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Old 06-29-2007, 03:55 AM   #1
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Flight of Fancy

A Space Adventures team has blueprinted a circumlunar mission using a unique blend of existing and flight-tested Russian technology. At the heart of the lunar leap is Russia's venerable Soyuz spacecraft. A pilot and two passengers would depart Earth in their Soyuz, linking up in orbit with an unpiloted kick stage for a boost outward to the Moon.

"The Soyuz was originally designed as a circumlunar spacecraft. It hasn't flown with people around the Moon, of course. But the Soyuz would fly a free-return trajectory - a boomerang course - around the Moon. So there's not a lot that needs to be done to the Soyuz to accommodate for that...it could probably fly around the Moon right now," Anderson told SPACE.com. "There will be some upgrades to the communications systems...and we would make the window bigger too."

Anderson said that the Soyuz pilot and two passengers would not go into lunar orbit. "That comes later," he added, as a follow-on public space travel trek.

A practice run of mission hardware in unpiloted mode is likely, Anderson continued, "so we would test it all out, even though we think we could do it [the expedition] without a test flight."

The two-passenger, $100 million per couch flight adds up to a $200 million mission.

"I personally think that it's the biggest thing in private spaceflight. It would change the way the whole world thinks about private spaceflight. It is definitely doable for under the $200 million price tag," Anderson explained, thereby signaling a radical reduction in cost of any past piloted lunar flight.

The shift towards billionaires being able to buy a ticket to space is great, maybe one day the price point can tip down a bit.
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