August 12, 2005 Space Adventures has announced the availability of a commercial spaceflight to the far side of the moon. Space Adventures has previously organized spaceflights for the world's first private space explorers, American businessman Dennis Tito and the ‘First African in Space’ Mark Shuttleworth, disclosed the details of the mission, called DSE-Alpha, during a press conference. DSE-Alpha, the first in a series of lunar missions to be featured in Space Adventures' Deep Space Expeditions (DSE) program, is made possible through the company's long-standing partnership with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (FSA) and the Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia). The mission will be aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, piloted by a Russian cosmonaut, and could launch as early as 2008. Two commercial seats are available priced at US$100,000,000 (USD) each. Before the mission is flown, the required research and development, spacecraft modifications, as well as, the required manned and unmanned test flights will have been completed.
“Space Adventures has the exclusive rights to market and sell the DSE-Alpha mission. We have identified over a thousand people around the world who have the financial resources to participate in an expedition to the moon, but the question remains, who among this group has the sense of exploration and adventure to undertake such a historic mission?,” said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures. “We have recently spoken with a few of these prospective clients and they are interested and eager to learn more. With this level of interest and enthusiasm, I have no doubt that we'll launch DSE-Alpha by 2010.”
Earlier this year, and in coordination with FSA, Space Adventures commissioned RSC Energia to study the feasibility of a Soyuz manned mission to the moon. RSC Energia proposed two technically viable options. The first is a mission to the moon via a direct rendezvous and docking in low-Earth-orbit with an upper-stage booster and the second option would involve a multi-day visit to the International Space Station (ISS) followed by the upper-stage docking. The Direct-staged mission duration would range from eight to nine days and the ISS-staged mission duration would range from nine to 21 days.
“The long-standing reliability of the Soyuz is a testament to its continued evolution and modernization which spans back to the first decade of manned spaceflight. Knowing that the Soyuz was originally developed with manned lunar missions in mind, we were optimistic that our studies would conclude positive results on the vehicle's feasibility to go to the moon,” said Anatoly Perminov, chief of the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation. “The required spacecraft modifications to be made are well-understood and can be implemented. This commercially funded mission is considered a valuable supplement to the agency's overall goals for the manned spaceflight program.”
Future DSE missions plan to include lunar-orbit and lunar-surface missions. “Space Adventures continues to build upon existing technology and infrastructure to provide spaceflight opportunities to private citizens,” adds Mr. Anderson. “DSE-Alpha's follow-on missions will lead to an eventual moon landing.”
“We've never been better prepared to take on a mission to the moon. With Space Adventures' as our exclusive marketing partner, we are confident that we can implement this program on schedule,” stated Nikolai Sevastyanov, president and designer general, Rocket and Space Corporation Energia.
Currently, Gregory Olsen, Ph.D., of New Jersey, is finishing his spaceflight preparations at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center for a 10-day visit to the ISS. His launch date is scheduled for October 1, 2005.
Space Adventures, the only company to have successfully launched private space explorers to the International Space Station, is headquartered in Arlington, Va. with offices in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Moscow and Tokyo. It offers a variety of programs such as Zero-Gravity and MiG flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight qualification programs and reservations on future suborbital spacecrafts. The company's advisory board comprises Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, shuttle astronauts Kathy Thornton, Robert (Hoot) Gibson, Charles Walker, Norm Thagard, Sam Durrance, Byron Lichtenberg, Pierre Thuot and Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott.