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Space Tourist Trips To the Moon May Fly On Recycled Spaceships

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the take-a-check? dept.

Moon 95

thomst writes "Rob Coppinger of Space.com reports that UK-based private company Excalibur Almaz plans to offer commercial lunar-orbital tourist missions based on recycled Soviet-era Soyuz vehicle and Salyut space stations, using Hall Effect thrusters to power the ensemble from Earth orbit to the Moon and back. The company estimates ticket prices at $150 million per seat (with a 50% profit margin), and expects to sell about 30 of them. Excalibur Almaz has other big plans, too, including ISS crew transport, Lagrange Point scientific missions, and Lunar surface payload deliveries. It expects to launch its first tourist trip to the Moon in 2014."

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Bullshit (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40499851)

Trips around the moon for paying tourists in 2 years time? Pull the other one, it's got bells on it.

Re:Bullshit (2)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40499905)

The number of people who have 150 mill to drop is pretty tiny as well, then you factor in who of those that would actually want to go.

Im going to go ahead and put my implausibility meter to full

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40499967)

Add in the fact that few people would want to redo it, with such a small pool of rich willing people, you'll get the initial surge of customers only to have it dwindle to almost none meaning it's a business model with no sustainability.

Re:Bullshit (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500149)

Who cares about sustainability with business? Lots of businesses have no such need; they get in, make a bunch of money, and that's the end of it; as long as the owners are able to walk away with a pile of cash, that's good enough for them.

Not all businesses need to continue to grow without end. That's mainly a requirement of publicly-traded companies because shareholders expect it, but private businesses operate very differently.

If these business owners think they can get a few dozen rich people to pony up $150M apiece for Moon tickets, at a claimed 50% profit margin thanks to recycled Soviet hardware, that's a nice hunk of profit to walk away with after 5 years or so.

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40500229)

Who cares about sustainability with business? Lots of businesses have no such need; they get in, make a bunch of money, and that's the end of it; as long as the owners are able to walk away with a pile of cash, that's good enough for them.

Hmmm, I think I have an example of that: Facebook.com.

Re:Bullshit (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500643)

> you'll get the initial surge of customers only to have it dwindle to almost none

Here's hoping that's not due to catastrophic accidents. (And no, I'm not trying to be flippant.)

Re:Bullshit (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500877)

you'll get the initial surge of customers only to have it dwindle to almost none .

You are assuming that they can't cut costs. If they can pull this off (unlikely), then once they pay of the R&D and find ways to be more efficient, they should be able to cut the costs significantly. As the volume of customers goes up, they should be able to cut costs even more.

Re:Bullshit (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501749)

I am wonder - is Ticket Number 0001 discounted or not? I mean being the first might prestigious, but you have to then wonder if Ticket Number 0002 refundable if things don't go so well...

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40502447)

Not refundable, but you can rebook for a later flight for a piddling $50 million change fee...

Re:Bullshit (1)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 2 years ago | (#40502371)

As a business plan, it's somewhere between very, very stupid and completely insane. $150 million is a staggering amount of money, and the number of people who would have that kind of money to burn is pretty limited. A billionaire could spend that kind of cash and not feel it. According to Wikipedia, there are a grand total of 1,226 of them; so it's a pretty limited market we're talking about. And even for a billionaire, that's a price tag that's gonna hurt. If you were worth a billion dollars, you'd be giving up 1/6 of your entire fortune, just for a vacation. And that's gonna be a hard sell. I'm going to take a wild guess that most of these guys did not become billionaires by being spendthrifts.

Re:Bullshit (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40503953)

Also: A Soyuz isn't exactly a yacht. I can see some billionaire getting claustrophobic or stir crazy and deciding to go for a long walk out a small hatch...

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40506409)

Also: a Salyut isn't a Soyuz, moron.

(The return vehicle's not a Soyuz, either, typically inaccurate summary notwithstanding; it's a TKS component. Either way, they're only stuck in it to and from LEO.)

Re:Bullshit (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500227)

Well instead of giving CEOs a huge bone us, or a golden parachute when they leave their beleaguered companies, many may find the idea of blasting them into space a refreshing concept.

Re:Bullshit (1)

ItsJustAPseudonym (1259172) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500483)

You know,for 20 x $150M, you could probably fake the trip pretty well.

