Thursday, May 05, 2011

Space Tourist Trips Around the Moon Get Roomier Spaceship

Fifty years after the first American astronaut rocketed into space, one commercial spaceflight company is hoping to push the envelope even further, with tourist trips around the moon. And now they plan to use a bigger spaceship.

The Virginia-based space tourism firm Space Adventures has brokered commercial rides to the International Space Station for the last 10 years under a partnership with Russia's Federal Space Agency, which provided the Soyuz spacecraft for the flights. The three-person Soyuz vehicle also forms the core of Space Adventures' trip for two around the moon at $150 million per passenger, but the U.S. company on may 5th announced a new twist: an extra module to give customers more room during the lunar visit.

Space Adventures already has one customer signed on for the circumlunar joyride and is in contract negotiations with a second, which means the first flight could occur as soon as the end of 2015, said the company's chairman Eric Anderson. "The mission, in my mind, will be another watershed event," Anderson said in a news briefing today. "It's remarkable that a private company will be able to work in the market and finance what is likely to be humanity's first return to the moon in what will, at that time, be 45 years."

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