June 21, 2012
Company Offering $150 Million Trips To Moon
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
If you ever have $150 million to throw around, one British company is offering up the chance for you to throw it their way in return for a trip to the moon.
Excalibur Almaz is offering up a 500,000-mile round trip ticket to the moon on a converted Soviet-era space station.
Art Dula, founder and chief executive of the company, said in a space tourism meeting in London that they are ready to sell tickets, with flights taking place as early as 2015.
Although being rich is the most important qualification to dish out the $150 million, participants must also pass the necessary level of physical and mental fitness.
The Soviet "Almaz" space stations were designed for orbital spying operations, and are being converted by the company for the travel.
Excalibur Almaz is attaching thrusters to the station to convert them into long-distance spaceships. Four re-entry capsules will ferry three people at a time to the space station and return them to Earth.
All of the space vehicles are being housed in hangers on the Isle of Man, while one of the re-usable return vehicles (RRV) is being exhibited outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference center in London.
If everything goes according to plan, the British company will be the first to carry out a manned moon mission since Apollo 17 in 1972.
The goal is for three people to fly to the moon, orbit the surface, and then safely return back to Earth, parachuting to the ground in an RRV.
Most of the flying will be controlled by a computer, but a human pilot for the spacecraft will still be provided for the tourists.
Dula said that around 30 moon-mission seats could be taken up between 2015 and 2025, making enough trips for one mission a year.
"Excalibur Almaz is willing and able to send crewed missions deeper into space than would be possible aboard any other spacecraft in existence today," said Mr Dula. "Our fleet of space stations and re-entry capsules enables us to safely fly members of the public to moon orbit as early as 2015."
He said there is no single vessel, whether owned by a government or private sector, that is suitable for a manned flight to the Moon, utilizing proven technologies.
"The EA fleet has previously flown to space several times and will undertake many more missions," he told the space tourism meeting attendees. "It contains vessels of a design that has spent thousands of hours in space successfully. This is scientific fact, not fiction."
The company will be sending the Almaz space station up into orbit by using a giant Russian Proton rocket. The other space station will be kept in reserve on the ground.
The space station has about 3,200 cubic feet of living space, and also provides a "refuge" where crew members can take shelter in the event of a solar radiation storm.
Dula chose the Isle of Man to host its space vehicles to take advantage of tax benefits, and because it has become a hub of space industry. Of the 54 international space satellites companies, 30 are located on the island.
He said that he doesn't just envision trips being taken to the moon, but unmanned research missions, transportation of people and cargo, and chartered space exploration flights to be future endeavors by the company.
"This is a paradigm shift," Dula told the meeting. "Whether we do it or somebody else does it, it's never going to go back to being national space programs."