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Private company to offer rides to moon by 2020

Golden Spike says it hopes to sell missions to the moon for over $1 billion.

By Clara MoskowitzSPACE.com / December 7, 2012

This undated image made available by NASA and photographed by the Expedition 28 crew aboard the International Space Station, shows the moon, at center with the limb of Earth near the bottom transitioning into the orange-colored troposphere, the lowest and most dense portion of the Earth's atmosphere.

NASA/AP

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A new private venture aims to sell manned trips to the moon by 2020, its founders announced today (Dec. 6).

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The company, called Golden Spike (after the final spike built into the First Transcontinental Railroad), plans to sell each moon mission for about $1.5 billion — a relative bargain, said the company's president and CEO Alan Stern, a former director of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

For the same price as many unmanned robotic missions, Golden Spike will provide a round trip for two humans to the moon.

"We're selling to nations, corporations and individuals," Stern told SPACE.com. "Get in line — and I think it's going to be a long one." [How Golden Spike's Moon Landing Plan Works (Infographic )]

Stern and Golden Spike's chairman of the board of directors, Gerry Griffin, a former Apollo flight director and NASA Johnson Space Center director, announced their plans today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Shopping for a rocket

The company's leaders have not yet chosen a launch vehicle or space capsule to transport their passengers; Stern expects to make the final selections in 2014.

To keep costs low, Golden Spike will likely use existing or already-under-development rockets and spacecraft. However, the company will need to commission its own lunar lander and specially designed spacesuits. Stern called rumors that Golden Spike had already chosen SpaceX's Falcon 9 Heavy rocket "not true."

The company has been in the works, and under wraps, for two and a half years, Stern said.

"I don’t think anybody's got us beat," he added. "This is state-of-the-art cool."

The missions are being targeted at countries without their own space agencies or that can't afford to launch people to the moon independently, as well as scientific organizations and even private individuals looking to take the trip of a lifetime.

"We have spoken to space agencies from both Asian and European countries and found real interest," Stern said.

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