Space Adventures Wants to Fly You to the Moon

by Nancy Atkinson on May 5, 2011

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter

Apollo 8's famous Earthrise picture. Would you like to have this view? Credit: NASA

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?

Space Adventures' commercial Moon shot. Credit: Space Adventures.

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.

Soyuz lunar vehicle. Credit: Space Adventures.

“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.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

mrbill May 6, 2011 at 4:17 AM

I really don’t understand this space tourism nonsense. For a number of reasons: foremost, the psychology of desiring to be confined to a small capsule thousands of miles from your home in a dangerous airless environment at great expense for a few days is completely lost on me. Secondly, the reality of space-debris and the incredible ongoing risk of NEO contamination from unsustainable launches will only get worse with rampant space tourism. I do see a slight upside in the potential for international economic cooperation in space, however, I also see a great risk of increasing militarization and the weaponising of space as human access to space increases. Lastly the crass elitism, materialism, and triviality of non-governmental human space travel is fundamentally sickening. The need for strong international policy on acceptable conduct in space is more important now than ever before. This anything goes mentality of space as playground is bound to result in disaster…

Eric E May 6, 2011 at 5:20 AM

You nailed it, mrbill!

Space is not an aristocratic playground. Richest doesn’t mean most qualified.

Also, Earth is running low on rocket fuel!! Time to stop playing around and start thinking about the real long term survival of humans and our post human descendants.

delphinus100 May 7, 2011 at 1:03 AM

“Space is not an aristocratic playground.”

Why? Is it perhaps too small?

“Richest doesn’t mean most qualified.”

What means ‘qualified’ in this context? Decided by whom? What ‘qualifications’ do you need to be a tourist?

“Time to stop playing around and start thinking about the real long term survival of humans and our post human descendants.”

They’ll insure that by going into space, too…

Torbjorn Larsson OM May 6, 2011 at 10:26 AM

You don’t have to understand it (“space tourism nonsense”, “unsustainable launches”) for it to happen. All it takes is people willing to go and affordability, and it will happen.

And – it is _awesome_, of course!

- “NEO contamination”

What is that?

If you are referring to Earth orbital debris it is a nuisance but doesn’t contaminate, it is rather the main component of the orbital environment AFAIK. Most of it seems to be artificial.

It is also unstable, as NEO environment is self-cleaning. (Earth atmosphere is gradually thinning, and depending on your criteria its influence peters out half-way to the Moon, IIRC.)

In fact, the latest scheme I’ve seen was adding more debris (tungsten pellets) to force a rapid chain reaction and de-orbiting sooner rather than later.

- “increasing militarization and the weaponising of space”

Probably, why would space be different; why would it need to be different? If the later, don’t you think we need to fix that rather than abstaining from exploration and exploitation?

At this point the comment leaves science and the subject area and strays into “spaced out” ideology. :-D Good luck with that, really. Idealism may seem scary for onlookers. (Certainly scarier than militarization, look at idealistic societies such as communism!) But it has also been saddled to do good things in society.

Olaf May 6, 2011 at 9:08 PM

You don’t have to understand.
And there will be no additional debris since it will fall back to Earth and burn up on the entry back.

Now where do I sign up for this?

delphinus100 May 7, 2011 at 12:59 AM

“I really don’t understand this space tourism nonsense. For a number of reasons: foremost, the psychology of desiring to be confined to a small capsule thousands of miles from your home in a dangerous airless environment at great expense for a few days is completely lost on me.”

And I don’t understand what people see in golf.

Which only means we aren’t in those activities’ respective demographic. I, for one, would be *quite* willing to spend a week in a Lunar Soyuz (likely easier than two weeks in Gemini, which has been done…your body doesn’t care that it’s ‘only’ in LEO for that), just to fly around the Lunar Farside….and I’d do it well before climbing Mt. Everest, which many people pay (and some even die) for…

“Lastly the crass elitism, materialism, and triviality of non-governmental human space travel is fundamentally sickening.”

