The "Golden Spike" is the ceremonial final spike driven by Leland Stanford to join the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. The term "Last Spike" has been used to refer to one driven at the usually ceremonial completion of any new railroad construction projects, particularly those in which construction is undertaken from two disparate origins towards a meeting point. The "Last Spike" now lies in the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. Wikipedia.
News Article | April 17, 2017
The Garage Shop Owner and Driver, Aaron Brown, and his trusted navigator, Ed Goff, Owner of Goff Metal Fab, have teamed up with Performance Plus Oils for the second annual Expedition SEMA adventure. Expedition SEMA will start their trek at the Performance Plus Oils - Safety Kleen corporate offices in Independence Missouri with a send-off party on Oct. 10th 2017. Then the adventure begins as Expedition SEMA hits the first of many dirt trails, the Oregon Trail. These two seasoned racers and fabricators will complete the journey in a fully rebuilt 1970 Toyota FJ-40 Land Cruiser dubbed the ‘Rat.’ Expedition SEMA is a solo journey, the team has no backup or chase crew, Aaron and Ed are on their own and will carry all tools and supplies necessary to survive. Check out the full recap of Expedition SEMA 2016 in the latest edition of Via Corsa Magazine, available on newsstands now. Expedition SEMA 2017 travels across the Oregon Trail through 6 states. Once they hit the Owyhee Wilderness area in Idaho they will head south towards Salt Lake City making a stop at the Golden Spike where the first transcontinental railroad met east and west lines. Next stop is the Bonneville Salt Flats to celebrate a 10 year anniversary where the Dodge 71 stock car built by Aaron Brown crushed the world record with a 244.9 MPH run in 2007. From there Expedition SEMA takes the Pony Express east, then turns south through Moab, Needles, Zion, Northern AZ and on to Las Vegas. 3,800 Miles, 20 days, 15 ghost towns, abandoned mining districts, Pony Express stops, dirt roads, OHV trails and tough mountain terrain; this is Expedition SEMA 2017! The northern route faces weather obstacles; the trails are harder and the locations more remote as Aaron and Ed venture deep into the Wild West wilderness. Follow Along: All season long, The Garage Shop will post updates as they prep for this epic adventure. Come Oct. 10th Expedition SEMA will be posting Daily Trip Reports to the The Garage Shop Facebook page. Search #ExpeditionSEMA for content. Meet Expedition SEMA: Meet and Greet with Expedition SEMA as they finish their journey. Check out the ‘Trail Rat’ Expedition SEMA 1970 Toyota FJ-40 at the 2017 SEMA show! Details to follow. With world-class manufacturers as marketing partners, Expedition SEMA has the confidence to complete the 3,800 mile solo trip in the 1970 Toyota FJ-40 Trail Rat.
News Article | December 7, 2015
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, made a shocking announcement this week, saying they would donate 99 percent of their financial worth over their lifetimes. Though the charitable act would have several tax benefits, as The New York Times pointed out, the power couple said they hope to use that money to "advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation," according to a long post by Zuckerberg on his Facebook page. In focusing on philanthropy, the duo joins other high-profile billionaires, such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who have committed vast sums of money in an effort to reduce poverty and improve conditions around the world. [5 Facts About the Wealthiest 1 Percent] Right now, the couple's wealth amounts to an estimated $45 billion — equivalent to the entire economic output of Turkmenistan or Tanzania, and about enough to send each of the more than 117 million households in the United States a check for $380, with still a little bit left over. From funding the entire National Science Foundation for almost six years, to buying dozens of private islands, here are some of the things their enormous wealth could buy. Zuckerberg and Chan's wealth could fund a significant portion of the federally supported scientific research in the country for a year: NASA's 2014 budget was $17.8 billion, while the National Institutes of Health's 2015 budget was $30.4 billion. The National Science Foundation's budget is estimated to be $7.7 billion for 2016. The couple could also help develop more than 37 new Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, given that the average cost of getting a new drug to market from start to finish is about $1.2 billion, according to a financial report by