Golden Spike News Conference — Live Blogging

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And we are underway in Washington…..they’re showing a promotional video

No live webcast on this one — listening in via phone from Mojave….

Cindy Conrad speaking…

Various people in audience….Doug Griffith, Andrew Chaiken, Paragon SDC CEO Taber MacCallum, CSF’s Michael Lopez Allegria, Nancy Conrad of Conrad Foundation

 Gerry Griffin
Former Apollo Flight Director and Former JSC Director

  • He was flight director during the Apollo moon landings…
  • These achievements were historic
  • In intervening 40 years, technology has advanced very far with Skylab, ISS, shuttle and robotic exploration
  • The technology and experience base is available for private sector to explore space
  • In midst of an historic era in space exploration
  • Commercial space is booming with Google Lunar X Prize and commercial crew and cargo
  • Dr. Alan Stern brought together experts, space companies to see if we could do lunar exploration on an affordable basis
  • August 2010– secret meeting in Telluride, Colorado where results of the study were revealed
  • The meeting presented results to experts such as Alan Hale and Esther Dyson
  • Concluded that time is ripe for such exploration that could be afforded by corporations and nations
  • Turn-key services — vehicles, mission planning, mission ops, crew training and
  • Create a reliable and affordable lunar exploration system that will be U.S. based
  • Available to corporations, nations and individuals who want to explore the moon
  • Create and monetize large-scale public involvement
  • Warren Buffet isn’t involved — but if anyone out there knows him, please point him my way

Alan Stern
Golden Spike Company CEO

  • Moon is of interest to both scientists and corporations
    Lunar exploration is just beginning
  • Found a suite of lunar architectures that can allow us to do this affordably at $7 to $8 billion
  • Adapt crew capsules already in development, use existing infrastructure and launchers, only develop things that do not exist already (lunar suits, landers)
  • Two launches of two sets of existing launch vehicles
  • First pair of launches pre-positions lunar lander in lunar orbit
  • Second set of launches sends the crew
  • Dock with the lunar lander and leave crew and return module in orbit
  • A simpler and cheaper architecture is also available
  • Price at which we can offer repeated expeditions: $1.5 billion category can recoup development costs, run the mission and make a healthy profit
  • Per seat prices that are not much higher than some recent robotic lunar missions that have been flown
  • Will offset costs with spaceship naming rights, media rights, etc.
  • Bring public along as an integral part of the mission
  • “We realize this is science fiction. We intent to make it science fact.”
  • Very experience team in both spaceflight and business with international stature
  • “We did our homework. We did it again and again.”
  • Presented a detailed paper to AIAA journal — recently accepted for publication
  • Personally led the development of low-cost shuttle experiments — rival those of more sophisticated Space Lab experiments
  • Personally led New Horizons probe to Pluto
  • Expect significant demand from nations to send people to moon
  • 15 to 25 nations that can afford to send people to the moon
  • Have had conversations with some national space agencies that are interested
  • By 2020s, will be space tourists and mining companies interested in moon trips
  • Will people tire of waiting in line — no if you look at the people signing up for suborbital flights — 550th person is as happy as the 1st….
  • Soviet Union flew a lot of foreign cosmonauts to Mir….
  • Team includes (among others): Esther Dyson, Peter Banks, Taber MacCallum, Doug Griffith, Max Vozoff (former SpaceX), Wayne Hale, Chuck Dietrich (former NASA), Jeff Greason (CEO, XCOR), Andy Chaiken
  • Advisory board includes Bobby Block, Nancy Conrad, Homer Hickam, Chris Kemp (Silicon Valley entrepreneur), Michael Okuda (former Star Trek designer), Bob Walker (former Congressman), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
  • Series of contracts and agreements to begin design of lunar lander and surface suits
  • Golden Spike involved in study to Apollo surface experiment package
  • International conference set for next year to look at site selection, science, etc.
  • ULA, Zero Point Frontiers Corporation, Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace, Paragon Space Development Corporation, International Lunar Observatory Association, Moon Express, Southwest Research Institute, Space Florida
  • In Phase A — we’ve got a long way to go….
  • The opportunities for profit are enormous– $20 to $30 billion lunar expedition market
  • Will require persistence and will experience setbacks — with New Horizons mission to Pluto, began in 1989 and suffered through five mission cancellations before finally getting mission off the ground
  • Will need to raise hundreds of millions of dollars
  • Would not be possible without NASA’s forward looking space policy nor NASA’s many discoveries and achievements

Q&A Session

Q.  How could you possibly make any money at 7.5 billion with the first flight and then down to $1.5 billion? You would still be in the read at $1.5 billion? There seems to be no financial reality to this plan.

