The Tortoise and the Hare

The tortoise and the hare.

Smith looks at the published construction and flight timelines for the government’s Space Launch System and the private company Golden Spike, and finds something I’ve been noting for several years, there is a new space race going on. And I think private space will win it.

Another perspective — the one I have — is that this creates a new Space Race.

In the starting gate at High Bay 3 is the SLS, a program larded by Congressional pork, dubbed the Senate Launch System by its critics. Many observers believe that it will one day fall to innate political and bureaucratic flaws, as did Constellation before it.

In the other starting gate at High Bay 1 is Golden Spike — all talk so far, but the pieces seem to be falling into place to make the company a viable lunar option. Add to the mix the May 23 teleconference discussing the NASA agreement that allows Bigelow Aerospace to ally NewSpace companies into a possible commercial cislunar program. The report hasn’t been released yet, but it’s logical to assume that Golden Spike is one of those companies.

As with all space programs — government or commercial, crewed or unmanned — these timelines should be viewed with the greatest of skepticism.

But we’re starting to see all the pieces fall into place for the great Space Race of the 21st Century. To the victor goes access to the Final Frontier.

If you and a friend happen to have $1.4 billion, the new private company Golden Spike wants to take you to the Moon.

The competition heats up: If you and a friend happen to have $1.4 billion, the new private company Golden Spike wants to take you to the Moon.

Golden Spike’s news release said the venture would make use of existing rockets as well as commercial spacecraft that are currently under development to send expeditions to the lunar surface, with the estimated cost of a two-person lunar surface mission starting at $1.4 billion.

There will be a lot of press stories about this. And it is good, as it illustrates again the increasing shift from government-run space missions to a robust private industry. The idea of a private company doing this is no longer considered absurd but perfectly reasonable.

Whether Golden Spike itself will do it, however, is another thing entirely. Please forgive me if I reserve the right to be a little skeptical at this point.