Re:Bullshit (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500563)

    My first thoughts were "Who?". Then "What launches have they already done?"

    All I could find is that they're using recycled Soviet spacecraft and space station(s). That's fine and dandy. Just because you buy a bunch of hardware, it doesn't mean you have a functional space program. From what I read, the don't, and aren't planning, any sort of launch system. They'll be dependent on someone elses rockets. I guess that saves a lot of headaches, assuming they can buy enough rockets to achieve it. 30 people starting in 2014? The capsules they have only hold 3 people. To fulfill that goal, they'll need to buy up 10 Saturn V (or modern equivalents) rockets. Well, 10, assuming everyone in the capsule were tourists, and they didn't have a trained employee at the wheel (helm? joystick? lever? big red "go to moon" button?)

    They may be planning on farming out the launch vehicle work to Russia or China. They'd still be operating at a loss, even with each passenger paying $150M/ea.

    It wouldn't be the first time someone came up with a great scam. Hell, I'd liberate $150M from a sucker, if he (or she) had the money to throw away.

    If they had something that *they* have used, and can show it works, I'd be impressed. Until then, it's someone's pipe dream.

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40505087)

Saturn V lifts an Apollo CSM and LM (45T total) to a free-return translunar trajectory; they're using a TKS-VA (4T) and Salyut (20T), launched separately and docking in LEO, then using Hall thrusters for the rest of the trip. Saturn V is 5x overkill even for the Salyut launch, and as a man-rated launcher is needlessly expensive to boot.

I don't know who these guys are or what their qualifications are, but at least I haven't seen them making stupid mistakes from poor reading comprehension, so pardon me if I disregard your scam/pipe dream warning.

Better use for the money (0)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501465)

For the price of the trip several dozen well-heeled millionaires can pool their resources to send a low-flying satellite that would send back hi-res photos and images of, say, the Apollo landing site or the poles of the moon. Because that is all that a trip AROUND the moon is going to get you, tourist photos and videos with no hard rock souvenirs you can hang around your neck to prove you're were a lunar explorer.

Re:Bullshit (0)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501535)

also with Russian corruption reaching 20% of GDP and the sliding internation perception of corruption now 154th out of 178 (higher is worse) you have to wonder about any investment made in that nation now. Even BP is sick of all the corruption and back sliding that they have pulled out even though russia is up to it's eye balls in natural resources.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_in_Russia [wikipedia.org]

She may not look like much... (1)

Teresita (982888) | more than 2 years ago | (#40499861)

...but she's got it where it counts, kid.

Re:She may not look like much... (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | more than 2 years ago | (#40499887)

Yes, but can it make the Kessel run in 12 parsecs?

Re:She may not look like much... (1)

NettiWelho (1147351) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500021)

Yes, but can it make the Kessel run in 12 parsecs?

Only if you can fit it into Millennium Falcons cargo hold.

Re:She may not look like much... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40500181)

100 metric tons. Hmm, yeah, I think we can stick a Soyuz in there. Maybe ten.

Re:She may not look like much... (1)

neminem (561346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500329)

An immortal line. Still, I prefer instead quoting:
"You buy this ship, treat her proper, she'll be with you the rest of your life."
"That's because it's a death trap."

Lunar orbit only? How lame (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40499895)

Not that it makes any real difference to me, I guess... It's not like I have a spare $150 mill.

Re:Lunar orbit only? How lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40500435)

Is anyone else excited that we are entering a period where merely going a quarter of a million miles away from earth (and jobs, and ex-wives) and circling the nearest spatial object, one that has been seen by every civilization of man to ever have lived, is considered lame?

Re:Lunar orbit only? How lame (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500489)

Yeah. Not to mention the exciting "whoosh" sound you make during re-entry.

Re:Lunar orbit only? How lame (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501399)

Actually, I sort of agree with the GP.

I would love to visit New Zealand--I hear it's beautiful. But I'm not sure I'd want to just fly over the country at 30,000 feet and then come home.

Similar thing here. Traveling 500,000 miles or so to visit our nearest space neighbor and then not landing would be frustrating. Imagine how Jim Lovell must have felt about traveling to the Moon twice--but never landing there.