Stern: We’ve been over this very carefully. You only know what our prices are, not what our costs are. You have ignored the entire media stream: advertising, naming rights, etc. Naming rights for the Denver Broncos stadium sold for $120 million. A lot of merchandising. A very important part of the business. This can be a money-making business if we sell enough expeditions. If we sell only 3 or 4 missions, it’s underwater. But, 15 to 25 nations are interested in doing expeditions.

Q: Who are the backers and how much have you raised?

Stern: Will not go into that yet. Boeing doesn’t ask billionaires to back new airplane. They go out and get enough orders they then go to the bank and get financing to start the project. We follow the same approach.

Q: Why would nations that do space for prestige come to Golden Spike?

Stern: We can make it affordable to mid-sized companies — South Korea or South Africa, Malaysia, etc. Most countries don’t build their own airplanes, they go to Boeing or Airbus.

Q.  Smaller ventures like Google Lunar X Prize teams have struggled to raise tens of millions for robotic missions. Why would it be easier to raise hundreds of millions for human missions?

Griffin: Apples and oranges.

Stern: I’m part of Moon Express. The robotic missions are very different from human ones.

Q. Which nations and space agencies have you talked to?

Stern: Won’t go into the details.

Q.  Where do you intent to launch from?

Stern: Depends upon which launch vehicles we use and where there are launching from at the end of the decade. Not limited to domestic launch vehicles.

Q. Is Falcon Heavy the baseline for two launch mission?

Stern: Used Falcon Heavy as baseline in scientific paper, but doesn’t represent a bias on our part toward toward launch vehicles.

Long pole in the tent is the marketing and sales effort, which will unleash the engineers to put the expedition system in place. Landing vehicle is fairly standard technology by today’s standards.

Q. Have any individuals approached you?

Stern: One individual has approached us about being on a lunar mission. Won’t reveal who.

Q. What would stop another company from doing the same thing?

Griffin: Other companies could do it. The moon is the size of North America. There are 194 nations on Earth.

Q.  Are you in competition or cooperation with Space Adventures and other companies?

Griffin:  They’re in different businesses. Not in the transportation business.

Q: What is the sales pitch to sovereign nations?

Stern: We can offer an enormous amount and great quality of the science. There’s going to be a long line. Will be some shoving in line to see who would be first. When people see the success of those missions, will be even more countries in line.

The Russian success in sending other nation’s astronauts to Mir is a model here. Was very successful and we think the lunar missions will be similarly successful.

Q: Would you consider selling missions to NASA?

Griffin: “Of course we’d sell anything to NASA that we could possible provide.” NASA’s long-range goals are much further out. “By all means, if NASA wants a ride, we’d be happy to put them on our railroad.”

There is quite a stable of capabilities that exist that have been developed by NASA and private industry in the United States.

 Q.  To Nancy Conrad: What would Pete have thought of this and what inspired you to get involved?

Nancy Conrad:  Pete was very engaged in commercial space, including piloting the Delta Clipper experimental vehicle. If he were sitting here, he would probably be clicking his heels. “I think this is an extraordinary project.” In Apollo, only 12 people went. Now we’re going to open this up for all of humanity.

Q. What about ITAR issues?

Stern: ITAR is very complex and we have retained counsel. ITAR is being dealt with by commercial companies such as Virgin Galactic in flying foreign customers. The Obama Administration and Congress is working to reform ITAR. We think the ITAR issues are workable.

Q.  What dealings have you had with NASA?

Stern: N ASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Administrator Charles Bolden and associate administrators got a briefing about a week and a half ago. FAA’s George Nield also received a pre-brief and they also met with Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Q. Will you try to launch in time for 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019?

Stern (laughs): I wish we could run this railroad on time.

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