the Analysis Group. The duo could also finance trips to the moon — about 60 of them. A space tourism company called the Golden Spike is officially funding round-trip tickets to the moon, with a sticker price of about $750 million. If Zuckerberg and Chan were to follow the example of other billionaires, a host of outlandish luxuries could be theirs, from a floating magnetic bed ($1.2 million), a gold-plated sports car ($10 million), the world-famous Burmese ruby ($30 million) and the most expensive painting ever sold at auction (A Paul Gauguin work that sold for nearly $300 million in February). But even those purchases wouldn't make a dent in their ginormous pile of cash. It takes bigger thinking to use up $45 billion — for example, you could buy 30 of the world's most valuable sports teams. Or, they could emulate the similarly wealthy Larry Ellison, the former CEO of Oracle (net worth: $48.6 billion). Ellison made news last year when he bought the Hawaiian island of Lanai for $300 million. Of course, even that wouldn't come close to depleting the $45 billion. For instance, the most expensive private island for sale on the website Privateislands.com is picturesque Rangyai Island, Thailand. The 110-acre gem costs $160 million, but that means the couple could buy 281 similarly priced islands before running out of cash. Zuckerberg and Chan may ultimately be living on just 1 percent of this net worth, but don't feel too bad for them. They still have that 700-acre plantation in Kauai, four houses in Palo Alto and a gorgeous hilltop pad in San Francisco. And the $450 million they'll be left with after all that giving will probably be enough for them to squeak by comfortably for the rest of their lives. Just barely. Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
French J.R.,Golden Spike |
Alan Stern S.,Golden Spike |
Vozoff M.,Golden Spike |
McCallum T.,Golden Spike |
Deiterich C.,Golden Spike
Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets | Year: 2013
The United States has a human space-flight program that bypasses the lunar surface in favor of missions to near-Earth objects and Mars. These are laudable goals, but the moon also has much to offer. Limited budgets probably preclude a U.S. government-sponsored human lunar exploration in the coming decade; however, the possibility exists for such to be accomplished by private enterprise. It is posited that, to bring costs within a range that might make a business case close, the mission must be relatively austere and make maximum use of existing assets and capabilities. This paper reports on a study conducted to evaluate the feasibility of lunar mission architectures primarily using as much existing or in-development, commercially available hardware and technology as possible. In particular, dual Earth-orbit rendezvous-lunar-orbit rendezvous and dual launch-lunar-orbit rendezvous missions are studied using existing and in-development flight systems as examples. The solutions described here are found to be feasible, to substantially reduce development requirements relative to recent post-Apollo approaches involving entirely new launchers and crew capsules, and to offer the possibility of human lunar expeditions at costs not unlike robotic flagship exploration missions. © 2012 AIAA.
News Article | August 30, 2012
Microsoft’s Global Ortho (GO) project, a two-year initiative to capture high-resolution aerial imagery for Bing Maps, is coming to a close in the US, reports The Verge. With the continental US completely photographed at a claimed 30cm resolution (1 foot = 1 pixel), Western Europe is all that’s left for the GO project to be complete. More than anything, Bing is touting how wide-spread its imagery is across the US, subtly comparing itself to Google which offers varying levels of detail depending on the location. Obviously, this argument doesn’t give any mention to services like Google Street View, but it’s still impressive to see Bing offering, of all things, consistency. Here’s an example of the photographic quality available in all locations except sensitive, military bases: To celebrate, Bing says its team is flying a final “commemorative mission” which it calls its “Golden Spike” flight (read: transcontinental railroad). With this, Bing has hired Colorado chalk artist Jennifer Mosquera to make a “massive Bing logo that will be plainly visible in the imagery collected during the flight.” All in all, this feat serves to put just a little bit more pressure on Google, which is already feeling the sting of Apple’s mapping projects and the open source OpenStreetMap initiative. Like Bing or not, competition will only serve to push for more innovation.