Avoid having to fake the entire landing again (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40500745)

If they only promise you a "flight to the moon and back", without ever leaving the capsule, they don't have to cut a deal with NASA to rent the sound stage that was used to fake the lunar landings back in the 60s and 70s.

I understand that NASA has since replaced the gray sand on that set with red sand in preparation for "manned Mars landings".

Re:Avoid having to fake the entire landing again (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501413)

You are, I presume, being deliberately ironic. The notion that the Apollo lunar landings were faked does not stand up to even modest logical scrutiny.

Re:Lunar orbit only? How lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40501787)

Do they take checks?
I'll postdate one for 3012.

Space Racketeers (4, Insightful)

geekpowa (916089) | more than 2 years ago | (#40499971)

Several articles on /. along these lines recently. Humble beginnings from actual private space enterprise closely followed by science fiction from space charletons.

Re:Space Racketeers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40500385)

With another price point it has good B-movie potential.

Plot: What is a struggling city to do? Gift high-risk vacations to city employees having high-paying pension plans.

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#40505563)

With another price point it has good B-movie potential.

Plot: What is a struggling city to do? Gift high-risk vacations to city employees having high-paying pension plans.

With $150 million per trip, those pension plans must be very high paying to make this worthwhile.

Re:Space Racketeers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40506845)

Yes, it would take a cost effective solution. Perhaps a hot air balloon helped by a volcano below?

We made need to study tech from the past. Things were cheap then. But what to study first?

Expired sci-fi...?

http://archive.org/details/Cat_Women_of_the_Moon [archive.org]

Re:Space Racketeers (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500571)

science fiction from space charletons

Charleton's Chews, I used to love those things.

Here's a free tip: don't try to use words in print that you've never seen in print without a dictionary. I hear there's some free ones on the internets.

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

geekpowa (916089) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500681)

Thanks for the free tip. I always appreciate it when intellectually superior people condescend to take a few moments of their precious time, usually employed in the grand betterment of humanity, to point out my minor errors and mental deficiencies. It is a humbling and awe inspiring experience. Thank you again.

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500715)

I always appreciate it when intellectually superior people condescend to take a few moments of their precious time, usually employed in the grand betterment of humanity, to point out my minor errors and mental deficiencies.

Well, it's a tedious job, but someone has to do it. Of course, if you don't want help, and just want to go through your life looking like a total chucklehead simply because you won't accept some help because you're so fucking great already, that's totally your prerogative, and I'll try to remember not to interfere with it.

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

geekpowa (916089) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500793)

I genuinely appreciated the learn. Charlatan it is; yes I agree looks much better. Try not to get too upset because I reciprocated an equivalent level rudeness and arrogance that you initially expressed by pointing out my innoculous spelling error. Very classy behaviour on your behalf considering many visitors to this site are ELSers. ( English happens to be my first language and I freely admit that inspite of that I am a quite clumsy with it. )

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500991)

Try not to get too upset

Too upset for what?

Very classy behaviour on your behalf considering many visitors to this site are ELSers.

It's good advice no matter what language you're writing.

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

joelleo (900926) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501459)

Innocuous

Yeah, there's lots of us. If you don't like it don't make stupid spelling mistakes in forums known for their arrogant masses.

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

geekpowa (916089) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501667)

If such precision is important to you, then do as you must I will do my best to accommodate the delicate sensitivities of the arrogant masses and be a little more careful when posting comments. I personally don't take any issue with such critique. But if anyone feels the urge to be snarky and unnecessarily rude about these sort of things, then they need to expect their attitude to be repaid in kind.

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

joelleo (900926) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501699)

Your concern should be less about upsetting the "delicate sensitivities of the arrogant masses" and more about not appearing to be a moron when you're trying to impart something you feel is insightful and worthy of discourse and commentary. People will be more likely to pay attention and respond thoughtfully to your insights if your spelling and grammar are at least indicative of a certain minimum level of thought behind your posts.

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

geekpowa (916089) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501815)

Given that the mods received my original comment favourably, your argument is not very compelling. As for whether or not looking stupid should be a concern, it comes down to how important it is to you to win the respect of people who so readily and passionately castigate you over minor infractions and trivialities. I only covert the respect of people I in turn respect. Though I will happily call out uncivil conduct, sometimes with a tone proportionate to the original behaviour.

