We have the prize: the Google $30,000,000 Lunar Prize, designed to facilitate a return to the Moon. It has stimulated 29 firms to plan and rush for seedcorn money that could propel their ambitions. Any article can quote their goals:
Naveen Jain, an Internet billionaire and a founder of Moon Express, says the company will spend $70 million to $100 million to try to win the Google Lunar X Prize, but could recoup its investment on its first flight. He envisions selling exclusive broadcast rights for video from the Moon, as well as sponsorships, à la Nascar, for companies to put their logos on the lander.
Nor would I stint such entrepreneurs from seeking welcome publicity and a contribution to the meme. The problem is that prizes, start-ups and capital injections do not really give us certainty. Are we really facing the build-up to a critical mass in space activity, leading to an efflorescence of innovation and business models in orbit? Or is this a myth, where reduction in state activity leaves an absence, since private firms are unable to make a sufficient return?
So far, we are shifting to a public-private partnership: state contracts and private sector providers. A halfway house or co-opting new models; the private sector has yet to reach orbit, let alone the moon.