Team of ex-NASA engineers to offer moon travel

Would-be space travellers that have the interest, the enthusiasm and the money, will be able to visit the moon if plans that are being formulated by a group of former NASA engineers come to fruition.

The former engineers, who between them have experience of space travel and past NASA visits to the moon, have formed The Golden Spike Company. Now they are planning to offer the opportunity to normal people who have the large sums of money to pay for their dreams. The company is promoting itself as the first private venture to plan routine exploration expeditions to the lunar surface. Former NASA science chief, Alan Stern, and Gerry Griffin, a former Apollo flight director and former director of the NASA Johnson Space Centre, have conceived the idea.

If their plans are implemented, pleasure trips to the moon could become a reality by the end of this decade. The only aspect that could deter space tourists is the high cost involved, because the estimated cost for a two-person lunar surface mission starts at $1.4bn.

Sceptics might draw some comfort from what Gerry Griffin has to say about the idea. Griffin, who also served as deputy director of the Kennedy Space Centre, said that technical know-how to explore space has grown over the years. In fact technology has become so ubiquitous that many private-sector start-ups are exploring the possibility of sending tourists to the moon. He added, ‘We’re in the midst of a historic era in commercial space flight.’

The company said that it was planning to use existing rockets and employ emerging commercial-crew technology to keep costs relatively affordable.

The company’s board of directors includes a broad range of individuals, including a ‘Star Trek’ set designer.

Travel in space with real-time 3D app from NASA

NASA has released a new application that claims to allow users to travel in space, in real time, using 3D-imaging technology.

The space agency has considered space enthusiasts by releasing the application for free, and enabling it to be used on the iPhone and iPad platform. It provides a real time 3-D representation of the agency’s robotic spacecraft.

Called ‘Spacecraft 3D,’ the application employs animation techniques to demonstrate the manoeuvrability of NASA’s spacecraft. Some outside components of the spacecraft may also be manipulated using the application. NASA said that it was currently offering the 3D representation of two of its missions, The Curiosity rover that will land on Mars on August 6, and the twin GRAIL spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, which is orbiting the moon at present.

The application uses what is called ‘augmented reality’ to impart realistic features to the displayed image. The technology provides a view of real-world environment to the application’s users. Using the iPhone and iPad’s cameras, the Spacecraft’s 3D application clearly focuses information on the devices’ main screen.

It is expected that NASA will release the app for more platforms soon.

NASA said that Spacecraft 3D uses detailed computer models of the included spacecraft models. The application also allows users to navigate through space with a PC, using mission data from NASA.

British Company Announces Expedition to Moon, for a Price

Now British tourists can enjoy a holiday orbiting the moon, claims UK-based space aviation company, Excalibur Almaz.

At a space tourism meeting in London for the Royal Aeronautical Society, the company unveiled its ambitious plan to send tourists to the moon, but at a considerable price. The company proposes to send its first tourists to the moon by as early as 2015, travelling 500,000-miles through space on the round trip.

The company founder and chief executive officer, Art Dula, said, ‘Excalibur Almaz is willing and able to send crewed missions deeper into space than would be possible aboard any other spacecraft in existence today. Our fleet of space stations and re-entry capsules enables us to safely fly members of the public to moon orbit as early as 2015.

There is not a single other vessel, owned by a government or the private sector, that is suitable for a manned flight to lunar orbit, utilizing proven technologies. The EA fleet has previously flown to space several times and will undertake many more missions. It contains vessels of a design that has spent thousands of hours in space successfully. This is scientific fact, not fiction.’

The company has acquired two Soviet space stations, and for its first flight it will be sending three people to the moon, where they will orbit the lunar surface and return to earth, on a private expedition, that is likely to cost around £100 million per person.

Previously, Virgin Galactic, a US-based company, has offered space flights for tourists, for the price of £128,000 per person for two to three days in space aboard a space shuttle.

Out of this world holidays are closer than you think

Holidays including a trip into space are closer to becoming a reality as Virgin Galactic’s unique spacecraft has now completed a further set of test flights. Earlier this week SpaceShipTwo, the world’s first commercial spaceship, demonstrated the unique ‘feathered’ configuration system to allow safe and effective re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

SpaceShipTwo completed a successful test flight which involved the spacecraft being taken up to 51,500 feet by the ‘mother-ship’ VMS Eve, before being released to glide back down to Earth. By rotating the tail section of the spacecraft upwards at an angle to the main body, SpaceShipTwo managed to descend almost vertically – falling in a similar way to a shuttlecock. Once the spaceship reached 33,500 feet, glide mode was reinstated to execute a runway touchdown around 11 minutes after being released from VMS Eve.

This re-entry system is vital to the completion of the test flights for the Virgin Galactic flights. Designers of the craft, Scaled Composite, devised the featured re-entry system from the philosophy of safety through simplicity – taking inspiration from the aerodynamics of the shuttlecock. George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, commended the latest test flight, saying that the re-entry system, “which is probably the single most important safety innovation within the whole system, works perfectly.” The spacecraft’s pilot, Pete Siebold, added “This morning’s flight was a test pilot’s dream.”

This test flight – the third in twelve days – has shown the world the abilities of SpaceShipTwo and is an important milestone for Virgin Galactic. While the enterprise has not yet announced a fixed date for commercial flights to begin, there are already 400 shortlisted passengers for the first flights.

Bulgarian company negotiates with Chinese government for space travel project

The first Bulgarian company, which will start offering space travel tickets, will discuss its future project with the Chinese government and the Chinese Embassy in Bulgaria. During the event, “China’s Development: Challenges and Opportunities” on Monday, the CEO of CenTransit John Hazlewood had the chance to meet the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China Mrs. H.E. Fu Ying. They discussed several topics on how the space travel business can be developed in Bulgaria and China.

The idea of a potential cooperation between the two countries came during the Space Travel Summit, which was held on March 17 at the Sofia Opera and Ballet and was part of the agenda of “Trends & Innovation Travel Distribution & Investment Summit,” organized by eCommerceAcademy.net. A special guest and a keynote speaker at the Space Travel Summit was the top NASA astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave, who shared the vision that Bulgaria should develop its space travel solutions with the support of China.

“Story Musgrave inspired me to take the initiative and spearhead an effort to help the Bulgarian space industry work with China,” said John Hazlewood. He is planning his company CenTransit to be the first agency in the Balkans to sell space travel.

Mrs. Ying responded that it’s true that there is not much cooperation taking place between the Bulgarian and the Chinese space sectors at the moment. Despite that she stated: “People’s interest in space and the universe is growing significantly in China, and there are many of them who can afford to travel to space.” Mrs. Ying suggested the first step to be taken with the help of Mr. Guo Yezhou, Chinese Ambassador to Bulgaria. Regarding this suggestion they made a decision for Mr. Hazlewood to meet the Ambassador for further discussions in order to try and find ways in which the two countries can cooperate.

The event “China’s Development: Challenges and Opportunities” was organized by The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria with the cooperation of the Embassy of China in Bulgaria.