Well that’s…too bad. The oceans don’t belong strictly to oceanographic research ships, either. (indeed, they’re relative latecomers, compared to commerce) The Universe is not this ‘pure and unsullied’ thing that would somehow be degraded by someone going out into it ‘merely’ to have an entertaining personal experience.

The heavens do not, and never did belong only to governments.

mrbill May 7, 2011 at 3:34 AM

Because it is impossible for man to exist outside of the state the notion that space cannot be regulated is absurd.

Torbjorn Larsson OM May 8, 2011 at 7:46 PM

We are not saying that regulation is impossible, but that it won’t happen.

Btw, there are plenty of persons that have existed “outside of the state”, most of history in fact.

spameroo May 8, 2011 at 6:20 AM

Translation: waaah it’s dangerous and scary and I’m afraid of doing anything scary like this so the government should make it illegal for everyone!

If humanity has any future, it certainly won’t be determined by people who are afraid of doing anything new or dangerous and who attempt to restrain the bold out of a misguided concern for their safety.

jaxn21 May 6, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Okay.
First: The psychology to pursue what has only been seen close up is a natural instinct of curiosity in all creatures…especially humans. The psychology of wanting to spend an extremely BRIEF period of time in space is far more logical than someone who volunteers for infantry at the cost of their life for wars that shouldn’t be fought in the first place. Space travel is sane and stable.
Second: Space debris is recycled, destroyed on re-entry, or is purposely sent to not return as an added tool for contact with outside intelligent life. Voyager 1&2 are both equipped with golden records of sounds recorded from earth for the hopes that someone does find one of them and further more, us. This was in the 70′s and space exploration has done nothing but make huge leaps forward in all aspects.
Third: Global law prohibits any military weaponry to be launched above LEO(low earth orbit). As an example….the ISS is extremely close to Earth relatively speaking, it is globally illegal for even a BB gun to shoot that high, let alone a missile or craft. The military contributes to space exploration by designing and building rockets as well as training military members as astronauts. The space programs make the alterations to the rockets so they can utilize the propulsion methods to make launching possible in the first place.
Fourth: These non-government space agencies are VERY strongly regulated, inspected, and controlled by the government space agencies. These same space agencies also are the only ones who can give a green light on a launch, ergo all the same requirements are to be met before some private agency can just shoot people into space.
Fifth: Who cares if 2 people are not qualified astronauts but want to see what they see. They are escorted by an astronaut and the entire process involves qualified astronauts both in flight and in the ISS rendezvous. Nobody had a problem when we were sending apes into orbit. Why is there a problem now that they are trying to make it more openly available to the people who perhaps always dreamed of being an astronaut but was forced by society, parents, or whatever to move their life in a different direction? Just because it’s expensive doesn’t make it evil. Space flight is far from cheap and isn’t exactly a new york taxi service. It costs a lot, ergo you must spend a lot.
Sixth: Rockets are fueled with hydrogen and oxygen…separated water molecules. as long as we have water we have jet fuel. Last I checked that’s the only resource our planet ISN’T short on, let alone space which is a thriving abundance of both of those resources.

Personal note: If you are against space travel why are you on universe today? What happens when we have to relocate or terraform Mars so it can become inhabited…will it still be wrong to send civilians then? You have to start somewhere and an innocent trip around the moon is the first step.

Torbjorn Larsson OM May 6, 2011 at 10:48 AM

On the 6th: Yeah, that was an absurd one! Not to mention that atmosphere losses is order of magnitudes more severe than additional losses anyway. If you want to recap that, you would _promote_ comet mining for volatiles.

[Unless you want to place some orbiting Dyson cloud ceiling on Earth. That _maybe_ could knock atoms back at the distance where the atmosphere is sufficiently diluted to enter the molecular regime. (Momentum regime, instead of viscous regime.)

Then again, you would want to argue for _increasing_ the high orbit NEO debris meanwhile.]

