Forty-three years ago, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. Nowadays, the idea of vacation on the moon is gaining traction with the American public.
In June of 1958, 11 years before the Apollo 11 landing, the popular Sunday comic strip "Closer Than We Think" was already predicting a future when newlyweds could jet off to "pressurized, air-conditioned excursion hotels" to "dance gaily...whirling high in the air due to the reduced gravity pull." An October 21, 1966 opinion piece in the Ohio Sandusky Register echoed, "Young ladies who expect the moon when they get married may one day have their wish."
Nearly a half-century later, only a handful of people - all astronauts - have left their footprints on the lunar landscape, but a ticket to the moon for ordinary citizens, or at least ordinary citizens with a few million dollars to spend, may soon finally be available.
Well-heeled adventurers can already book a sub-orbital space flight with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, scheduled to begin flying in late 2013. A mere $200,000 buys you 2.5 hours of total flight time, 6 minutes of weightlessness, and, for newlyweds, the knowledge that you're over 100 km from your new mother-in-law. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, engaged last April, are rumored to be among the 529 current ticket holders, which may make them the first pair to honeymoon, of sorts, in zero gravity.
True moon enthusiasts should save their pennies, however. As the Economist reported last month, two space-tourism companies are now offering $150 million tickets for lunar fly-bys that could blast off as soon as 2015. The ticket won't actually get you on the moon, but it will get you close, and if you book with British company Excalibur Almaz, the planned flight path will take you further from the Earth than any human has ever been. Your accommodations for the journey? A cozy refurbished Soviet-era Salyut-class 29-ton space station, purchased from the Russian government.
Although no company is yet offering trips to the moon's surface, NASA, judging lunar tourism to be imminent, has already begun putting measures in place to protect important historic sites on the moon's face, such as the Apollo 11 landing site. What will visitors see when they finally get there? For the time being, Neil Armstrong still describes it best: