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Moon Science

RKK Energia Confirms Private Trip To the Moon 92

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the where-can-i-sign-up dept.
Teancum writes "RKK Energia, the prime contractor for the Russian space program and the company who builds the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, recently confirmed negotiations are underway with space tourism company Space Adventures for a privately financed crewed flight around the Moon. While the offer and purchase of at least one seat has been discussed earlier, this is the first time Energia has confirmed the negotiations and has gone into at least some details in terms of what they are expecting to have happen with this flight and the approximate timeframe for when this flight would take place: sometime in 2016 or 2017."
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RKK Energia Confirms Private Trip To the Moon

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 19, 2011 @07:09AM (#37140470)

    In Soviet Russia, rocket launches YOU!

  • by Ogi_UnixNut (916982) on Friday August 19, 2011 @07:11AM (#37140482) Homepage

    I am sometimes totally amazed at how much money an individual can have. I can't fathom 150 million USD, let alone be able to pay that much on a tourist trip (no matter how awesome this is). Whoever the two individuals are, they are some lucky b******s!

    If this works out, I can hope that the price will go down in time so I can make this trip one day :)

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday August 19, 2011 @07:15AM (#37140532) Journal
      Just wait until you hear what the ticket back from inevitable(if undoubtedly historic) death on the hostile airless rock costs... That is where they really get you.
      • That's a big trip and I don't think I'd be the first one in quite a while to make it. There's too many opportunities for a calculation to be slightly off then BOOM we're going down. Yeah I'll wait till they have sent a bunch of people around before my trip.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        In that vein, has any human met an extraterrestrial death yet? A number of people have snuffed it on the pad, or on the way up; but the only fatality I can think of that occurred even in earth orbit was that of everybody's favorite adorable cosmonaut [wikimedia.org]...

        It isn't, er, high on my aspirations list; but "First human to die on the moon" would beat the fuck out of "Nth human to die in hospital/nursing home".(Particularly if I had time to situate myself so that my horrifying dessicated husk would be artfully pos
        • by S.O.B. (136083)

          The only humans deaths in orbit were the crew of Soyuz 11 [wikipedia.org] who died when their capsule decompressed after it separated from Salyut 1.

    • If this works out, I can hope that the price will go down in time so I can make this trip one day :)

      You should read "The Rocket", a short story by Ray Bradbury. It's about the same thing!

    • I'm sure that there has to be a lot of very exploitable mineral wealth on the moon. Not the least of which is water, and the ability to grow low gravity crops. Our gravity well is very expensive to climb. Lunar launches could be made using nuclear engines. Space tourism begins with a service plaza on the moon.
      • by bberens (965711)
        The energy costs alone make it unfeasible to meaningfully mine minerals or grow crops on another planet/moon and ship it back to the Earth. Energy would have to become practically free for it to be worthwhile and I honestly don't ever see that happening.
        • by EdZ (755139)
          Entirely dependant on the material. On the Moon, a ground-based slingshot launcher can feasibly get you out of the gravity well, whereas on earth you need to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps using chemical rockets.
          Plus, you have the advantage of megatons of metals lying about, large flat areas for placing solar panels, and metres (or kilometres) of natural radiation shielding. The Moon is the natural shipyard for Earth-orbit and beyond.
          • by bberens (965711)
            Except a falling rock the size of a meaningful mining project would destroy a city.
        • by Ost99 (101831)

          The energy cost of going from the Earth to the Moon is enormous, going the other way is much cheaper.
          Current railgun technology would be capable of launching objects from the Moon to the Earth at ridiculous low cost (solar powered ~3kWh /kg).
          A solar farm of 1 square km should be sufficient to launch 1000 metric tons of material from the Moon each day.

