Progress and Soyuz configurations, courtesy of ESA. (Click to enlarge).
Fly me to the moon...
Posted: Aug 18, 2005 10:45 pm EDT
Well guys, looks that we are not going anywhere anytime soon, unless we do some creative thinking. China has announced plans for an un-manned mission to the moon by 2007, but no Taikonaut there until earliest 2017. NASA will not launch another space shuttle until March 4, 2006, at the earliest.
Things are looking up in the private space business, if you can afford it: Over in Japan, Space Adventures are busy as ever, now offering space station trips to Japanese tourists, including a 3-day trip around the moon, perhaps already in 2008. The cost is $100 million each, in a private 3-seat Soyuz, piloted by a Cosmonaut. The trip will take 10-21 days, depending if you want a stop-over in the Space Station.
Who will afford it? 500 to 1,000 people in the world, according to Eric: "It's the same number of people who could afford to buy a $100 million yacht," Anderson told NYT.
The Soyuz flies to the Space Station regularly, and came into focus just recently when Discovery experienced problems on the latest flight. A senior Russian space official proposed to quickly build 3 Soyuz spacecraft to evacuate the shuttle's crew. Building 3 rockets would take around 6 months, and cost 20 million a piece. If you do the math, you might discover that it could prove an interesting idea to commission your own rocket to the Russians.
Can't afford even a meager 20 million? Here is your chance: Find one of those 1000 superyacht owners; charge him 90 million, wrap it up with the ruskies and hitch a free ride on the vacant seat! There might even be a summit bonus in it for your trouble. Unfortunately, the Soyuz is not reusable, but will look very cool in your new 10 million backyard after the flight.
The window of opportunity is closing for many of the nations astronauts who havent gotten a chance to go to space. With NASA set to phase out the shuttle program in five years, the 46 astronauts who havent been to space are running out of chances.
As astronaut George Zamka explains, [The astronauts] knew very well that they arrived at the sunset of the shuttle and the dawn of the new vehicle and they may be exposed to the gap in between the two. Zamka has been an astronaut for almost seven years, and has yet gotten an opportunity to experience space travel.
For now, the space-less astronauts will have to content themselves with shuttle improvements, preparations, and other non-flight duties, and crossing their fingers in hope to get on one of the remaining shuttle flights. Or do what everyone else is doing - bring their own!
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