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40504017)

Man, this whole thread could have been avoided if drinky had just stuck a " :-P " in his spelling correction. Internationally recognized symbol for "I'm being a snarky douche, but don't take it too seriously." :-P

Re:Space Racketeers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40501267)

What's even more amusing than this back and forth is that YOU misspelled "Charleston Chew."

Re:Space Racketeers (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40504771)

Sooner or later there will be viable space tourism, and further exploration. Having commerce dipping in it will only make development go a lot faster than if you have to wait for NASA et.al. to do it.

I just finished rewatching Firefly. It's a bit further in the future, but when they talked about recycled space ships, for some reason I immediately had to think of Serenity.

spending that much money (1, Interesting)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 2 years ago | (#40499997)

for the privilege of spending days in outer space in a recycled soviet era capsule with absolutely no backup for rescue does not really sound like a good idea to me.

Re:spending that much money (3, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500171)

When you're 60+ years old and have tons of money, but not that much time left on the Earth, you don't really worry so much about the risk of such ventures. Just being able to go to the Moon is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and only a very tiny number of people have even done it so far. Just like it wouldn't be that hard to find people willing to take a one-way trip to Mars despite the extreme risk there, I don't think they'll have much trouble finding people willing to take the risk of traveling to the Moon in a recycled Soviet capsule (esp. if they can do it once successfully to prove they can do it). The question is if they'll find enough people with the required funds willing to do it; however, the Russians didn't have that much trouble finding rich people willing to spend $20M on a ticket to LEO, so it's possible.

Re:spending that much money (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500241)

This is probably what the business is speculating, not what the reality is. The less time you have, the more you value it, and spending it on a long and tedious training for a few days in the worst conditions you've endured in your life for a view may not appeal to many.

Re:spending that much money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40500243)

At 60+ you're not likely to pass any health requirements for riding aboard a soyuz flight. Those things pull a really quite nasty numbr of Gs on takeoff. An old rich guy might be willing to take that risk, but the company probably won't as it would certainly be a preventable death that is their own responsibility if a passenger died on takeoff.

Re:spending that much money (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500319)

Health requirements? I don't think those apply in Russia. Also, John Glenn was able to ride on the Shuttle when he was older than that.

Finally, a passenger dying on takeoff isn't a financial liability. It should be obvious that anyone who goes up on one of these trips would sign a waiver. We're talking about sending people to the moon here, this isn't something where standard consumer-protection laws apply, and again, don't forget we're talking about Russia here. Where else do you think they're going to launch these things from? Florida? This is little different from skydiving, which, in case you didn't realize, is basically taking your life into your hands and insurance and such don't apply (if you die while skydiving, your life insurance won't pay, and if you survive a skydiving accident, your health insurance won't pay). Even in America, it's totally possible to sign away all liability on risky stunts.

Re:spending that much money (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500593)

Even in America, it's totally possible to sign away all liability on risky stunts.

That doesn't seem to stop your estate, your insurance company, et cetera.

Re:spending that much money (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500859)

What exactly are you talking about?

Try this: go skydiving, and forget to pull the ripcord so you die. Then, get your family to sue the skydiving company. See how far it goes.

Or better yet, go travel to Russia, and go skydiving there. Get yourself killed, and then see if your family can sue the skydiving company there. Good luck with that.

Re:spending that much money (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501287)

Try this: go skydiving, and forget to pull the ripcord so you die. Then, get your family to sue the skydiving company. See how far it goes.

A quick google search shows that numerous cases like this have made it to court, when you would expect it to just be thrown out if you can actually sign away all your liability.

Re:spending that much money (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501449)

Anything can make it to court. I can sue you for annoying me on Slashdot if I want. It won't go far, as it'd be dismissed right away, but it'd get to court.

Anyway, don't forgot point #2: they're in RUSSIA. The US legal system has no jurisdiction there, and they tend to be pretty lax about legal matters over there.

Re:spending that much money (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40502039)

These things don't just make it to court they sit there for weeks or months burning up money. We had one in Australia where a US businessman that was apparently worth millions per day for the rest of his life (according to the amount that was sued for) ignored verbal warnings from hotel staff and several beach closed signs (including one he walked under) to go swimming when there was a fucking huge cyclone (hurricane) just off the coast. His heirs sued the surf lifesaving volunteers that closed the beach but were not there to punch him in the head and drag him back to his hotel before he stepped into the obviously dangerous water.
No country has a monopoly on such idiots so just take the above as an example of how these things play out when more than one country is involved. It doesn't matter how "open and shut" something is in your local legal system if somebody is coming in from the outside to make trouble, trouble happens even if the final outcome is incredibly obvious.