          • by sznupi (719324)
            So why aren't we doing the very same thing with "current technology" in the Sahara? (kinda more current actually - say, just storing the collected energy in chemical propellants; also powering production line of launchers and its supply chain) Even at an order of magnitude (or two, or three, or four, or five, or six) lesser output of launched mass per km^2, it would be a bargain.
            Yet the Sahara, despite being insanely more welcoming for infrastructure than the Moon, is not an industrial powerhouse of the p
    • Same here.

      Actually, the way my life is, i'm having trouble even seeing myself driving a car worth more then 50k. That's not to say i'm poor, but after buying a house and having a family, those kind of things suddenly seem pipe-dreams. Never mind milions for a space-trip.

    • I truly believe that our sons or grandsons will get to complain how crowded the lunar bus was, how stinky the people were, or how is it possible to take so much time to get to a natural satelite. But I'm an optimist.
    • by sznupi (719324)

      I can hope that the price will go down in time so I can make this trip one day :)

      While hoping, better don't aim the chances of that happening anywhere above negligible to minuscule ...physics, rocket equation, is a bitch.

      Dreams of "big and glorious" space travel popularised by works of fiction (often a sort of scifi cargo cultism, and contrary to many core things we've learned about our world; they are a tool not of space travel, but of storytelling ...if anything trying hard to not make the depicted world too different from earthly experiences, too uncomfortable and unpalatable for

  • by master_p (608214) on Friday August 19, 2011 @07:21AM (#37140590)

    Please, when you go around the moon, take some time to get some good photos of the Apollo missions remains. When I say "good photos", I mean photos that show stuff almost as good as they are shown on NASA's videos from the moon.

    It would shut the Apollo conspiracy advocators up for good, and close this silly subject.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday August 19, 2011 @07:30AM (#37140672) Homepage Journal

      Please, when you go around the moon, take some time to get some good photos of the Apollo missions remains.

      I want photos of the military bases on the dark side.

      The alien ones.

      It would shut the Apollo conspiracy advocators up for good, and close this silly subject.

      I don't think you quite understand how conspiracy theories work.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "I don't think you quite understand how conspiracy theories work."

        Exactly! Because any evidence disproving the conspiracy theories MUST be part of the conspiracy. Besides everyone knows that that the dark side of the moon is really Elvis' retirement home. :)

        • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

          > "I don't think you quite understand how conspiracy theories work."

          > Exactly! Because any evidence disproving the conspiracy theories
          > MUST be part of the conspiracy. Besides everyone knows that that
          > the dark side of the moon is really Elvis' retirement home. :)

          This is exactly how the global warming and October surprise conspiracy
          theories work too, except for the Elvis part.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        You fool! Do you want to scare the aliens off and lose all the potential knowledge of their anal probe research?

      • I want photos of the military bases on the dark side.

        The alien ones.

        Dont you mean the nazi moonbase?

        http://www.ironsky.net/ [ironsky.net]

    • There is no way that would change anything. If the overwhelming evidence that already exists isn’t enough then nothing can convince you.

      Once you buy into the conspiracy nothing can get you out of it. Evidence that is shown is part of the cover up and a lack of disconfirming proof is just evidence there is a cover up in place.

      Air tight logic!

    • NO NO NO.
      I want the LONG FORM photos of the Apollo missions remains.

    • by caturday (1197847)
      Oh come on. You know better than that. Then it'd be "But NASA *paid* you to claim that these were your photos.

      Hell, even if they went themselves, they'd claim that it was mirrors dropped by previous unmanned trips. Or swamp gas. Or they never left Earth at all and were in some kind of simulator. Though I suppose there's an easy way to fix that last one: offer to open the airlock.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You have got it backwards. If they produce such pictures it will all be part of the conspiracy. However if they say they looked for what the Apollo missions left behind and didn't find it, then that would be taken to prove the conspiracy theories. But at that point they would accidentally have accepted that mankind had been to the moon.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      That would prove nothing except that they'd paid off the Russians to take pictures of the secret NASA sound stage and pawn them off as coming from the moon.

