It was forty years ago this month that Apollo 17 took astronauts to the Moon for the last time. Since then, the satellite has only been visited periodically by unmanned probes, but that may change inside the next ten years. On Thursday, the day before the anniversary of Apollo 17’s launch, a new company called Golden Spike announced at the National Press Club that it would be sending commercial exploration missions to the Moon within a decade with a ticket price of US$750 million.

Golden Spike is named after the spike that was driven to commemorate the completion of the United States’ Transcontinental Railroad. It’s led by former Apollo Flight Director and NASA Johnson Space Center Director, Gerry Griffin, and planetary scientist and former NASA science chief, Dr. Alan Stern, so it isn’t lacking for credentials. The company will not only use former NASA leadership, it also intends to build on NASA technology.

Golden Spike calls its approach "’head start’ architecture. Two years in the making, it will maximize use of existing rocket technology and current developments by commercial spacecraft companies to build manned flight and landing systems. A series of studies has already begun and work is underway by various aerospace companies on a lunar lander, lunar space suits, and lunar surface experiment packages to be used on Golden Spike missions. The company will also sponsor an international conference for the scientific community in 2013 on science projects for the Golden Spike lunar expeditions.

Golden Spike sees its market as anyone from individuals to nations who want to go to the Moon for reasons spanning the range from scientific exploration and discovery to entertainment or personal achievement. With the cost of the first landing for a two-person mission set at US$1.4 billion, that will set “personal achievement” at a premium, but Golden Spike is confident that the market will support up to 20 expeditions in the decade following a first landing.

Below is a video released by Golden Spike to announce its plans.

Source: Golden Spike