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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.

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Private moon race

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This isn't the first private moon-bound venture. The Google Lunar X Prizeis offering $30 million to any nongovernment entity that can land a robot on the moon that travels at least 1,650 feet (500 meters) and sends data and images back to Earth. Stern himself is involved with one team called Moon Express vying for the prize. However, no serious company has aimed to send people to the moon.

Each Golden Spike moon expedition will involve four separate launches: two launches to get the lunar lander into orbit, and two more launches to transport crew and cargo. Golden Spike's leaders hope to fly regular missions throughout the 2020s.

The venture doesn't have a long list of wealthy backers. "We don't need it. We're going to make our business run on sales," Stern said.

The project does have the support of an advisory board made up of scientists, aerospace company leaders, movie producers, and dignitaries. One member is Homer Hickam, author of the book "Rocket Boys," the inspiration for the film "October Sky."

"A reliable pathway to the Moon — 'Earth's eighth continent' will open our nearest neighbor in space to extensive new exploration, and also open it to the imagination of people everywhere," Hickam said in a statement.

The team chose today to make the announcement because it's the eve of the 40th anniversary of the last launch to the moon, Apollo 17, which lifted off Dec. 7, 1972.

"We looked for a meaningful date, and we picked today," Stern said. "There's a little bit of poetry with this."

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