The Excalibur Almaz is set to make the first 500,000-mile trip to the moon as a new tourist destination that will begin in 2015, for about $100 million.
“We’re ready to sell the tickets,” Art Dula, founder and chief executive of Isle of Man-based Excalibur Almaz, told a space tourism meeting in London. The British company is using a converted Soviet-era space station. Only those with the ‘right stuff’ should apply: besides the necessary level of physical and mental fitness, that includes a likely fare of around $100 million per person.
The company has acquired two Soviet ‘Almaz’ space stations, designed for orbital spying operations. Thrusters attached to the stations will convert them to long-distance spaceships. Four re-entry capsules, or re-usable return vehicles (RRVs), will ferry three people at a time to the orbiting space station and return them to earth.
All the space vehicles – the cost of which is confidential – are housed in hangers on the Isle of Man. One of the RRVs is currently being exhibited outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference center in Westminster, London.
If the bold plan succeeds, a private British space company will carry out the first manned moon mission since Apollo 17 in 1972.
The aim is for three people to fly to the moon, orbit the lunar surface and return safely to earth, parachuting to the ground in an RRV. Much of the actual flying will be computer-controlled and all necessary training, including the human skills needed to pilot the spacecraft, is provided in the package.
Speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Mr Dula outlined his company’s ambitious plan.
Marketing studies suggested, at a ‘conservative estimate’, that around 30 moon-mission seats could be taken up between 2015 and 2025: enough for one mission a year.
The RRVs can be used 15 times and each space station has a service life of 15 years.
However, Dula stressed that the moon mission goes far beyond ‘space tourism’ of the kind offered by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. The trip would be a ‘private expedition’ rather than a sightseeing tour.