Fly Me to the Moon (for $150 Million)
Earthrise as seen by the Apollo astronauts may soon be seen by fee-paying moon tourists.
42 years after the first moon rover transported the Apollo 15 astronauts over the lunar terrain, here are a selection of NASA photos taken by Apollo 15 commander David Scott and Lunar Module pilot James Irwin during their wheeled 1971 lunar adventure while Alfred Worden, command module pilot, remained in orbit about the moon.
Shown here, after three highly successful EVAs, Scott walks away from the first ever Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), a location where it remains to this day.
(All photos are sourced from NASA's excellent Human Spaceflight Gallery: http://spaceflight1.nasa.gov/gallery/index.html)
An artist's concept of the Apollo 15 Hadley-Apennine landing area showing the two moon-exploring crewmen, Scott and Irwin, driving on the lunar rover.
The lunar rover was attached to the lunar module and lowered to the surface and unfolded by the Apollo surface crew. When packed, the rover took up a volume of only four cubic feet.
Scott and Irwin drive the Lunar Roving Vehicle trainer called "Grover" during a simulation of lunar surface extravehicular activity in Taos, New Mexico.
Scott (right) and Irwin test out the lunar rover before the Apollo 15 mission to the moon at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla., in May 1971.
Gover is driven up to the edge of a man-made crater in Cinder Lake crater field in Arizona to simulate the lunar landscape.
On July 31, 1971, the first lunar rover is unpacked during the first surface extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Hadley-Apennine landing site on the moon. The lunar module, "Falcon," is shown here with the rover and lunar module pilot James Irwin.
The US flag is unfolded and planted toward the end of the Apollo 15 mission; Irwin salutes.
The rover was an invaluable workhorse during the Apollo 15 mission, boosting the scope of how much of the lunar landscape around the Hadley-Apennine landing site the astronauts could explore.
Irwin stops the lunar rover from sliding downhill during the second Apollo 15 lunar EVA. Both of the rover's rear wheels appear to be off the ground. Scott was working on a fresh crater at the Apennine Front (Hadley Delta Mountain) when the vehicle started to slide down the 20 degree slope. Fortunately, the rover was stopped and the astronauts were able to continue their work.
Two people with money to burn have put down deposits for the ultimate getaway -- a trip around the moon, the president of the space tourism firm that booked the trips said this week.
Tickets to ride cost $150 million apiece which, in comparison to NASA’s multibillion-dollar Apollo moon program and the cost of flying in space in general, “is actually very affordable,” Space Adventures president Tom Shelley told the National Space Club Florida Committee during luncheon panel on space tourism.
When laughter filled the room, Shelley added, “Well, it’s good value. Let’s put it that way.”
So far only 18 people -- all Americans, all men and all U.S. Apollo astronauts -- have orbited the moon, including the 12 who landed on the lunar surface as part of six missions that took place between July 1969 and December 1972.
The trip Space Adventures is selling features a slingshot ride around the moon and a return to Earth aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft, piloted by a professional Russian cosmonaut.
The two customers who already have booked flights may ride together on mission or be on separate excursions, the first of which could occur as early as 2017, Shelley said.
“Over the course of the next three years, we will evaluate whether those two customers will be on the first mission or if they will decide to go on the first and the second and we’ll get some other customers to go on as well,” Shelley told Discovery News.
“We’re talking to the Russians about a series of missions, not just a one-off,” he added.
The trips could include a short stopover at the International Space Station, a research laboratory operated by 15 nations that flies about 260 miles above Earth. Space Adventures arranges for well-heeled space aficionados to fly there too.
Beginning with California businessman Dennis Tito’s trip in 2001, the company has arranged eight privately funded trips to the station, including two visits by Microsoft co-founder Charles Simonyi. British singer Sarah Brightman is due to fly next year, possibly followed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin in 2017, Shelley said.
The 10-day trips to the space station currently cost about $52 million.
Soyuz capsules traveling to the moon will be outfitted with beefier heat shields to compensate for the faster re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. They also will have different navigation equipment and communications systems designed to work beyond low-Earth orbit.
The biggest change, however, will be the addition of a habitation module and propulsion system that will be launched separately from the Soyuz spacecraft and attached to the capsule in Earth orbit.
“We’re basically taking the same Soyuz that flies to the space station, making a few modifications to allow it to go around to the far side of the moon and having the extra habitation module to make it more comfortable for the passengers,” Shelley said.
Including a stop at the space station, the trip to the moon will take 16- to 17 days; flying directly to the moon, about half that time. Before any people fly aboard a lunar-bound Soyuz, Russia plans an unmanned test flight, Shelley added.