News Article | December 7, 2012
I feel sorry for all those suckers who blew $20 million and only got a lousy trip to the International Space Station. If they had held out, they might have had an opportunity to invest many more millions on a trip to the moon. Golden Spike Company announced yesterday a venture to launch commercial voyages to the moon by 2020. Of course, this sort of experience doesn't come cheap. Golden Spike is expecting a trip to cost $1.5 billion per flight. At that price, most private clients would be left out in the cold. As awesome as moon tourism sounds, Golden Spike is mainly focused on offering its services to governments that would like a lunar lift, much like Russia helped other countries get to the space station. Still, I'm guessing Golden Spike would think twice about turning down a multi-billionaire with the dough and desire to buy a ride. For those of us who don't bathe in tubs full of hundred dollar bills, Golden Spike has announced its intention to make moon visits frequent and affordable. The definition of affordable is up for debate. If you're going to take a chance on a private moon transportation company, you could do worse than Golden Spike. The chairman of the board is Gerry Griffin, Apollo flight director and former director of NASA's Johnson Space Center. The president and CEO is planetary scientist Alan Stern, former head of all NASA science missions. NASA resumes are all over the Golden Spike team listings. On the front page of its site, Golden Spike says, "Private sector human expeditions to the moon are now feasible and profitable without government funding." That's a bold statement. Let's keep an eye on Golden Spike and see if it can deliver.
News Article | December 6, 2012
Not long after the first commercial resupply mission to the ISS or the unveiling of private asteroid mining company Planetary Resources, another private company is promising more efficient space trips — this time, to the Moon. At a press conference today, Golden Spike announced its plans to send manned crews to the Moon by 2020, charging governments or possibly private stakeholders $1.4 billion a flight to put their astronauts on board. The company is headed by Alan Stern, a planetary scientist who served for about a year as the associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Its site names Apollo Program Flight Director Gerry Griffin and investor Esther Dyson as members of the Board of Directors, while author Homer Hickam (best known for Rocket Boys, which became the film October Sky) and politician Newt Gingrich (who famously proposed building a Moon base during his 2012 presidential campaign) are listed as advisors. Golden Spike's plans have been rumored for some time, but the proposals on the table still aren't too clear. In an interview with Wired, Stern said that the company would partner with groups that had already built spacecraft, then offer countries — rather than individual space tourists — "an expedition to [the] surface of the moon for two people." He also promised that the initial cost of "developing, flight testing, and any rainy day funds" would total $7 to $8 billion, detailing a system that would involve launching two rockets to put a spacecraft and lunar lander into orbit around the Moon, then another two launches to get passengers into the lander and then return them to orbit after landing. He also says that countries "both east and west of the US" are in talks to "join the lunar club." In principle, Golden Spike is offering a private version of Russia's Soyuz capsules, which NASA uses to get its astronauts to the ISS for a cost of around $63 million a seat. But while the ISS orbits Earth about 220 miles out, the Moon is a thousand times as far, and the Apollo Program is estimated to have cost over $100 billion in today's dollars (The Space Review puts each mission at around $18 billion). Even if costs have come down since then, it's far from certain that Golden Spike will be able to get off the ground for $1.4 billion per flight. Right now, Stern says he has the "architecture" of the plan, leaving the future timeline somewhat enigmatic, though a conference is expected in 2013. His company, meanwhile, has just unveiled its website and a promotional video, which features historical reenactments of the Transcontinental Railroad's completion (the source of the "Golden Spike" name) and footage from both the Moon Landing and SpaceX's first ISS docking.
