Well, this is inconvenient. Golden Spike, the private space exploration startup that announced plans for a mostly crowdfunded trip to the moon a few months ago, is having a hard time motivating the crowd to fund said trip. The company let out an audible gasp on Tuesday when it realized that the IndieGoGo campaign it launched to raise $240,000—"$1 for each mile from the Earth to the Moon"—wasn't going so well.
With 16 days left before the deadline, they'd only raised $9,400, so Golden Spike CEO Alan Stern made an appeal in a column on Space.com not only talking up the moon project but the power of crowdfunding in general. Despite the press, the IndieGoGo campaign had only raised an additional $277 a day later. This is especially inconvenient, because as many people pointed out when Golden Spike announced its launch last December, the company's $1.4 billion budget seemed way too little dough to send a ship to the moon.
Why doesn't anybody want to give Golden Spike money to go to the moon? The mission itself is noble. After it had already cancelled the moon-bound Constellation mission, NASA said very plainly that it wasn't planning another moon trip last week. "NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission," said the agency's chief Charles Bolden 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."
This is where the private sector comes in. Just as SpaceX is running cargo to and from the International Space Station and Virgin Galactic will soon send tourists to space for the first time, Golden Spike hoped whittle its way into the market by offering something nobody else could: a trip to the moon. The company has a leadership team full of former NASA executives, so they know what it takes to get to space, and after SpaceX's (eventually) successful maiden voyage, we know that it's possible for a non-government organization to carry out these deeply complex missions. Plus, if people would pay Virgin Galactic for just a glimpse of what it's like outside Earth's atmosphere, surely there would be a market for vacations on the moon.
Along those lines, what's ironic about Golden Spike's fundraising fumbles is the fact that they don't need the money. Stern admitted as much in his column. The company's charging $700 million a piece for tickets on the two-seater moonship and have built its budget accordingly. The $1-per-mile idea was a way for the public to engage, even if they weren't one of those buying a very expensive ticket on the ship, in order "to create a greater sense of public involvement in space exploration." And just $10 also earns any donor some slick Golden Spike stationery. A $50,000 donation is enough to get VIP tickets to the launch.
All that said, Golden Spike might be fine. If indeed the IndieGoGo campaign fails to hit its goal, no big deal. The company just has to sell two very expensive tickets to pay for its moon trip, and then its investors can just wipe away the tears of embarassment from the crowdfunding failure with thousand dollar bills. Even still, Golden Spike might want to reconsider its marketing campaign. This YouTube video makes it all like like a big pyramid scheme:
Image via Golden Spike / NASA