There's good news and bad news for would-be astronauts out there.
The good news is that Excalibur Almaz, a commercial aerospace company based on the Isle of Man, announced this week it's ready to sell tickets for flights aboard a spacecraft that will orbit the moon.
The bad news? The tickets have a price tag of around $155 million, according to the Financial Times.
The company, which was founded in 2005 by Art Dula, a 65-year-old patent and space lawyer from Houston who has started other companies in the space industry, plans to ferry passengers to and from lunar orbit in used Soviet spacecraft starting as soon as 2015, Dula said in an interview with The Huffington Post.
The Wall Street Journal's Ben Rooney wrote on the specifics of the vehicles Dula plans to use:
At the heart of Mr. Dula’s plans are the six Soviet-era space vehicles: four re-useable re-entry vehicles and two Salyut-class 29-ton space stations, each with a capacity of 95 cubic meters. The two spacecraft are equivalent to the Russian Mir core or the International Space Station Zarya module. The Soviet-era electronics have been completely gutted and replaced with modern avionics.
Dula told HuffPost that the four reusable re-entry vehicles Excalibur Almaz purchased from Russia will be launched atop Soyuz-FG rockets. When one of the three-person shuttles reaches low Earth orbit, it will rendevouz and dock with one of the two habitation modules, each of which will have their own propulsion systems.
"It's as big as a space station but it has the ability to move," Dula said.
The module will orbit -- but not land on -- the moon during a journey that will take about six months roundtrip.
Dula said he expects clients to be wealthy individuals or sovereign governments. According to the Financial Times, the company plans to make additional revenue by doing research, while the Wall Street Journal reports that Dula has hopes of reaching an asteroid that may be able to be mined for valuable resources.
Dula and his partner are self-funding the company. While he wouldn't disclose how much they've spent, Dula said it was "in the tens of millions of dollars, not the hundreds of millions." A third of that has gone toward purchasing hardware, another third toward engineering, and a third on regulatory expenses.
In March, the FAA predicted that private space travel will become a billion-dollar industry within the next decade.
Virgin Galactic, another private space tourism company started by Sir Richard Branson, expects to begin flights next year. Tickets will cost $200,000 each, and SpaceShipTwo, as it's named, will take passengers about 68 miles above Earth's surface, according to Discovery News. In March, actor and tech entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher became the company's 500th customer.
And SpaceX, which last month successfully sent a test cargo capsule to the International Space Station, announced in May that it had reached an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to carry passengers to Bigelow's BA 330 space stations. Test flights will begin in 2015, and a price has not been announced.
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