A Q&A with Golden Spike’s Alan Stern

Alan Stern
Alan Stern

Editor’s Note: The Space Tech Expo, which runs from May 21-23 in Long Beach, Calif., has published the following Q&A with Golden Spike President and CEO Alan Stern.

Dr Alan Stern, planetary scientist, space program executive, aerospace consultant and author, was elected to be the President and CEO of The Golden Spike Company in 2010. Golden Spike, consisting of former NASA engineers, program managers, Agency executives, and others, is a commercial space corporation planning human lunar expeditions. It made news in December 2012 with its proposal to begin launching passenger flights by 2020, costing $1.5 billion each. In this interview with Space Tech Expo, Dr Stern reveals more details about Golden Spike’s ambitions, why it chose to give crowd funding a chance, and why he believes the entertainment industry is key to the development of future space exploration…

Space Tech Expo (STE): The public announcement of the Golden Spike Company sparked much interest in the industry, with the Scientific American writing that, “Golden Spike’s plans rank among the most audacious privately funded space exploration missions ever proposed.’ How would you respond to such a comment?

Alan Stern (AS): We agree! It’s very humbling to hear that said about Golden Spike.

STE: Golden Spike boasts an impressive team of ex-NASA employees, venture capitalists, scientists, engineers and even movie industry professionals! How important do you think the varied skills and experiences of the team are to the Golden Spike proposition? What kind of influence does this have on the company’s vision and day-to-day strategies?

AS: Our vision is to provide turnkey lunar expeditions for nations, corporations and individuals. The average cost of a mission is around $1.5 billion. It’s very important to have the right team to make this happen, including the commercial and entertainment folks you mention; it can’t be just a bunch of rocket guys driving this! We specifically brought these people in to be able to relate and see a way forward for the industry. We also have a former UN Ambassador and former Speaker of the House on our advisory board – these are strategic moves designed to flesh the company out in the exact expertise required to execute our business model.

STE: Apollo carried both lunar orbiting and landing vehicles together on one giant rocket. Golden Spike plans to launch the orbiter and lander on separate rockets. Why did you opt for this approach?

AS: In a nutshell, because it meets the needs of our business model. We have reliable flight systems and architecture that fits our requirements and keeps costs low.

STE: What more can you tell us about your design and your technological approach to lunar landing and lift off?

AS: That’s still under development. Please stay tuned.

STE: Golden Spike’s crowd-funding effort is an interesting way not only to get the mission funded, but also in publicizing it. Where did the idea come from, and how important do you think public funding will be to space missions in the future?

AS: Conducting the Indiegogo campaign is more of an experiment designed to see how the public will react to the concept. It’s an interesting experiment, but certainly not vital to the business model. The idea came about when people – the public – starting asking how they can get involved.

STE: Golden Spike has been clear in its objectives to paving the path to commercial lunar business. What can you tell us about the different business models, products and services you plan to deliver? Which of the monetization channels you have outlined do you think will emerge as the majority revenue source?

AS: We conducted extensive market studies which indicated that the largest revenue would be generated from sales of scientific expeditions to the lunar surface. Within this, the largest market segment will be sales to government space and science agencies around the world. The primary revenue stream of sales of lunar surface expeditions to foreign nations will likely outperform sales to commercial organizations and individuals.

STE: As one of the key business models, and in an effort to keep costs down, Golden Spike plans to sell branding opportunities and advertising time during live broadcasts of missions. What impact and influence do you think such close associations with major corporates might have on the space industry?

AS: We think this will be very attractive to both countries and corporations. It’s a very positive business model that has already been proven in other industries; and by the way, the more space looks like the entertainment industry, the more it will engage the public. The more watching a lunar expedition feels like watching a sports game or drama, the more it will attract hearts and minds.

STE: We’re eager to hear your insights into Golden Spike’s forward plans, but what are you looking forward to about your trip to the Space Tech Conference and Expo?

AS: Meeting with people at the event of course!

STE: Thanks Alan! See you in Long Beach!

For more details about Golden Spike’s crowd-funding initiative, just go to:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/golden-spike-is-sending-nations-and-people-to-the-moon-join-in/x/2114811

Find out more about Golden Spike’s business model, lunar architecture and future plans during Dr Stern’s keynote address opening Day 2 of the Space Tech Conference. An industry highlight of 2013, Space Tech Conference offers three days of interactive discussions, expert-led case studies and networking opportunities to benefit all professionals in and related to the space technology business. Limited numbers of conference passes are still available – but booking in advance is essential. Make sure you take part in this indispensable opportunity: secure your conference pass now!