The "Golden Spike" was the ceremonial final spike driven by Leland Stanford to join the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory.
Now the name has been adopted by a private venture planning to bring commercial lunar travel to reality by the end of the decade.
The firm is the brainchild of former NASA science chief Alan Stern and Gerry Griffin, a former Apollo flight director and former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Griffin, who also served as deputy director of Kennedy Space Center, said the technical know-how to explore space has grown so widespread over recent years that it's spawned a slew of private-sector start-ups, including Golden Spike, that wouldn't have existed a decade ago.
|Dr. Alan Stern|
"We're in the midst of a historic era in commercial space flight," he said during a news conference last Thursday at the National Press Club.
"The time is ripe for commercial human lunar exploration," Griffin told journalists.Stern said Golden Spike's experienced team of board members and advisers gave him confidence that they'd be able to make good on what sounds like a supremely overambitious plan. "We realize this is the stuff of science fiction," he said. "We intend to make it science fact."
The company plans to use existing rockets and employ emerging commercial-crew technology to keep costs relatively affordable.
Griffin said it's not clear yet where launches will take place.
Stern said they expect to sign up as many as 15-20 countries or foreign space agencies as well as companies and individuals who want to explore the moon for science or adventure.
Golden Spike was incorporated in 2010. The Board of Directors 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.