Russia to offer space tourists voyages around the Moon

A two-week space tour with one-week accommodation on board the ISS will cost about $100 million

Hardly had the joy of the triumphant return of Discovery shuttle subsided, when directors of the Russian space industry hurried to say that they were not born yesterday either.

Anatoly Perminov, the head of Roskosmos Corporation, stated yesterday that Russia was ready to offer space tourists a voyage around the Moon. “We will be able  to execute the project,” Mr. Perminov said. Nikolay Sevastianov, the director of the Russian space corporation Energia, is currently in talks with the USA about the implementation of the project.

A two-week space tour with one-week accommodation on board the International Space Station and a flight around the Moon will cost about $100 million. The director of Roskosmos said that the official presentation of the project would take place in the nearest future, at MAKS international air show in the Moscow region.

Anatoly Perminov set out his hope that US spaceships would play the key role in maintaining the ISS during the forthcoming years. “The flight of Discovery shuttle has proved that shuttles will be flying in the future. The question is how many fights NASA will be able to perform to the ISS until the shuttle program is closed in 2010,” said he. Russia insists on 26 or 28 launches, whereas the USA agrees upon 20 or 22 shuttle flights.

The head of Roskosmos also said that it was still unclear, which spaceships will be used instead of shuttles in 2010. If NASA specialists fail to develop a new spacecraft, the shuttle program will be stopped, and Russia will have to carry the financial burden of maintaining the International Space Station again.

The partners are currently considering an opportunity to operate the station with the help the new European cargo spacecraft ATB, or the Russian-European development known as Clipper – a small non-expendable spaceship. It seems that Russia is not happy about such a perspective. Clipper will never be able to substitute shuttles in terms of the carrying capacity and the number of crewmembers. Anatoly Perminov hopes that NASA will revise the terms of its works and take adequate efforts to finish the first new spacecraft by 2011.

The final decision on the number of flights to the ISS and the further fate of the station will be made in autumn. The traditional meeting of ISS partners is said to take place in Japan this year.

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Author`s name Olga Savka