitudes) that own a punkin chunker on the moon aren't to be trifled with.  Many of those homemade devices on the science channel show for launching pumpkins could devastate earth.

    ... Just did a quick calculation.  Assuming 500 mph muzzle velocity on some of the punkin chunkers, according to one website's estimate of sci channel muzzle velocities, a punkin chunker would be able to chuck a pumpkin at about 1/6 the moon's escape velocity.  They would have to use smaller pumpkins or beef up their chunkers if they wanted to blow the crap out of the US with pumpkins.  Or moon rocks, ala Heinlein.

  •  Shit. If Gingrich is involved (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...and they pull this off...we can expect to see a giant flashing neon Exxon billboard staring back every time we look up at the moon.

    "Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?" - General Jack D. Ripper

    by wilder5121 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:32:54 PM PST

  •  And return them safely to Earth? (0+ / 0-)

    For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

    by Anne Elk on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:33:37 PM PST

  •  What a terrible name (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric K

    for a space company.  Sounds like an internet poker site.

  •  Lots of people worship technology (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for the sake of technology. I do not.

    While it's true that the social character of humanity has been largely determined by the technologies we have developed, I think we have reached a point where we need to discriminate among the various paths of inquiry that our own technology has now opened before us.

    Knowledge for the sake of knowledge? Ability for the sake of ability? With no moral or spiritual lodestar to guide us? The ability of human technology is limited only by the human imagination. Once we imagine something, we eventually end up being able to do it.

    "The pessimists may be right in the end but an optimist has a better time getting there" -- Samuel Clemons

    by native on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:50:12 PM PST

  •  wht remains a mystery to me... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is how some people commenting in this thread manage to access Internet from their caves.

  •  Well, I for one would rather see this endeavor (0+ / 0-)

    financed by private money, at least for now.  If private investors want to spend the huge amounts necessary to get space travel started, God bless them and good luck.  I don't want to see our government spending this money now when there is so much to be done here on Earth for us mere humans.  It is important for our species to reach for the stars.  We have always sought new frontiers, it is part of what makes us who we are.  Although there are many who have constant fear about, well everything, and I must admit there are times I share these fears, we must get a grip on our fears and dare to dream the so called impossible and unattainable.  That is how we conquered and utilized every other means of travel that we have enjoyed as a species.  There were those who said automobiles were a fad, air travel was insane, the idea of space travel was unthinkable. Human advances on every front have always been ridiculed and persecuted, but we always manage to leap forward.  Not always to angels trumpets and perfect benefit to all of humankind, but leaps forward nonetheless.  People used to die of simple bacterial infections and relatively minor injuries of all kinds.  Humanity has often punished those with new ideas about social equity for example, yet many of those ideas are now the mainstay of modern life.  We have a collective checkered past when it comes to new ideas, let us learn something from history and embrace new ideas that have the potential to add something positive to our collective futures, even if we aren't sure what that is yet, while remembering to remain vigilant in monitoring and regulating those who attempt to harness these ideas for their own benefit.  For once let them be burdened with the initial startup expenses while we wait to swoop in and benefit from the fruits of their "labor".  Onward and upward.

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy -7.8., -6.6

    by helpImdrowning on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 01:36:56 AM PST

  •  Fine on the space thing, as long as they bring (0+ / 0-)

    bring back their trash.
    "Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints."

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 01:37:28 AM PST

  •  NewSpace = Newspeak (0+ / 0-)

    There is no business model in space exploration. "Private" space exploration companies are either pure huckster outfits, or aim to make their profits the old-fashioned way--skimming off tax dollars.

    Meanwhile, here's a mosaic of 6 images taken yesterday by the Mars rover Curiosity, a NASA effort that would never be funded privately:

    Mission cost approximately $2.5 billion.

    •  What is exploration? (0+ / 0-)

      There is mineralogical exploration - thats a business model (certainly on Earth).  There is artistic exploration - that can be a business model (although I am led to believe that this can also involve supplemental support from Starbucks).    There is drug exploration - business model there.

      Seems to me that exploration can be a business model.  

      Alternatively, we already know you can be profitable and operate in the space sector (look at things like the Comm sat industry).

      Finally, I would point out that there are a number of NewSpace companies that actively shun government money, or take government money in only a very limited and specific circumstance.  

      Oh, and as for profitability - I think one of the best examples is NanoRacks (they are doing awesome things)

      •  Here's a thought experiment for you (0+ / 0-)

        The Moon is covered with gold ingots 100 meters deep.

        Come up with a business plan based on technology current (or even on the drawing board) where it's economical to fetch them. Note that at current prices, each $10 million in mission cost will require about 3 tons of gold to break even. Approximately 100 pounds of Moon rocks were returned by all the Apollo missions.

        Can't be done--and that's our own back yard. As for Mars or beyond, it becomes even more hopeless.

        The only way mining of a planet makes sense is if there's a colony there that needs to exploit resources to use locally.

        NanoRacks has government customers who supply the vast majority of its cash flow.

        •  NanoRacks also has a large number of private (0+ / 0-)

          entities, and non-US government customers.  

          And we can expand that pool, when you look at companies like Armadillo Aerospace, XCOR and VG, same things apply to them.  

          As for the making missions to the moon work - 30+ countries flew to Soviet Saylut stations (yes, Soverign clients are a possible market)

  •  Will they mooch off of public infrastructure? I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    hope not, since they are a private company.

    Sounds like a stupid idea to me. Now, if NASA wanted to set up an observatory with no atmospheric distortion or light pollution, that would be a different matter.

  •  Bill Richardson is not a Progressive. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He's a DLC New Democrat

    Pull yourself up by your Mittstraps: borrow a few million dollars from your parents!

    by xynz on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 08:15:37 AM PST

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