Last December, a company by the name of Golden Spike announced it would launch commercial exploration missions to the Moon beginning in 2020. Today, they're having trouble drumming up public support in the form of a crowdsourced ad campaign.
One of the latest in crop of newly announced space transport startups, the private group plans to charge $1.4-billion (or more) per lunar voyage, money that covers a there-and-back trip for two expeditious astronauts from any country willing and able to pony up the dough. But they've run into a bit of a problem.
Recently Golden Spike started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo with the goal of raising $240,000 for international outreach (that’s a dollar for every mile to the Moon!) but, with only 16 days left in the campaign, only $9,400 has been contributed. While dollar-for-mile that’s still farther than any humans have traveled into space since Apollo, it’s unfortunately quite short of their goal.
CEO and famed planetary scientist Alan Stern blames himself.
“Simply put, we didn’t put the right people and resources on this Indiegogo campaign,” Stern wrote in an announcement on the Indiegogo site today, April 9.
But despite the small amount of time remaining, he’s not giving up.
“We’re going to take advantage of the press of time left — just 16 days — to reach out to the broader public about people they can be a part of a historic new era of human lunar exploration,” Stern writes.
“To do that, you’ll be seeing Golden Spike in the press quite a bit more the next two weeks.”
To be clear: Golden Spike doesn't really need 240 grand in publicly raised funds (the irony of the situation – that a company planning to charge $700-million a head to visit the Moon is asking the public to fund its ad campaign – is lost on precisely nobody), but it sure would go a long way in demonstrating the public's support for and belief in sending humans back to the Moon (or, perhaps more accurately, its support for and belief in Golden Spike); the crowdsourced money, in this situation, is largely symbolic. Stern says so himself in an op-ed published yesterday over at SPACE.com – no doubt the first in a series of Golden Spike related pieces to be published in the coming fortnight:
By giving the public a chance to directly fund these commercial space efforts, we hope to create a greater sense of public involvement in space exploration. But the money we want to raise is also meaningful and will help us start our business.
In my world — the space world — it's often been said that if there are no bucks, there won't be any Buck Rogers. No doubt.
But what I've now learned through my crowdfunding experience is that there is a corollary to that famous adage: You can't expect Star Trek unless you also make the effort to cultivate its Trekkies.
We're not saying Golden Spike's aims aren't worthy of your attention, or even your money. To be honest, the initiative shows lots of promise. It's run by a bunch of space program veterans like Stern (a former NASA executive) and Gerry Griffen (former Apollo flight director). The Agency even gave Golden Spike a formal nod of approval back in December, calling the endeavor "further evidence of the timeliness and wisdom of the Obama Administration's overall space policy-to create an environment where commercial space companies can build upon NASA's past successes, allowing the agency to focus on the new challenges of sending humans to an asteroid and eventually Mars." It's a pretty safe bet these people know what they're doing. They can pull this off. And that's important, especially because NASA has announced it has no intentions of heading up any more manned Moon landings:
"NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission," NASA chief Charles Bolden told SpacePolitics.com last week. "NASA is not going to the moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things."
So let's get real here. $9400 raised on a $240,000 fundraising campaign to send humans back to the Moon? Somehow "we didn’t put the right people and resources on this Indiegogo campaign" doesn't begin to describe the ridiculousness of this situation. We're having a hard time believing there aren't enough people out there excited about lunar missions to raise up more than $9,400 in startup capital – so what's the deal? Did Golden Spike really drop the ball this badly? Do people doubt its mission, or its ability to deliver? Are they put off by the $1.4-billion+ price tag? Do they even know Golden Spike exists? Something tells us they don't – so we're doing our part to get the word out.
Check out the company's Indie Gogo website and decide for yourself whether to chip or at least drum up support – if not for Golden Spike, then for somebody.