Excalibur Almaz has announced that it is selling tickets to lunar orbit. The price is $100 million.
Your golden ticket will entitle you to a complete astronaut experience. You’ll begin with astronaut training, not just a course on how to make it to the escape capsule in the event of an emergency, but also how to pilot the spacecraft back to Earth in the event that something goes wrong with its onboard navigation. The price includes a ticket to a suborbital flight to space aboard the XCOR Lynx suborbital spaceplane, so you’ll already have experienced weightlessness and been to space before you board the Excalibur reusable capsule. On that day you’ll ride the Soyuz launcher with your two fellow passengers up from Baikonur to one of the company’s two 90-cubic-meter space stations. Once you’re aboard the station with your two fellow passengers, an electric thruster will slowly spiral you up to an elliptical orbit around the Moon. After several days you’ll spiral back the way you came, re-enter Earth orbit, board a small reusable capsule and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, leaving the station behnd you.
Excalibur Almaz has based its business around a fleet of Soviet spacecraft purchased by its somewhat-legendary founder, Art Dula of Houston, Texas, who has been involved with several other successful space companies. The age of the thirty-year-old spacecraft means very little; most current Russian spacecraft date from the Soviet-era and they are considered to be among the safest and most reliable spacecraft ever built. Space launches are very public, and Mr. Dula’s fleet was built during a time when any public failure meant dire consequences not only for the cosmonaut but also for anyone connected with the failure (people who make mistakes still die, but from “stress“). Because of their stout engineering, old Soviet launchers and spacecraft have consistently excellent safety records.