Better to claim that we are running out of iron & alumina ore for the launchers. But Earth bulk mass is increasing quite a lot in comparison from impactors. So that shouldn’t be a problem even without space exploitation recap.

jaxn21 May 6, 2011 at 10:08 AM

correction to first line….The psychology to pursue what has only been seen close up by only a handful among masses is a natural instinct of curiosity in all creatures…

mick May 6, 2011 at 10:11 AM

Should all of these reactionnary stop using their cars to explore their neighbourhood Earth would not face any eco concerns anymore…
There is no problem here. Only a market : if demand is higher than cost… FIne !

Torbjorn Larsson OM May 6, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Neo-luddism may be the fringe, but it is certainly injecting ideas into the ideologies of today.

The problem from where I stand isn’t that it is a misdirected as anti-vaxxers, but that it is potentially as harmful as the later has proven itself in practice.

What has built todays society is efficiency (industrialization, urbanization, green revolution in that order).

What will build tomorrows society is population stabilization which will happen sooner rather than later as societies takes benefit of the former, and get poverty under control faster. It is improving but slow, and coincidentally trying to impede the progress is immoral.

I didn’t caught the reference at the time, but I believe prognosticators have caught up with Hans Rosling of Gapminder fame numbers on Chinese modernizing their society. As I understand it from the brief though: The chinese are running so fast that at the time they will cap their population sometimes in the 40′s, the overall societal burden on the environment is already going down. (May start in the later 20s.)

This is another thing that will happen whether ideologues are trying to put monkey wrenches in the rapid globalization or not. I just wish I hadn’t have to worry about the obligatory stumble blocks while partaking in rapid progress.

hydrazine May 6, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Yeah, right! That’s gonna happen… Obviously, I have to add a disclaimer that I wish them good luck and (make myself) hope that they can do it. On the other hand, if the obscenely rich are happy to put their lives at risk and in the process help develop space faring technologies then why not. I can think of some much more stupid wasy of wasting one’s money. The aviation was partly helped in this way in its early days. However, like I said, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Kind regards,
/hydrazine

Olaf May 6, 2011 at 9:14 PM

I have to admit that this company could be just a scam.

But I would be willing to use all my money for this 14 day trip and I would not care to die. Some people have a dream to collect stamps, my ultimate dream is to go to the moon.

mrbill May 6, 2011 at 10:25 PM

I blame Frederick Turner & Frederick Winslow Taylor for creating a society obsessed with frontierism and technological fetishes. Also, I LOVE the users who think “because debris burns up in the atmosphere!” that somehow this is not environmental contamination.

Eric E May 6, 2011 at 11:12 PM

Yeah, I don’t think it’s fair to be considering space debris a non-issue. My understanding is that it’s one of the greatest threats to spacecraft near Earth(natural debris further out, of course).

Of course we’re all for space travel. It’s an essential part of the extremely far out survival of life from Earth(after all, the sun and even the Earth will one day be gone).

Torbjorn Larsson OM May 8, 2011 at 7:52 PM

Indeed. But that is a real concern, not the anti-technology concern of neo-luddites (“contamination”).

mrbill May 8, 2011 at 8:14 PM

Contamination is an environmental concern. Aren’t you worried about the environment?

Olaf May 7, 2011 at 1:16 AM

If stuff falling into the atmosphere is upsetting, then maybe you should create an activist group against meteorites that falls to Earth every day!

mrbill May 7, 2011 at 3:33 AM

Of course! Rather than dealing with the issue let’s trivialize it further by comparing man-made space debris to natural phenomenon!

delphinus100 May 8, 2011 at 4:34 AM

The point is material falling into the atmosphere. If you consider that to be a concern, then you must consider all sources of it.

It trivializes nothing, to point out the fact that nature does this in greater quantities, and over longer times than humans have…

It’s not unlike those who sometimes throw the notion out there of using orbital debris to build something new (because it’s allegedly ‘cheaper’ to go after that, than to launch new objects), it’s important to understand that orbital debris consists of many objects of various sizes, in various orbital altitudes and inclinations. It’s just not practical or affordable to chase it all down. (never mind somehow recycling/remanufacturing it in orbit)

While even a loose bolt can be very dangerous if there’s a significant difference in velocity between it and another object, in terms of total mass, how much man-made material do you actually believe is in orbit around Earth? If your concern is what environmental effect returning orbital debris might have, this is what’s important…and nature beats it. Olaf has a serious point.