      The Apollo conspiracy theorists don't even acknowledge the pictures of the stuff the various Apollo crews left on the moon taken by just about everyone with the necessary equipment here on Earth, so what makes you think they'd believe these?

      • The Apollo conspiracy theorists don't even acknowledge the pictures of the stuff the various Apollo crews left on the moon taken by just about everyone with the necessary equipment here on Earth

        Correct me if I'm wrong - but wouldn't they have good reason to be skeptical of such claims?

        I don't remember any photos of the moon landing site as taken from Earth. In fact, it was my understanding that resolving power of just about any optical system in existence on Earth is inadequate?

        I know photos were taken fro

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        I should hope so. You can't resolve anything the Apollo astronauts left on the moon with any existing telescope on the planet.

    • by Psycizo (776693)
      Wasn't that what the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter [nasa.gov] was for? To debunk the conspiracy theories? Couldn't have been anything else.
    • Actually, the LRO is currently taking some photos of the Apollo landing sites. From the LRO's Twitter feed on August 10th:

      "Today I will begin dipping down from my usual ~50 km orbit to an orbit that will allow me to image the Apollo sites from about 20 km away!"

      "Once I reach my new temporary orbit, I'll take images of and around the Apollo sites between August 14 and 19."

      "After that, I'll return to my 50-km-orbit until December."

      Of course, the conspiracy theorists won't be satisfied. They'll claim the ima

    • No it wouldn't.
    • It would shut the Apollo conspiracy advocators up for good, and close this silly subject.

      You are far too optimistic. The conspiracy theorists would promptly come up with convincing reasons (well, convincing to them, anyways) as to why the RKK Energia flight was *also* fake, and the photos are obvious fakes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 19, 2011 @07:42AM (#37140808)

    This won't be easy. The big russian rocket, the Proton has way too toxic fluoric propellant to be allowed for man-rated flight. The smaller Soyuz (the R7 family) is too weak to do the lifting as a single launch. There will be two or three near-simultaneous launches, maybe 1 unmanned Proton and 1 manned Soyuz, or 2 unmanned Soyuz (Zond) and 1 manned Soyuz to bring all the hardware to LEO, where there will be a need for spacewalks to assemble the big round-the-Moon rocket.

    That project will be about as complicated and reliable as the 1979 US mission to save hostages from Iran. Over-complicated plans have a high chance of failure. Maybe it would be simpler to adopt the large, but less toxic Ariane-5 missile for manned launch and that could possible do the whole Moon round-trip in one launch.

    • I ask purely out of curiosity: Given that manned rocketry basically consists of getting the engineers to keep hammering away at the problem until "Place self on top of giant cylinder of extraordinarily volatile propellant. Ignite." goes from being sheer insanity to being merely risky, why would the fact that the propellant is toxic, as well as highly volatile, be an obstacle to using it to lift humans?

      Fluorine compounds are certainly a pretty horrid lot; but if propellant is making its way into the paylo
      • that's what i was thinking, if any bit of the rocket propellent is making it ways into the payload enough to poison the kosmonauts, then the vacuum you are launching into might prove problematic as well.

        Ariane 5 has a similar LEO mass to proton, both of which are only a sixth(!) of the LEO payload capacity of a saturn V. A single shot moon mission using a soyuz like capsule and a proton/ariane launcher is pretty much limited to only a flyby, if it is possible in the first place.

        • by sznupi (719324)

          A single shot moon mission using a soyuz like capsule and a proton/ariane launcher is pretty much limited to only a flyby, if it is possible in the first place.

          If? Zond 5, essentially a Soyuz launched by Proton, was the very first mission which launched macroscopic life on a flight around the Moon, and safely back.

          • Ok, i didnt know that. Wiki says the weight for Zond-5 is 5 tons (metric), and i thought modern soyuz's are somewhere around 7, then again, Proton M has two tons extra launch weight, so it should be possible allright

            thanks for the info!