News Article | April 7, 2013
NASA administrator Charles Bolden has dismissed the idea that the space agency will attempt another manned Moon mission. Speaking with contemporaries, Bolden said "NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission... probably in my lifetime." Bolden added that if the next administration reverses NASA's decision it would set back the manned space program in its entirety. He warned that, should we divert resources towards a manned moon mission in the future, we would probably never "see Americans on the Moon, on Mars, near an asteroid, or anywhere" in our lifetimes, explaining that "we cannot continue to change the course of human exploration." The agency will instead focus on a manned research mission to a nearby Asteroid, as it announced three weeks ago. That's not to say that we won't see another human on the Moon — there are multiple companies planning commercial space flights, and Golden Spike last December committed to take people to the Moon by 2020. Bolden's statements echo the words of President Obama who, while making a speech at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, acknowledged there was a desire among some to return to the Moon before exploring the further reaches of space. "I just have to say pretty bluntly here: we've been there before," said Obama back in 2010, "There's a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do."
News Article | December 6, 2012
A private enterprise named the Golden Spike Company announced today that they have plans to fly manned crews to the moon and back for a price of $1.5 billion per flight by 2020. Golden Spike, whose board includes former NASA engineers and spaceflight experts, has been working under the radar for the last two and a half years to develop their mission architecture, and unveiled their company after several weeks of internet rumors. Their intended clients are not private individuals for a space tourism scheme, but rather governments. As yet, the company is not disclosing its investors or how much money it has backing the venture but among its directors and advisers are venture capitalist Esther Dyson and millionaire former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Golden Spike will follow a model like that of the Russian spaceflight industry in the 1980s and ‘90s, when they charged money to take other nations’ astronauts to the Salyut and Mir space stations for scientific experiments. Many governments, including Finland, Japan, the Czech Republic and Malaysia took Russia up on its offer. “We can give countries an expedition to surface of the moon for two people,” planetary scientist and aerospace engineer Alan Stern, co-founder of Golden Spike and former head of NASA’s science mission directorate, told Wired. He added that the company is already in talks with several countries “both east and west of the U.S.,” hinting that China may be a possible customer. “Country after country, everyone will want to join the lunar club.” Besides scientific expeditions, the company hopes to stimulate an increased manned presence in space. Golden Spike’s name is a reference to the final spike laid down in the transcontinental railroad in 1869, opening up the western U.S. The company hopes to similarly bring the lunar frontier into the sphere of human civilization. Golden Spike estimates starting their entire operation will cost between $7 billion and $8 billion, “soup to nuts,” said Stern. “That includes developing, flight testing, and any rainy day funds.” He compared the figure to the cost of a major metropolitan airport, though airports are typically funded by governments. The company said it can cut costs by partnering with other aerospace companies and using existing rockets or rockets already in development, needing to only build a lunar lander and a specialized spacesuit for astronauts on the moon. Among their partners are Masten Space Systems, which builds vertical take-off and landing spacecraft, for the lander and the Paragon Space Development Corporation, founded by Biosphere 2 crewmembers Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter, for the suits and life-support systems. But the reality is that rocket science is hard and there are many reasons not to break out the champagne and declare that humans are going back to the moon. The company may not be starting from scratch with rocket design but they also don’t have any magic way to break the laws of physics and economics. “I would say that Stern doesn’t have enough zeros in his budget,” said space policy expert John Pike, who directs GlobalSecurity.org and worked for 20 years with the Federation of American Scientists. The 1960s Apollo program, including development and testing, came to around $110 billion dollars in today’s money or roughly $18 billion per landing on the moon. Trouble is, rocket technology matured quickly in the ’50s and ’60s and “has seen essentially no improvement since the days of Kennedy,” said Pike. It seems a bit unbelievable that a private company can recreate Apollo at an order of magnitude lower cost. While there are now rockets that can bring a payload to low-Earth orbit, only the enormous Saturn V could launch a vehicle to space large enough to take people to the moon and back. No rocket