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Space Adventures – the company that brought the first space tourists to the International Space Station – has longer space tourist excursions planned for as early as 2015: a trip around the Moon. Company chairman Eric Anderson said during a teleconference they have sold the first of the two seats on their circumlunar flight program, and once the second seat is sold and finalized they could fly the first private mission to the Moon in 4 years.
How will the commercial lunar tour work?
The tourists would launch on a Soyuz to Earth orbit and dock to the ISS, where they would stay for 8-10 days. A separate rocket, likely a Proton, would launch an upper stage engine and an additional habitation for the Soyuz to add more volume for the 7 day round-trip translunar flight. Soyuz would undock from the ISS and docks with the upper stage and hab module. It would take 3 ½ days to reach the Moon, swing around the far side, with the Soyuz bringing passengers to within 100 km of the Moon’s surface. The tourists will see the Earth from a distance, just as the Apollo astronauts did.
It will take another 3 ½ days to return, with a direct entry into Earth’s atmosphere with the Soyuz.
“This is another watershed event for private spaceflight” Anderson said, “extraordinarily usual moment in history where next human mission to the Moon may be commercial and not government sponsored. A very exciting thing.”
The beauty of the plan, according to Anderson is that no new technology is required, and no new reprogramming of systems, or improvements to heat shield and other systems is required.
“We’ve planned a mission now that I think is quite suitable” said Richard Garriott, who went to the ISS with Space Adventures, “with a high degree of comfort and reliability.” Garriot added that the hab module will provide an extraordinary comfortable trip to the moon and back, with more room than Apollo.
The price? $100 to $150 million.
Anderson said there will be a test flight, either manned or unmanned before the first tourists go, adding that this mission will fulfill the destiny of humanity to explore the universe.
For more information see Space Adventures.