British firm offers expeditions to the moon

 

A British company is offering seats to adventurers willing to go the extra mile on a historic journey to the moon.

The first 500,000-mile round trip in a converted Soviet-era space station could take place as early as 2015.

Art Dula, founder and chief executive of Isle of Man-based Excalibur Almaz, told a space tourism meeting in London: "We're ready to sell the tickets."

Only those with the "right stuff" should apply: besides the necessary level of physical and mental fitness, that includes a likely fare of around £100 million per person.

US space entrepreneur Mr Dula has acquired two Soviet "Almaz" space stations, designed for orbital spying operations.

Thrusters attached to the stations will convert them to long-distance spaceships.

Four re-entry capsules, or re-usable return vehicles (RRVs), will ferry three people at a time to the orbiting space station and return them to earth.

All the space vehicles - the cost of which is confidential - are housed in hangers on the Isle of Man. One of the RRVs is currently being exhibited outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster, London.

If the bold plan succeeds, a private British space company will carry out the first manned moon mission since Apollo 17 in 1972.

The aim is for three people to fly to the moon, orbit the lunar surface and return safely to earth, parachuting to the ground in an RRV. Much of the actual flying will be computer-controlled and all necessary training, including the human skills needed to pilot the spacecraft, is provided in the package.

Speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Mr Dula outlined his company's ambitious plan.

Marketing studies suggested, at a "conservative estimate", that around 30 moon-mission seats could be taken up between 2015 and 2025: enough for one mission a year.

The RRVs can be used 15 times and each space station has a service life of 15 years.

Mr Dula stressed that the moon mission goes far beyond "space tourism" of the kind offered by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. The trip would be a "private expedition" rather than a sightseeing tour.

"Excalibur Almaz is willing and able to send crewed missions deeper into space than would be possible aboard any other spacecraft in existence today," said Mr Dula.

"Our fleet of space stations and re-entry capsules enables us to safely fly members of the public to moon orbit as early as 2015.

"There is not a single other vessel, owned by a government or the private sector, that is suitable for a manned flight to lunar orbit, utilising proven technologies.

"The EA fleet has previously flown to space several times and will undertake many more missions. It contains vessels of a design that has spent thousands of hours in space successfully. This is scientific fact, not fiction."

A giant Russian Proton rocket, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will put the 30-tonne space station into orbit. One of the two Salyut-class space stations will be kept in reserve on the ground.

Smaller Soyuz FG launch vehicles will lift the shuttle capsules.

The station has 90 cubic metres of living space and provides a protected "refuge" where crew members can shelter in the event of a solar radiation storm.

Although the programme involves US personnel and Soviet technology, Mr Dula sees it very much as a British enterprise.

He says he chose the Isle of Man not only to take advantage of its tax benefits but because it is a hub of space industry. Of the 54 international space satellite companies, 30 are based on the island.

"Let's talk about being a space-faring society like we were a sea-faring society. It's exactly in the same vein as the historic exploration that was done by Europe and the British Isles over the last several centuries that resulted in so much growth," Mr Dula told the meeting.

He has even more far-reaching plans to develop an entire private space programme serving governments, companies and members of the public.

As well as expeditions to the moon, he envisages unmanned research missions, transportation of people and cargo, and chartered space exploration flights.

"We've already had billionaires who have said they will mine the asteroids," he said. "This is a paradigm shift ... whether we do it or somebody else does it, it's never going to go back to being national space programmes."

PA

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Supply Teachers Required

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of Pay, Excellent CPD : Randstad Educati...

NQT and Experienced Primary Teachers Urgently required

£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: NQT and Experienced Primary Teac...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor