Space Ventures, a private company not associated with NASA, has announced that it plans to take tourists for trips around the moon. They have already sent two people into orbits lasting from 10 to 21 days, using Russian equipment. Some trips will include stops at the International Space Station (ISS). A roundtrip ticket, from Earth to the Moon, will cost $100 million.
While this may seem like an extremely expensive ticket, the company is actually trying to keep expenses down. The main way they're doing this is by not actually landing on the moon, but only circling it, then returning to Earth. They plan to start taking tourists into space in 2008.
Are there any potential customers for this kind of adventure? Space Ventures has done a study that shows that there are only between 500 and 1,000 people in the world who can afford to do this. Two people have already paid the company $20 million each for a shorter trip.
Investor Dennis Tito, who became the first space tourist in 2001, says he doesn't plan to take another trip into space, because at 65, he feels he's now too old. Before becoming a financier, Tito had worked for NASA. CEO Greg Olsen is planning to visit the ISS on a Space Ventures tour in October. NASA's Christopher Kraft says that the small Soyuz space craft which Space Ventures will be using is extremely cramped and will create an unpleasant trip. But he notes that the Gemini capsule in which US astronauts James Lovell and Frank Borman orbited the Earth for 14 days in 1965 was even smaller.
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