Re:spending that much money (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40502163)

You have to realize, however, that Russia (where any such space missions would be flown from) and Australia are incredibly different countries. Australia isn't much different than the US or UK as far as the court system goes. Russia's legal system is probably more similar to some random subsaharan African country.

However, in your example, also remember the guy never signed a waiver saying he knew the risks (even though it should have been obvious). At least here in the US, any time you do something inherently extremely risky, you have to sign a waiver, and while waivers aren't iron-clad in court, they do count for a lot. Skydiving is probably one place where these are used, and (I know from experience) surgery. It's pretty hard to sue a doctor for complications arising from surgery, unless you can show that the surgeon was truly negligent; getting an infection because you didn't follow the post-op instructions and then suing over it isn't going to go very far. (However, suing because the surgeon left some tools inside your body or amputated the wrong foot is a pretty easy case to win.)

Re:spending that much money (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40502885)

Point taken. What turns up in the international press about the Russian legal system is uninspiring and that's all I know about it.

Re:spending that much money (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 2 years ago | (#40508507)

Even in America, it's totally possible to sign away all liability on risky stunts.

Depends on the state. There's an entire branch of law (contract law) that revolves around what rights you can and can't sign away. When you buy lift tickets in California, for instance, there's a whole contract that goes with the purchase that's 100% non-enforceable because the state doesn't allow you to sign those rights away.

Re:spending that much money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40500327)

You're too optimistic. You don't belong here.

Re:spending that much money (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500943)

When you're 60+ years old and have tons of money, but not that much time left on the Earth

Here in the 21st century, if you live in the developed world and have that kind of money... you have plenty of time left on Earth. Heck, even without that kind of money the odds are you still have plenty of time left on Earth.
 
So this 'excuse' is bogus.

Re:spending that much money (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501257)

It depends on exactly how old you are, and what kind of genetics you have. If you're 70, even if you're super-rich, you likely only have about 15-20 years left at the most, and a lot of that is going to be just puttering around a golf course. You're not going to miss that much if you decide to risk that for a trip to the Moon and you don't succeed in returning.

Re:spending that much money (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40502169)

Yeah. After all, you won't miss your family, or your friends, or.. you're a clueless idiot.

Re:spending that much money (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40502375)

Yes, because mega-wealthy people like Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs are such selfless, caring, family-loving people who are more interested in being good grandfathers than doing whatever makes them happy, and if they were 75 wouldn't dare risk their lives and deprive their grandchildren of another 10 years of their warm presence.

You clueless idiot.

Re:spending that much money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40519111)

You have this backwards. Dead people can't miss live people. Being alive is a requirement for feelings such as missing. People might miss the deceased, but that stops being the deceased's problem once becoming deceased.

What if he was going to get or has already started showing signs of a disease such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's? What if he has pancreatic cancer?

Re:spending that much money (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40504051)

So, how low of an orbit would you have to be in to pop the hatch, jump towards the surface, and have your corpse end up on the moon?

I mean, yeah, you'd be dead, but you'd be a legend. Most epic suicide ever.

Re:spending that much money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40516033)

Any closed orbit around the moon will eventually decay and crash. If you're not actively maintaining your orbit with correction thrusts every so often, you'll be on the surface within months.

The reason for this is that the moon is a lot more solid than earth, and it has some fairly huge dense lumps in its interior that don't sink to the centre. It has a very lumpy gravity field that gives uneven acceleration over time to anything in orbit around it.

Re:spending that much money (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501929)

with absolutely no backup for rescue

That's space for you. There's very rarely another rocket on the pad ready to go in the next week or two. The ISS (and Mir before it) of course has a docked vehicle that can make a descent but any problems on the way up are potentially a one way trip.
On the other hand, the obvious scam is obvious. You can't make a rocket appear instantly by just adding money. It takes time to build those launchers even if you've got the distraction to the marks of the middle step already up there.