            • by sznupi (719324)
              Soyuz used for Zond missions didn't have the orbital module, that's where the lower mass is mostly coming from (and yeah, with how both Soyuz and Proton improved in the meantime...)
    • by sznupi (719324)
      Russians are by far the most experienced at autonomous orbital rendezvouz (not much need for a spacewalk), and fairly good at launcher reliability for quite some time, so multiple launch route is the most sensible one - no need for large "dedicated" (small production run, expensive, unproven) launcher, you use what is almost mass-produced and reliable (it helps how the R-7 is "the most reliable ... most frequently used launch vehicle in the world" [esa.int]; just opening R-7 launchpad in Guiana might help with notabl
    • by Megane (129182)

      As others have said, what's the problem with the Proton propellant if the crew compartment is properly space-worthy?

      And why assemble anything? Not that orbital docking is exactly a big problem these days, but even if the Proton propellant is a problem, just have it launch the trans-lunar craft and transfer the crew in a rendezvous. And there shouldn't be a need to re-transfer if the trans-lunar craft has re-entry capability.

      And most strangely of all, why the 1979 Iran hostages mission? WhyTF would you pic

      • And most strangely of all, why the 1979 Iran hostages mission? WhyTF would you pick something as random as one of many failures by the Carter administration?

        To post seemingly unrelated and obscure facts - that's how you get modded up.

    • by Mercano (826132)
      The Titan II booster used for the Gemini missions used hypergolic fuels very similar to the Proton. (Titan II used a 50/50 mix of hydrazine and UDMH for fuel, where the Proton uses strait UDMH; both use N2O4 for oxidizer.) Hypergolics are also used to fuel Apollo service module, the LEM, the space shuttle OMS & RCS, the Souyz service module, simply because they don't require cryogenic storage and they ignite on contact, removing the complexity of an ignition system. I don't they use of hypergolics a
      • by sznupi (719324)

        In the late 60's, the USSR was planing on using using a Proton to send a Soyuz capsule on a circumlunar flight. (Note that they weren't planing on orbiting the moon, just swinging round the dark side and heading back to Earth, similar to the course Apollo 13 used.) They flew four unmanned test flights, but they were unable to fly a reentry pattern that wouldn't have killed the crew. The plans were shelved after Apollo 8 beat them to it with their lunar-orbital mission.

        Zond 5, 6, 7, or 8 did fairly well (6 depressurised while still in deep space, but that's unrelated to reentry). Skip reentry worked fine. Turtles were alive and well (except for those on 6 of course :p ). Their main problems seemed to stem from the late go-ahead, crazy schedule, lack of focus, and related technical problems, apparently. [astronautix.com]

    • to carry the harpoons.
    • by Vulch (221502)

      Couldn't find Wikipedia today? The Proton uses N2O4/UDMH, not a fluorine atom in sight. NASA didn't think it was a problem for manned flight as the Titan II used to launch Gemini capsules used N2O4/UDMH+Hydrazine. In fact NASA thought it was safe enough that the launch escape method was aircraft style ejector seats rather than the solid rocket escape tower considered necessary for the Redstone, Atlas and Saturn launches of Mercury and Apollo capsules.

  • by Fished (574624) <amphigory AT gmail DOT com> on Friday August 19, 2011 @08:21AM (#37141354)
    Note that they are apparently just orbiting the moon, not landing. May seem like a "minor detail", but the engineering problems are of an entirely different magnitude.
    • by sznupi (719324)
      OTOH their manned lunar lander [wikipedia.org] was the only part of the whole stack which completed development, passed the tests (also in LEO) and reached "flight ready" status.

      The above, plus how they demonstrated capability to do automatic landings... I'm sure if you'd throw several hundred million more at RKK Energia, they would be more than happy to make you the thirteenth* man on the Moon.

      *But will you dare after what happened to Apollo 13? ;)
  • Shotgun! I called it! Mwahahaha!

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