(It’s also one of the reasons why, in asteroid impact scenarios, you want to deflect them completely, not blow them to pieces [no matter how fine] that still enter the atmosphere…)

mrbill May 8, 2011 at 7:27 AM

Olaf has a serious point.

I believe he was being factitious. The issue is about man-made waste congesting access to space and the potential for very extremely damaging contamination of the space environment from war or tourism or poorly regulated space traffic and so forth.

Eric E May 8, 2011 at 4:13 PM

Indeed, Bill. I thought by bringing it up that there would be some constructive discussion rather than assumptions that artificial debris will never pose a threat. We all care and just wanted to discuss this side! =]

We were not looking at this from a pure environmental sense, though that discussion should still be had.

Eric E May 7, 2011 at 4:25 AM

Humans only get one chance at the Universe, that’s what we’re trying to say, Olaf. Let’s calculate carefully our actions in space, and take seriously our resources. Many civilizations have fallen because of a simple misuse of their resources.

Eric E May 7, 2011 at 4:28 AM

“We have arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”

Carl Sagan

alcyone May 8, 2011 at 5:15 PM

NO: Sagan was not talking about space tourism. His primary concern was the possibility of dumba$$ politicians destroying civilization with nuclear bombs.

Space tourism is more likely to destroy a space fan’s bank account!

Going forward, a rich person may take the seat in space previously set aside for the cold warriors. What is so bad about that?

mrbill May 8, 2011 at 8:13 PM

Alcyone, I think Sagan’s point is relevant to the space tourism angle just as it was and indeed remains relevant regarding the dangers of nuclear weapons: the economic danger of throwing away millions of dollars on utterly pointless trips for single individuals is just a waste of money. Money, of course, is a component of (financial) power and wasting money is ignorance. Therefore, the combustible mixture of ignorance and money is certainly dangerous- perhaps more so than the danger of thermonuclear war today. Certainly the potential for disaster is high: private wealth wasted on trivial voyages is absolutely not ever going to ‘trickle down’ or help the poor. These are chariots to the moon for the elite, nothing more. Symbols of status, badges of power for the wealthy.

Olaf May 7, 2011 at 10:53 AM

Eric if you look at the orbit of this spacecraft, all debris fall back to earth

Eric E May 7, 2011 at 11:52 PM

Yes, the large pieces will. I never doubted that, I was referring to artificial objects of the smaller size. I believe it was one of the solar arrays on Mir that got a very large hole in it from a very very small piece of space debris. But this never really was the thread for that part of the discussion anyway. Apologies for the off-topic-ness.

Torbjorn Larsson OM May 8, 2011 at 7:50 PM

What happens with debris isn’t what makes it not a contamination, but the fact it is a major component of the orbital environment makes it so. “Contamination is the presence of a minor and unwanted constituent …” [Wikipedia.]

mrbill May 7, 2011 at 12:12 AM

One other thing, I thought this comment by Torbjorn Larsson OM was striking:

What has built todays society is efficiency (industrialization, urbanization, green revolution in that order).

Consider the argument of Marx that contradicts this (as explained by David Henry): Profit always arises out of the social relation between capital
and labor. The idea that machines are a source of value is, therefore,
the fetishistic extension of the very real effect of superior machinery in
generating temporary excess profits. What Marx calls “the coercive
laws of competition” typically produce leapfrogging innovations by
individual capitalists seeking temporary technological advantages that
yield them temporary excess profits. This is one explanation for the
technological dynamism of capitalism vis-à-vis other social systems. It
has the interesting property of being entirely endogenous to the com-
petitive social relations of capitalism and therefore in no sense a deus ex
machina. Capitalist entrepreneurs and corporations innovate not
because they want to but because they have to in order to either
acquire (like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs) or retain (like General Motors)
their status as capitalists.
There is, however, another step in Marx’s argument. If the standard
of living of labor (the bundle of commodities they need to live) is fixed
and the average productivity in the industries producing these goods
increases (diminishing the value of shirts, shoes, and bread), then the
value of labor power can fall without diminishing the material stan-
dard of living. This makes the gap between what labor creates and
what it receives ever greater, meaning a higher rate of profit overall.
Rising profits can even accompany a rising physical standard of living
of labor. It all depends on the strength of productivity gains and how
the benefits are distributed between capital and labor. The productiv-
ity gains are real, tangible, and therefore in no way fetishized, but the
way the gains are distributed depends on the social (power) relation
between capital and labor. Again, *****the fetishism arises when it is
inferred that productivity is a (or even the) source of profit as opposed
to recognizing that profit arises out of a social relation between labor
and capital. *****