available today, public or private, has that kind of power. Stern and his team could construct their ships in Earth orbit before jetting off to the moon but Pike estimates that a lunar orbiting and landing system would weigh between a quarter and a third of a million pounds. That means the limiting cost for Golden Spike is the price to get a pound of material to orbit, which has not yet gotten reliably lower than between $5,000 and $10,000 per pound. A single manned moon mission then has a ballpark baseline launch cost of $1.25 billion, which doesn’t include any new flight hardware testing or development. During their press conference on Dec. 6, Golden Spike said their plan requires four separate launches. They will first launch two exiting rockets to bring a spacecraft and lunar lander into orbit around the moon. A second two launches will get people to the lander, where they will descend to the lunar surface and conduct an expedition before launching back to lunar orbit and then back to Earth. Golden Spike did not name the rockets that will be used for this effort nor their prices. The private sector has definitely changed and challenged many existing models for rockets and spaceflight. But they have so far had a mixed record. Companies like SpaceX can be commended for accomplishing something that until now only governments have been able to do – orbiting a spacecraft around the Earth and docking it with the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, which is expected to begin testing next year, may further drive down the price of reaching space, but it remains to be seen exactly when and how cheaply they will deliver their product. Other commercial space businesses, like Virgin Galactic, have seen constant delays and broken promises with their flight hardware. Richard Branson, the CEO, once wanted to have tourist flights to the edge of space in 2007, which was later pushed to 2010, then 2012. He recently said that he doesn’t know when flights will begin and has stopped counting. Golden Spike knows there are many challenges ahead and that, so far, they only have a plan. Based on the early speculation and rumors, Stern said that it seemed that people expected them to have constructed and filled a 50-story skyscraper in secret. “It’s much more like we’ve created the architecture for a new 50-story building we want to build,” he said. Golden Spike’s announcement is similar to the earlier unveiling of the private company Planetary Resources, which is backed by wealthy tech billionaires and intends to mine near-Earth asteroids for platinum metals and water. Both companies have lofty and expensive goals that could either pan out or end up crashing and burning. Until Golden Spike begins producing real results, there will be many in the spaceflight community skeptical of its plans. Stern said they still need to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Companies involved with the Google Lunar X Prize, which are competing to land a robotic probe on the moon, have had trouble raising even tens of millions of dollars. Pike related a well-known story about the economist Milton Friedman who, while walking with a friend, spotted a $10 bill on the ground. Friedman’s friend asked him if he was going to pick it up. No, replied the venerable economist, because if it were real somebody else would have already grabbed it. “If you could really shoot people off to the moon for those kinds of dollars, someone would have done it,” said Pike. Post updated with information from Golden Spike’s press conference on Dec. 6.
News Article | July 10, 2014
Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum are planning a trip to Mars. They’ve been hashing out the details for 20 years now, and alternate between being extremely excited and utterly terrified by the prospect, refusing to discuss it after 5 p.m. to avoid nightmares. The couple’s far-out dreams of space travel differ from those of many others because theirs could, potentially, come true. They founded a private space company called Paragon Space Development Corporation to find the most feasible way to send two people on a round-trip flyby of the Red Planet. Even the best possible plan will be extremely challenging. The list of things they still need to figure out is long and includes how to protect themselves against deadly radiation, how much food, water, and air to bring, and how to store their waste. Meanwhile, they must wait for Congress to agree to fund the project and allow the use of the NASA Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle for transport. And they need to figure this all out soon: They have only a brief window of time at the end of 2021 when Mars and Earth will align in such a way to make this trip possible. The mission—called Inspiration Mars and spearheaded by millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito—is the most ambitious of Paragon’s many projects. The company is also one of the country’s leading designers of life support systems and body suits for extreme environments, and they are currently developing a vehicle for commercial balloon trips to the stratosphere and technology for private moon landings. But they have the most grandiose hopes for Mars: They say sending the first humans into the orbit of