How the moon is set to become the top holiday destination for the super-rich

30th May 2013 | 12:00

How the moon is set to become the top holiday destination for the super-rich

Crowdfunded projects will fly you to the moon

In 2017, you could travel to space for approximately £105,270. Not exactly chicken feed, but it's a price that is constantly being revised down as competition increases to build affordable commercial spacecraft and spacecraft paraphernalia.

This is the cumulative figure of a number of crowdfunded space projects of all the equipment required for a booze cruise in space. Most people won't have £105,270 but as the trade becomes more popular and more projects become funded via crowdfunding, private investment or government schemes, a price war will break out.

Space exploration has been traditionally, and almost exclusively, the remit of respective governments since the 1950s. Indeed, the 20th century's Space Race was a Mr Universe-esq flexing of governmental muscle between two cold-warring superpowers.

But since Neil Armstrong's iconic words as he first set foot on the moon, very little has happened in terms of commercial space travel.

Commentators and scientists at the time predicted that we'd be buying holiday timeshares on the moon by now, but after various failed projects to establish more of a presence on the great white rock, we've remained at a relatively infantile stage. Until now, that is.

The personal ambition of scientists and engineers who are not connected to any government organization, combined with crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and millions of enthused backers, means that a very different, more collaborative, type of space race is emerging.

If you want the full, comprehensive, space travel experience - which includes a spacesuit, spacecraft and control of a satellite to tweet about what you're doing - then you're going to need a few tools. Here's a cost and timeline breakdown of what you'll need from the crowdfunding options.

1. Spacecraft

Probably the most important piece of the puzzle, because without it you'll just be a guy in a spacesuit standing in a field looking up at the sky.

The Hermes Spacecraft, a recently funded Kickstarter project, is a suborbital space vehicle, which is being designed by STAR Systems. It incorporates a Space Shuttle-like flight profile which will take passengers to the cusp of outer space. The prototype is currently being developed and it is expected to start flying customers within the next four years.

Mark Loganbach, CEO of STAR systems told TechRadar, "Our initial price per seat will be $150,000. This is a revolutionary price to take a once-in-a-lifetime adventure where only a few hundred people have ever gone before!

"Our affordability comes from combining 40 years of NASA's lessons learned, designing and fabricating all of our parts in-house and creating a modular propulsion system to increase reliability while decreasing research costs."

2. Space suit

One of the world's first suborbital spacesuits for use and purchase by the general public has been designed by Ted Southern of Final Frontier Design.

The spacesuit itself - called the 3G spacesuit - is NASA certification standard and is intended for "Intra Vehicular Activity: that is, launch and re-entry for commercial space providers both suborbital and orbital".

3G space suit

Ted continues: "The future commercial space industry will need these suits for the basic safety of manned flights. Current NASA suits cost well into the millions, while our 3G is intended to retail for a small fraction of this."

The suit recently received full funding on Kickstarter and Ted expects it to be available for purchase this year at a price of $10,000.

3G suit

3. Your own personal satellite

Before you set off you can take some teaser images of what you'll be looking at from space with the SkyCube satellite. SkyCube is a 10x10x10 centimeter CubeSat (cube satellite) due for launch in April 2013 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It will be one of (if not the) first crowdfunded satellite in space, and will take panoramic, wide-field images of the Earth, broadcast a sponsor's message as 'a tweet from space' in orbit, and when the mission is done, it will deliberately de-orbit itself by inflating an onboard balloon.

SkyCube is a 10x10x10 centimeter CubeSat (cube satellite)

The balloon will briefly serve to make the satellite visible (it's big enough to see from Earth) before dragging the satellite into the atmosphere and vaporising it, like a meteor, to prevent any space debris. Control of the satellite for a few minutes will set you back as little as $20.

Tim DeBenedictis, creator of SkyCube, explained to TechRadar how personal satellites will become more common in the near future. "By far, big aerospace companies and national government spend way more $ on these items than private citizens.

What has changed is that it is now possible for private citizens or small companies to put small satellites in orbit. That was not true 10 years ago. It's still not exactly inexpensive - our whole project budget will end up around $250,000 - but that is a heck of a lot less than most dedicated space missions to date."

SkyCube

4. A tour operator

There is, however, an element of competition, and the big boys like Virgin and XCOR are rapidly progressing with their consumer space-travel projects, namely Virgin Galactic and The Lynx Rocketplane respectively.

Big money will always be able to drive costs down and compete with the little guys, but in this case it's actually cheaper to go with the crowdfunded projects.

The basic Virgin Galactic space exploration package (we assume that they provide all necessary travel gear such as a spacesuit) will cost $200,000. The premium package will cost $1m, which will let you and five of your friends hire out the shuttle for the day.

Aside from being cheaper, you're also missing out on the community feeling that comes with a crowdfunded project. The Hermes Spacecraft, the 3G suit and SkyCube have been created and funded by the people who have seen it grow from conception to product.

This isn't just a profiteering exercise or an attempt to dominate a sector - no, it's a labor of love for these engineers and that makes these backyard projects so much more appealing.

Hermes

Also - and probably more importantly - the crowdfunded projects are more upfront about when you'll be able to use these products. The Hermes Spacecraft for example is expecting to take people into space within the next four years, whereas Virgin Galactic have declined to put a date on when their maiden voyage will be.

So ask for that pay rise, put in the extra hours and chuck some money into a high-interest ISA. You're going to need that cash in four years' time for a 2.5 hour trip into space.

space travel space tourism
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