Interested in a lunar voyage? (2)

bdwoolman (561635) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500019)

No? Okay. I'm easy going. I take no for an answer. I understand.

Soooo, I have this great bridge [wikipedia.org] I want to sell you.

Re:Interested in a lunar voyage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40501291)

You Sir are a liar and a fraud.
The bridge is not yours to sell as I own the bridge, I have the title to the bridge, and I have authorized no one to sell the bridge.
Good day Sir!

But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40500105)

But Space Adventures have been offering this, at the same price point, for years ... and I don't believe there have been any takers yet.

What's the USP here that's going to create the market that SA couldn't?

Energy Economics? (2)

MLCT (1148749) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500215)

It would be interesting to recast the entire "space tourism" options in terms of energy costs.

I wonder just how much of the "costs" are associated with each element of a trip (not specifically the trip in TFA, which I haven't read). I would guess that energetically, getting out of the earth's gravity well is going to cost by far the most - beyond that (and presuming infrastructure is in place - a big presumption I know), energetically things become easier. I guess what I am musing on is whether space tourism might become something slightly feasible if there is a destination.

Beyond weightlessness and seeing the earth's curvature, super rich paying to go to the ISS has always seemed like a bit of a dead-end. The ISS isn't for tourists, and so you are left with a mental image of them floating about on a science base just throwing money about the place and everyone else going "who is the dick with the cash on-board?". Now if the destination was specifically a tourist moon base and you went there for a month then it might seem like it had some sort of point. Fixed costs to get that running would be crazy - but ongoing costs might be affordable (energy from PV, moon H2O providing water & oxygen - with full reclamation).

Wishful thinking that it would ever happen or that I would have enough money to do it if it did exist! But better to do that than what has been allowed to happen in society over the last 30 years of sitting about becoming a reductive species, more interested in silly gewgaws than true hope and progress.

While you're on that recycled ship... (1)

ItsJustAPseudonym (1259172) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500415)

...Eat recycled food! It's good for you, and it's good for the environment!

Hall Effect thrusters?? (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500445)

Hall effect thrusters are NOT high thrust devices. He's not talking three days to Luna, more like three MONTHS.

Each way.

Somehow, I'm not seeing this as terribly practical.

more likely impossible (1)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500573)

if that's the time frame. I'm pretty sure there is not enough space on those old capsules for the food, water and air needed for that length of time.

Re:more likely impossible (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501409)

Perhaps that's what the Salyut is for?

Re:Hall Effect thrusters?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40500769)

I guess they'll be wanting the money in advance?

Re:Hall Effect thrusters?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40501075)

I'm rather sure they are planning on making a cycler: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_cycler

Re:Hall Effect thrusters?? (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40502829)

As I noted below [slashdot.org] , hall effect thrusters are an odd choice for this kind of mission, but no, it wouldn't be months. They're talking about 100KW thrusters. Those would be able to get you there in days to weeks, not months. Still, I don't see the logic in them. You lose a lot of the thrusters' specific impulse efficiency by having to use a crap transfer trajectory.

The optimal transfer injection burn is a short, very strong impulse, not a long gentle one. A worst case (continuous burn all the way there, just changing the vector as you go) requires > 150% more delta-v (which comes out to more than 2.5 x the propellant - the extra weight holds you back at the worst time, when you're deep in Earth's gravity well) than the optimal case (a brief kick to get out of Earth orbit, and another brief kick when you arrive at the moon, or back at Earth if you take a free return trajectory). The reason is delta-v is much more efficient when applied at perigee than apogee - you spend much less time and energy fighting gravity.

Re:Hall Effect thrusters?? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40503623)

They're talking about 100KW thrusters. Those would be able to get you there in days to weeks, not months.

100 KW thruster, assuming pretty near 100% efficiency - about 25 pounds thrust.

Salyut-3 (chosen arbitrarily) - ~19000kg. Plus reaction mass, of course.

Acceleration, not counting reaction mass - ~0.00001g.

Time to escape speed (assuming escape speed actually works the same for low acceleration as it does for high acceleration - it doesn't) - ~55 days.

Note that the deltaV required for escape speed is ~1.4142 x orbital speed with a high thrust system, but ~2x orbital speed for an extremely low thrust system.

Which last suggests more than doubling the transit time.

Note that deceleration to lunar orbit was ignored. That will also add time.

