Firm 'to offer expeditions to 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 reusable 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.