So, simply put, ‘efficiency’ is not what makes this society possible, Torbjorn Larsson OM.

gopher65 May 7, 2011 at 12:48 PM

The flaw in that argument is that it rests entirely on the “fact” that the standard of living for labour never changes. I want you to look back in time to 1950s America, and compare their lives then to how we live today. The difference is shocking. Then go back another 50 years. Then another, and another.

What you’ll find is that there has been a continuous increase in the standard of living of all levels of society. This increase in living standards has been accomplished by a combination of increased resource efficiency (they use to be so very wasteful compared to today… and we still have a long way to go in that regard) and of technological change.

Because the standard of living can be shown to have increased over time, the foundation for Marx’s argument collapses from under it, rendering the entire argument demonstratively false.

Many of Marx’s arguments have this same (or similar) fundamental flaw. They are well constructed, thoughtful arguments, but they are based on false premises and strawmen statements, rendering them useless in the real world. (Note that many extremist capitalist arguments suffer the same fate.)

mrbill May 8, 2011 at 6:32 AM

Because the standard of living can be shown to have increased over time, the foundation for Marx’s argument collapses from under it, rendering the entire argument demonstratively false.

Many of Marx’s arguments have this same (or similar) fundamental flaw.

The flaw in that argument is that it rests entirely on the “fact” that the standard of living for labour never changes.

I don’t know who told you this but it is very wrong. Marxist theory incorporates the fact that standard of living changes. Furthermore, your theory about history is not accurate. You are describing a technologically determinist version of the past similiar to the whig theory of history wherein technological conditions improve endlessly and this is all a march towards greater progress. But this is absolute nonsense. Consider this: would you still be talking about the glorious march of technological efficiency if the Soviet Union had not withdrawn its missiles from Cuba in 1962?

Torbjorn Larsson OM May 8, 2011 at 7:57 PM

I’m not referring to economics but to easily available statistics. We couldn’t be so many in society unless those things had happened.

And, marxism? What has religious equivalent ideologies with economy and society to do?

mrbill May 8, 2011 at 8:05 PM

We couldn’t be so many in society unless those things had happened.

Is the high population of the planet beneficial?

And, marxism? What has religious equivalent ideologies with economy and society

You’re probably thinking of marxist-leninism which was the quasi-state religion operated by the Soviet Union and its client states. Marxist-leninism incorporated aspects of Marx’s economic and political theory but combined it with the desire to build soviet-nationalism under, primarily, Stalin.

I think it is very important for people to actaully read Marx’s Kapital. You will probably be very surprised that this book is not the demonized corollary to Mein Kampf it is made out to be by some radical anti-marxists.

mrbill May 7, 2011 at 12:30 AM

Excuse me, that’s David Harvey, not Henry.

Aqua May 8, 2011 at 1:07 AM

Putt-putt-puttering off to the moon. Just for fun? Too pricey for these pocketszuh! But we COULD send Donald Trump! Couldn’t we?

Eric E May 8, 2011 at 4:15 PM

heh heh.

mrbill May 8, 2011 at 6:28 AM

The flaw in that argument is that it rests entirely on the “fact” that the standard of living for labour never changes.

No it doens’t. In deed, marxist theory in this respect incorporates the FACT that the standard of living does change. You should consider actaully reading some of this.

Michael Cary May 10, 2011 at 1:45 AM

Amazing!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: