It’s been one of the most intriguing on-the-books-but-never-executed space missions of the 21st century: two tourists paying $150 million each would fly around the moon in a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft before landing back on Earth. It would be humanity’s first trip to the moon since Apollo 17, which landed there 45 years ago this month.
Space Adventures said it had signed two wealthy tourists to go years ago. There was much speculation about the identities of these individuals. Was it Google Founder Sergey Brin? Titanic director James Cameron? Brin and Cameron? Cameron and a seat full of camera equipment?
The answer is none of the above. One prospective lunar tourist is someone few people have ever heard of. The other is a well known figure in the space community who was hiding in plain sight. The reason they didn’t fly to the moon together might surprise you.
While Russia retired its Soyuz-U rocket with one final flight on Wednesday after 44 years and 787 launches, a couple of other programs — Sea Launch and tourists trips around the moon — have resurfaced.
NASA’s new publication, “Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit,” consists of a series of papers that examines a number of important policy questions that will be of rising importance as NASA transitions human spaceflight in LEO to the private sector.
One of the papers, “Venture Capital Activity in the Low-Earth Orbit Sector,” has detailed information on what U.S. venture capitalists have invested in. Key excerpts from the paper follow. (more…)
Zero-G Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE 727 made an emergency landing on Thursday at Vero Beach Regional Aircraft in Florida after the pilots reported engine trouble.
The crew reported a possible engine fire. There were three people on board the aircraft when it landed safely.
Zero G, which is owned by Virgina-based Space Adventures, uses the aircraft to fly weightless parabolic arcs.
The aircraft recently returned to service after a nearly 18-month stand down. The aircraft’s original engines were repossessed by the company that leased them. The 727 also had to go through FAA certification due to changes made in the aircraft.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (CSF PR) — The Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomed several new member companies at its Executive Board meeting this week, expanding its membership to more than 60 companies.
Spaceport Camden of Camden County, Georgia joined CSF as an Executive Member. Steve Howard, Spaceport Camden project leader, will represent his organization on the CSF Board of Directors. “CSF’s mission strategically aligns with Camden’s goals, and we are pleased to join other industry leaders as part of this organization,” Howard said.
VIENNA, Va. (Space Adventures PR) — Today, Space Adventures, Ltd., the only company that provides human space missions to the world marketplace, announced that Satoshi Takamatsu will begin training as an International Space Station (ISS) crew member candidate for a flight on a Soyuz TMA spacecraft. After successful completion of the program, Takamatsu will be certified as a ‘fully-trained spaceflight participant cosmonaut’ and will be the first Japanese private astronaut qualified to visit the ISS.
An update on singer Sarah Brightman’s space tourism trip to the International Space Station (ISS) next year:
British famed soprano singer Sarah Brightman would begin pre-flight trainings for her journey to the International Space Station (ISS) as a space tourist early next year, instead of this autumn, Yuri Lonchakov, the head of the Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, said on Wednesday.
“She will begin trainings in the Star City in January of 2015 and therefore we are all waiting for her,” Lonchakov said adding that he believed “her training will be a success.”
Less than three months ago Lonchakov said that the famous singer had already passed a number of medical examination and tests and was ready to begin preparations for the trip to the ISS at the Star City space training facility in the Moscow Region in September or October.
Lonchakov’s earlier statement that Brightman could start her trainings this autumn was also confirmed in June by the president of the US-based company in charge of organizing her trip.
Roscosmos is not amused by a plan by RSC Energia and Space Adventures to spent two tourists on a trip around the moon in a modified Soyuz spacecraft:
Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, will not be involved in a plan to send two space tourists on a flight around the Moon and was not consulted about the project, the federal space agency said.
The mission, hatched by U.S.-based space tourism firm Space Adventures and a major Russian spacecraft manufacturer, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, would see two space tourists travel to the Moon aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft by 2017. However, Roscosmos was kept out of the loop on the plan.