another planet could ignite a 21st century “Apollo moment” that will propel American students back into the sciences and inspire young innovators. The couple’s drive to explore space was born in a giant glass dome on Earth called Biosphere 2 in the early 90s. Eight people, including Poynter and MacCallum, lived for two solid years from 1991 to 1993 inside the dome near Tucson, Arizona as part of a prototype space colony. The eccentric, privately funded science experiment. contained miniature biomes that mimicked Earth’s environments, including jungle, desert, marshland, savannah and an ocean all crammed into an area no larger than two and a half football fields. The crew subsisted on a quarter-acre agricultural plot and went about their lives while medical doctors and ecologists observed from outside. All went relatively smoothly until, 16 months into the experiment, crew members began suffering from severe fatigue and sleep apnea. They discovered that the dome’s oxygen content had substantially dropped and, when one member fell into a state of confusion in which he could not add simple numbers, decided to refill the dome with oxygen, breaking the simulation of space-colony self-sufficiency. The world sighed and many called the project a failure. Time Magazine would later name it one of the 100 worst ideas of the century. But the crew persisted for their full two-year trial and, if nothing else, emerged intimately aware of the mental traumas of prolonged isolation—crucial wisdom for anyone seriously considering traveling to another planet. “Some of the easier ones to get your head around are things like depression and mood swings—that’s kind of obvious,” said Poynter, who was 29 years old when she entered the dome, and is now 52. “Weird things are things like food stealing and hoarding.” She likens her more severe symptoms to the delusions reported by early 20th century explorers who hallucinated while trekking for months through the featureless white expanse of Antarctica. She describes one instance in which she was standing in the sweet potato field about to harvest greens to feed the Biosphere 2 goats when she suddenly felt as if she had stepped through a time machine. “I came out the other side and was embroiled in a very fervent argument with my much older brother,” Poynter said. “And what was so disconcerting about it was that it really was hallucinatory. It was like I could smell it, feel it. It was very weird.” Whether the slowly dwindling oxygen supply or chronic isolation had stirred these delusions is unclear, but other biospherians, including MacCallum, reported similar experiences. Six months into Biosphere 2, the couple began to think about life after the experiment and channeled their waning energy into a business plan. They wanted to build on the skills and ecological knowledge they were accruing during the experiment, while also playing off Biosphere 2’s space-oriented goals, and finally landed on building life support systems for an eventual trip to Mars. MacCallum blogged about this from inside the dome, and managed to sign up Lockheed Martin aerospace engineer Grant Anderson as a co-founder, and signed legal papers with Poynter to incorporate Paragon. Neither MacCallum nor Poynter had gone to college or had any formal training in science, engineering, or business. But their trajectory toward space began early in their lives, long before entering Biosphere 2. MacCallum’s father was an astronomer and his grandfather helped build propellers for the Wright brothers. Poynter, who grew up in England and came to the U.S. after high school, says her deep fascination with space sprouted from reading Isaac Asimov and other science fiction authors as a kid. Their eyes had long been tilted toward the sky. After high-school, both began training with other Biosphere 2 candidates in remote conditions, including on a ranch in the Australian Outback and an ocean-research vessel that sailed around the world, both organized by the privately-funded Institute of Ecotechnics that invented Biosphere 2. MacCallum and Poynter met during this time and sparked a friendship that turned to romance and led to marriage 9 months after leaving Biosphere 2. MacCallum, now 49 years old, says he wouldn’t necessarily advocate for others to skip college, but the path had worked out well for him. He and Poynter dabbled in classes after Biosphere 2, but ended up dropping them to work with a group from NASA to test an ecological experiment on the Russian Space Station MIR. Paragon’s co-founder and chief engineer Grant Anderson had valuable experience in developing space flight hardware with Lockheed Martin, and MacCallum and Poynter had extensive experience running closed ecological systems from their time in Biosphere 2. The team proved for the first time that small aquatic invertebrates, including amphipods and copepods, could complete entire life cycles in space, within a small, sealed-off Paragon-designed tube called the Autonomous Biological System. In December 2012, Paragon teamed up with commercial space flight company Golden Spike to build a space suit, thermal control, and life support technologies for commercial trips to the Moon aimed to launch in 2020. In December 2013, they named former astronaut and personal