WASHINGTON — Attention wealthy nations and billionaires: A team of former NASA executives will fly you to the moon in an out-of-this-world commercial venture combining the wizardry of Apollo and the marketing of Apple.
For a mere $1.5 billion, the business is offering countries the chance to send two people to the moon and back. And if you are an individual with that kind of money to spare, you too can go the moon for a couple of days.
Some space experts, though, are skeptical of the firm's financial ability to get to the moon. The venture called Golden Spike Co. was announced Thursday.
Dozens of private space companies have started up recently, but few if any will make it, said Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who tracks launches worldwide.
"This is unlikely to be the one that will pan out," McDowell said.
NASA's last trip to the moon launched 40 years ago. The United States is the only country that has landed people there, beating the Soviet Union in a space race that transfixed the world. But since the race ended, there has been only sporadic interest in the moon.
President Barack Obama canceled NASA's planned return to the moon, saying America had already been there. On Wednesday, a National Academy of Sciences panel said the nation's space agency has no clear goal or direction for future human exploration.
But the ex-NASA officials behind Golden Spike do. It's that old moon again.
The firm has talked to other countries, which are showing interest, said former NASA associate administrator Alan Stern, Golden Spike's president. Stern said he's looking at countries like South Africa, South Korea, and Japan.
One very rich individual — Stern won't give a name — has also been talking with them, but the company's main market is foreign nations, he said.