SPACE TOURISM $100 million moon vacation trip
The initial travelers would be the first to orbit the moon in over 33 years.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The company that pioneered commercial space travel by sending "tourists" up to the International Space Station is planning a new mission: rocketing people around the far side of the moon.
The price of a round-trip ticket: $100 million.
The first mission by Space Adventures could happen in 2008 or 2009 and is planned as a steppingstone to an eventual lunar landing by private citizens.
"For the first time in history, a private company is organizing a mission to the moon," Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson said at a Manhattan news conference Wednesday, a day after space shuttle Discovery safely returned to Earth. "This mission will inspire countries of the world, citizens ... our youth."
Anderson said he already has prospective "private explorers" who are interested in the trip and could afford the ticket.
The initial travelers would be the first to orbit the moon in more than 33 years, according to the Arlington, Va., company. Only 27 people have ever made such a journey.
The trip, aboard a modified Russian spacecraft, will offer the chance to see the Earth rise from lunar orbit and a view of the far side of the moon from an altitude of 62 miles.
The far side of the moon has a special appeal, Anderson told The Associated Press in an interview, because it takes most of the hits from asteroids, meteorites and other objects from deep space. That results in many more craters than on the side seen from Earth.
"It's much more interesting to look at than the near side," he said, adding that the lunar orbits will be done when the far side is illuminated by the sun.
Space Adventures plans to offer multiple trip itineraries aboard Russia's Soyuz TMA spacecraft. One possibility is a 5 1/2-day lunar flight and up to 21 days at the International Space Station; another is a nine-day mission with three days of free flight in low-Earth orbit and the rest flying around the moon. In both cases, the spacecraft would dock with a booster, carried up by a separate launch vehicle, to propel it to the moon.
The Soyuz was originally designed for lunar missions, although none ever occurred.