friend Mark Kelly as the director of flight crew operations on World View, an effort to bring tourists on a balloon ride to the middle of the stratosphere by 2016. Over the past two decades, their company has grown to employ about 70 engineers and scientists and is still growing today, Poynter says. They hire for attitude and train for skill (within reason) in order to maintain good teamwork and creativity — things Poynter felt the Biosphere 2 community lacked at times, due to conflicting personalities and lackluster attitudes. Jonathan Clark, Inspiration Mars’ chief medical officer and former space shuttle crew surgeon who collaborates with Paragon describes the couple as “enablers, the kind of bosses you would love to work for.” Still, despite Paragon’s best efforts and accomplishments, many do not believe their ambitions to bring humans — perhaps themselves — to Mars by the 2020s will pan out. Former NASA astronaut Thomas Jones, told WIRED he thinks that humans won’t reach Mars orbit until the 2030s, and will struggle to do so without the financial and infrastructural support of NASA. Dennis Tito, Inspiration Mars’ organizer, originally hoped to finance the project entirely independently. He looked to crowd-sourced funds and philanthropy, and had aimed to get the project off the ground in 2017, when Earth and Mars would align in such a way that a rocket could slingshot to and from Mars in just 501 days. But with further analysis, Tito and Paragon realized they did not have the resources or money to pull off the mission by 2017. They identified another planetary alignment in 2021 that would allow for a slightly-longer 580-day trip, but they still doubt they can achieve this without a bit of government support. “There was really no way that we could find to practically use existing commercial rockets,” MacCallum said. “We were hoping we could pull together a mission using existing hardware, but you just don’t get to go to Mars that easy.” During recent hearings with NASA, Tito explained that he would need about $1 billion from the government over the next four or five years to develop the space launch system and other aspects of the mission. NASA was not readily willing to agree to this and they put the issue on hold, MacCallum said. But regardless of whether Inspiration Mars is successful in 2021, Jones believes these commercial space efforts will help stir momentum and public interest in space that could ultimately help NASA build new infrastructure and convince Congress to allocate the money needed to complete missions like these. “I think it is going to lead to an explosion of ideas of how we can use space to make a buck, and that’s all to the good,” Jones said. “And so if these companies can develop a track record of success, and people have greater confidence that they can personally experience space, then it may become more relevant to our society and country, and then the U.S. may have a broader base of support for funding for NASA.” By this logic, Paragon’s involvement in an array of different space endeavors that embed space in the American consciousness could improve their chances of getting Inspiration Mars off the ground. And so they keep moving toward their goal. At the end of last year, the team successfully completed the major components of the life support system for Inspiration Mars. They did a full test of all the major systems together in the lab. They recycled urine, made oxygen, and removed carbon dioxide from the system — all things they would need to do to keep a crew alive for an Inspiration Mars mission, MacCallum said. MacCallum believes a trip to Mars that would use these life support systems could inspire the next great generation of innovators. He turned five on July 20th, 1969, the day that Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, and cites that mind-boggling occasion as the major driver of his fascination in space and ultimate decision to enter Biosphere 2. “What we learned from Apollo was that a very difficult and inspiring technical program that involves humans exploring new worlds that create new heroes and role models inspires people into the sciences,” MacCallum said. Though they hadn’t originally intended to be space pioneers themselves when they founded Paragon — they simply planned to facilitate space travel, not necessarily partake in it — MacCallum and Poynter both say that they would throw their hat in the ring as candidates for Inspiration Mars. At the very least, they meet the basic credentials of being a fit middle-aged couple—in their late 50s by 2021—with experience living in isolation. When their hearts aren’t racing with thoughts of tumbling along the empty black path to Mars, MacCallum imagines calling back to students on Earth and describing the scene as he watches the Pale Blue Dot drift away and the Red Planet approach. “That would have completely blown my mind as a middle schooler,” MacCallum said. “And we would have 500 days to have these conversations with students all around the world.” The public may have sighed at the shortcomings of Biosphere 2. But now, two decades later, the experiment many deemed a failure continues to breed projects that expand our expectations of human innovation and our capacity to plot a realistic path to Mars.