The organizers “could have consulted with us before making such loud announcements,” said Denis Lyskov, Roscosmos’s deputy chief in charge of piloted flights, Izvestia reported Monday.
“We are not participating in the moon project, we are not planning to modernize the Soyuz,” Lyskov was quoted as saying.
Despite the government owning a 38-percent stake in Energia, the company has a history of asserting its independence from the space agency, which purchases its hardware from the company for use in the government’s space agenda.
The fate of the flight could hinge on how long Energia remains an independent company. Igor Komarov, who heads up the newly created United Rocket and Space Company (URSC), has said the government plans to obtain a 51 percent share in Energia. The state-owned USRC is consolidating much of the Russian space industry under its control.
It’s not clear when the Russian government will obtain a majority share of Energia. It’s also uncertain whether Energia would continue to honor any commitments it made to Space Adventures prior to such a move.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin could be the next space tourist to journey to the International Space Station.
Space Adventures President Tom Shelley told Reuters that Brin, whose net worth is $30.2 billion, has put down a deposit on a seat aboard a future Soyuz flight to the orbiting laboratory.
“He paid us a deposit and whenever we have a seat available, he has the right of first refusal,” Shelley said.
Shelley said the company could have an open seat in 2017.
Brin and co-founder Larry Page have a deep interest in space. Their company has sponsored the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize for the first private company to land a rover on the surface of the moon. This week, Google announced the purchase of Skybox Imaging, which provides images of the Earth from space. The company also is reportedly developing a satellite network to provide high-speed broadband services on a global basis.
Before Brin flies, British soprano Sarah Brightman, will pay $52 million for a 10-day trip to the space station in September 2015. She will be the ninth person to visit ISS as a tourist since Space Adventures sent Dennis Tito there in 2002. Brightman plans to sing during her orbital trip.
Brightman is in a race with Lady Gaga to be the first professional singer to perform in space. For more on that story, click here.
In this corner, British soprano Sarah Brightman, who is paying $52 million to fly to the International Space Station in September 2015.
And in the other corner, the always interesting and frequently controversial Lady Gaga, scheduled to blast into space aboard Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo as part of the Zero G Colony music festival in early 2015.
Wait? What? How could Brightman get there first if Gaga is flying earlier?
Michael Belfiore has a piece in the MIT Technology Review about a May 1 event at the Explorers Club in New York where 13 commercial space companies showed off their plans. Several key players had updated schedules which anyone paying the slightest bit of attention will know to take with 1.7 metric tons of salt:
Virgin Galactic’s head of Astronaut Relations Lauren De Niro Pipher predicted that Richard Branson and his children would fly to space aboard SpaceShipTwo in November or December. Note, this was prior to the announcement of a change in the ship’s engine, which officials insist won’t have a major impact on the schedule.
XCOR hopes to fly the Lynx Mark I before the end of the year. The ship is now being assembled in Mojave, Calif.
Blue Origin said it would begin test flights of its first full-scale spacecraft within a year.
Space Adventures says it has signed up two unidentified customers willing to spend $150 million to fly a modified Soyuz spacecraft around the moon. The flight is set to launch in 2017 or 2018.
Penn State Lunar Lion plans to send a coffee-table sized spacecraft to land on the moon in an effort to win the Google Lunar X Prize.
Planetary Resources discussed plans to launch its first Arkyd spacecraft from the International Space Station by the end of this year.
World View Enterprises said the company would launch a small test vehicle of its high-altitude manned capsule in about a month, which would be right about now.
As part of its gathering of future spaceflight participants in Mojave on Sept. 25, Virgin Galactic also scheduled a series of space-related events and activities throughout the week for those coming in from the four corners of the globe. These included an after party at the Endeavour exhibit in Los Angeles, centrifuge training at NASTAR in Pennsylvania, tours of the Mount Wilson Observatory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and microgravity parabolic rides aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE (above).
A press release from ZERO-G follows after the break.