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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project