And that was one-way. Double it for the round trip.

Note that reaction mass was ignored. Nominal reaction mass to reach escape speed three times (about what should be required for a round trip, including braking back into LEO with your Salyut) is about 80% of the dry mass of the Salyut. Which reduces acceleration to ~55% os assumed value, and increases travel time by ~1/3.

In other words, it will only take "days or weeks" if you count 150 as a reasonable number of days, or 20 as a reasonable number of weeks.

Note, by the way, that you could reduce your trip to a reasonable number of days with a 100 MW power plant, rather than a 100 KW power plant.

Re:Hall Effect thrusters?? (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40503713)

100 KW thruster, assuming pretty near 100% efficiency - about 25 pounds thrust.

Can you show your work on that? I did some questionable math and came up with ~5000N. Reading the hall effect thruster article [wikipedia.org] suggests 1.35kW produces 83 mN. That certainly sounds like you're much closer than I, but I'd just like to see how you got there. If it's true, you're right: that's a completely unreasonable for transfers, and would only be useful for minor corrections to existing trajectories.

Re:Hall Effect thrusters?? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40505699)

Can you show your work on that? I did some questionable math and came up with ~5000N.

Hmm, 16000 m/s exhaust speed assumed. Which is typical for Hall-effect thrusters.

So, m*v^2/2 = energy required.

m = 200,000 W/v^2 = 200,000W/256,000,000 m^2/s^2.

m = 0.0008 kg/s

thrust = exhaust speed * mass flow rate. 16000 * 1/1280 = 12.5 N. Hmm, left the decimal off the 2.5 pounds thrust, I see.

Pick a lower exhaust speed, get more mass flow rate for a given power input, of course. But to get 5000 N, you're talking 40 m/s exhaust speed.

Which is an Isp of about 4. Which would require about 5 x 10^347 kg of reaction mass to do a lunar flyby....

Face it, high thrust rockets of any kind use a LOT of power (in chemical rockets, the power is generated by burning the chemicals, every other kind you have to input the power yourself) - the SSME is in the range of 4.5 - 5 GW, for example - and masses only 3500 kg or so.

Compare that to your friendly neighborhood 1GW nuclear power plant sometime, which masses in the thousands of tons.

Re:Hall Effect thrusters?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40503071)

Not go mention That using low thrust high ISP motors as announced means that the tourists would be fried into crispy critters by the van Allen belts...

Milli Newtons to the Moon (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501107)

Hall effect thrusters have a good specific impulse and a great reliability record, but they have thrust in the milliNewton range, which means 6 months to a year or so to get to the Moon. Now, you could imagine putting a whole bunch of them together to get a higher thrust, but then, where is Excalibur going to get the 100 megawatts or so they would need for reasonable trip times?

Excalibur would be better off trying to get some of the flight qualified NERVA rockets refurbished, or do what Space Adventures [spaceadventures.com] plans, and fly a new Zond around the Moon.

Re:Milli Newtons to the Moon (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501455)

Excalibur would be better off trying to get some of the flight qualified NERVA rockets refurbished

Actually, that is exactly what Musk is pushing NASA to do. And NASA is wanting to do it.

Hall effect thrusters? (3, Informative)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501351)

For those unfamiliar with the tradeoffs: Hall effect thrusters make fairly efficient use of the reaction mass - about 2000s, compared to ~250 for solid rockets or ~300-400 for liquid rockets. That means a considerable increase in your delta-v - since you only need 10-20% as much reaction mass for the same impulse, you get 5-10x more delta-v. Great, right?

The trouble is that you need a power source. Liquid fuel rockets just burn the propellant. Hall effect thrusters (and other ion thrusters) need a power source in addition to the propellant.

This is a great tradeoff for stationkeeping on satellites - you only need tiny amounts of thrust, so you can easily generate enough power using solar cells or a RTG. Thus the very efficient use of reaction mass means a much longer useful life, or more useful payload in your satellite for a given launch mass, etc. It's just plain more efficient.

But this isn't like that. They seem to want to use them to perform the Hohmann tranfer [wikipedia.org] . That means having a very high thrust for a short duration - not just because you want to get there more quickly, but because it's much more efficient than a long continuous burn.

