A Northern Virginia firm is offering to send you to the moon – literally – for a price.
Eric Anderson, president of Arlington-based Space Adventures, announced Wednesday that his company is offering two $100 million seats on an around-the-moon trip planned for 2008.
“We have identified over a thousand people around the world who have the financial resources to participate in an expedition to the moon,” Anderson said at a press conference in New York announcing the plan. “But the question remains, who among this group has the sense of exploration and adventure to undertake such a historic mission?”
For the company, space flight is not just a pie in the sky.
Space Adventures organized the first space tourism flight for American millionaire businessman Dennis Tito in the spring of 2001. A year later, Mark Shuttleworth, a South African entrepreneur, followed Tito in a visit to the International Space Station.
Space Adventures organizes its trips through a partnership with the Russian space agency and plans to use a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for the moon trip.
A new challenge
But while the firm has organized two successful trips so far, the moon trip should be more difficult, experts say.
“This is an order of magnitude more complicated,” said Frank Sietzen, former president of the Space Transportation Association, which lobbies for space technology.
Soyuz spacecraft, in use for nearly 40 years, have transported people to the now de-orbited Salyut and Mir space stations and the International Space Station. But they have never been used beyond Earth’s orbit.
To send a person around the moon and return him or her safely, Sietzen explained, you need software to re-enter precisely – the re-entry corridor for a safe return from the moon is only about the width of a sheet of paper. Such software has been a challenge for the Russians in the past.
Plus, the Soyuz offers a cramped cabin not suitable for a moon-loop trip, which would certainly take longer than a week.
“I’ve been in one,” said Sietzen, co-author of a book about today’s space program, “New Moon Rising.” “I was uncomfortable after 10 minutes.”
Still, Sietzen said, the spacecraft might be modified to make a moon visit conceivable, and Space Adventures has a record of such ingenuity.
Space Adventures and Russian space engineers will perform the required tests and modifications to make sure the Soyuz is in shape for the journey, a company spokeswoman said.
– April 1961: Russians send first human into space
– March 1965: Russians conduct first spacewalk
– April 1967: Russians fly first Soyuz manned flight; pilot dies during re-entry
– February 1986: Russians launch Mir space station
– April 2001: Russians fly first space tourist
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