They're talking about 100KW. That seems low. Ballpark 5000 newtons of thrust... Compare to the Apollo command/service module at ~90,000 newtons. Thus they'll need a fairly long burn at that power. How the heck are they generate that kind of power for a long duration?

Honeymooners 2016 (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#40502133)

"To the moon, Alice!"

Alice: "Okay."

I know how much it'll cost and it's cheaper but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40502195)

The technology currently available can guarantee people a seat to the moon and back for less than $40k a piece assuming the cost of maintenance isn't substantial. The problem is setting up the initial system to get there and back for the cost. It would require new state of the art "origami" aircrafts that operate in various stages and can fly into space without spending so much on fuel. The rest is just a trajectory thing with minor adjustments along the way. The setup for these high-tech ships, space ports, and other things could cost tens of billion dollars. The tens of billions of dollars part is what kills the price for such a system. Not only that but insurance both for the passenger and the ship itself would be enormous. After all, Space is a harsh soulless bastard. A system as such could possibly be completed by 2020 IF at this very moment there were enough funding and investors ready to hire some incredible talent. The price by 2020 assuming it were to be completed would be roughly a few million per customer until they can start netting and even then they could use more investors to open it up to even more tourists at a lower cost. But this is in an ideal world where everything goes just as planned but we all know such a world isn't on Earth.

Isle of Man (1)

gremlinuk (454089) | more than 2 years ago | (#40502669)

Excalibur Almaz is NOT a UK company. It is an Isle of Man (or Manx) company. It's been said for a few years that the Isle of Man is the fifth most likely country to be next to put a man on the moon. I guess this project is part of that.

Tax Havens before USA/China/Russia? (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#40503235)

The reason the Isle of Man [wikipedia.org] is a hub for this kind of activity is because it's a a tax haven. It's not a continent sized country full of engineers, launch facilities and research universities: more like 200 square miles in total. So while it might be the fifth most likely country to put somebody on the moon, this is mostly because it's an attractive place to have your offices.

By this rationale, I guess Monaco, Liechtenstein, Andorra and the Seychelles are more likely to put a man on the moon than the USA, Russia, or China?

Good luck on them and it would be quite fun if the Manx flag did fly on the moon soon, but as far as I can work out their space facilities comprise of one former RAF aircraft hanger [wikipedia.org] . This is not to dismiss they might have several billion dollars salted away in the local offshore banks to spend on Russian hardware and engineering expertise....

Re:Tax Havens before USA/China/Russia? (1)

gremlinuk (454089) | more than 2 years ago | (#40503479)

Ah, the old 'tax haven' meme. The Isle of Man may have a lower tax regime than your locality, but according to the OECD (amongst others) it actually it is one of the most well regulated financial jurisdictions in the world, and it has tax transparency agreements with virtually all the mainstream (and a lot of less mainstream) countries too. And certainly better than that dirty little secret : the 'corporate and tax haven' that is Delaware. (Have you any idea just how easy it is to create a blind trust in Delaware, or any other type of misty corporate structure?)

The US, UK and most other large nations should look very carefully into their own tax regimes before criticising the openess and transparency of the Isle of Man.

(obviously, I live on the IOM, otherwise I a) wouldn't be so annoyed about the 'tax haven' meme, and b) would be barely aware that the place exists!)

Also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-7n1DcFBOE [youtube.com] - the Colbert report on the day when it was revealed that the IOM has a better international credit rating than the USA!

Re:Tax Havens before USA/China/Russia? (1)

cffrost (885375) | about 2 years ago | (#40509111)

[...] it would be quite fun if the Manx flag did fly on the moon [...]

Is that some kind of running joke?

In 1969 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40502737)

In 1969 Thomas-cook took bookings for moon-trips. I wonder if they quoted a trip fare plus annual inflation.

Legit Hardware (1)

J05H (5625) | more than 2 years ago | (#40503137)

Amazing fact: in a world of vapor projects Excalibur-Almaz is one of the few new-space companies with flight proven hardware. The VA capsules and TKS modules are heritage Soviet equipment with upgrades. This is some of the finest spacecraft designed by one of the greats of the early space age.

Hopefully they actually get to (lunar) orbit with paying customers. Also, 15X reusability plus integration on Falcon has strong cost implications after first flight.

Re:Legit Hardware (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40505433)

Is just a expensive scam. See the comments above.
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