Space Adventures circumlunar mission

Space Adventures will launch its first circumlunar mission in 2018, according to the Russian news service Interfax. Political factors could disrupt the trip, however.

The mission would use a modified Soyuz capsule, which would rendezvous and dock with a Russian upper stage. The upper stage would then be used to propel the Soyuz onto a circumlunar trajectory, in a manner similar to what was once planned for Lunar Gemini flights.

Before heading to the Moon, the Soyuz crew (Russian cosmonaut pilot and two Space Adventures customers) would spend about 10 days at the International Space Station. This would allow the crew to adapt to the weightless environment, so any problems with space sickness would be past before the circumlunar leg begins.

Space Adventures has been marketing the lunar flight for several years now. Filling the first seat was apparently no problem, but selling the second seat caused some delay. In June 2014, Space Adventures announced that it had sold the second seat and the project was ready to begin. (Seats reportedly sell for $150 million.)

Reaction from Russia has been mixed, however. The Russian space company Energia expressed some enthusiasm for the project. A few weeks later, the Russian Space Agency (RSA or Roscosmos) repudiated the plan.

It’s possible that Space Adventures and Energia could carry out the mission without participation from the Russian Space Agency, but the Russian government has recently been asserting increased control over the Russian space industry. The government currently owns 38% of Energia stock but is seeking majority control. In August, Energia president Vitaly Lopota was suspended from his post. Lapota has been under criminal investigation for abuse of office, a charge that is widely seen as politically motivated.

The Russian government has announced ambitious space plans which include lunar missions, but Russia has the habit of announcing grandiose plans which are never funded. Even if lunar missions do occur, it remains to be seen if Russia has any interest in cooperating with US commercial space companies.

Written by Astro1 on October 6th, 2014 , Space Adventures

US Air Force Academy FalconSAT-7 space telescope CubeSat tested aboard microgravity aircraft "G Force One"

The market for microgravity aircraft flights appears to be in flux, with one company grounded, at least temporarily, while another prepares to enter the field.

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Written by Astro1 on September 17th, 2014 , Space Adventures, Swiss Space Systems

(Austin) Richard Garriott de Cayeaux presented an interesting chart during his talk on “The New Golden Age of Space Exploration” at South by Southwest. It shows the number of humans who have been sent into space by various space agencies:

NASA — 332
RFSA — 107
ESA — 33
CSA — 9
JAXA — 8
Space Adventures — 7
China — 6
Bulgaria — 2
Others — 19

The sixth most successful space agency, by this measure, is a private company: Space Adventures. Note that China is number seven. If suborbital companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace are successful, they may quickly exceed the 332 astronauts who have been flown by NASA.

Yet, alarmists still worry that China is about to “overtake the United States” in space, by copying projects which the United States and the Soviet Union accomplished 40 years ago.

Written by Astro1 on March 11th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Space Adventures

Citizen space explorers and space entrepreneurs will appear at the prestigious South By Southwest (SxSW) film, music, and interactive-media festival, which takes place in Austin next month.

A panel on “Crowd-sourcing the Space Frontier” will include Anousheh Ansari, who visited the International Space Station in 2006 and was name sponsor for the Ansari X-Prize in 2001, and Citizens in Space project manager and citizen-astronaut candidate Edward Wright.

Also participating on the panel will be NASA Open Innovation Program manager Christopher Gentry and Darlene Damm, founder and co-president of DIY Rockets. The panel will run from 11:00 am to noon on Saturday, March 9.

Richard Garriott de Cayeux, who visited the International Space Station in 2008, will speak on “The New Golden Age of Spaceflight” at 11:00 Monday, March 11. Garriott de Cayeux is also vice-chairman of Space Adventures, which markets flights to the International Space Station.

Also on Saturday will be a keynote address by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, at 2:00 PM.

South by Southwest attracts over 32,000 people each year. Admission to these talks will require an Interactive, Gold, or Platinum Badge. Badges are still available at walkup rates of $1150, $1350, or $1595. (Sorry, we do not have any free or discount passes to hand out.)

Citizen space explorer Anousheh Ansari aboard the International Space Station

Anousheh Ansari aboard the International Space Station

Written by Astro1 on February 15th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Space Adventures, SpaceX

As expected, Sarah Brightman has announced that she will be the next citizen explorer to visit the International Space Station. Members of Brightman’s fan community and her newsletter subscribers will receive periodic updates on her training and mission. Those who aren’t members can sign up at


Some random connections: One of Sarah Brightman’s first (minor) hits was a song called “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper,” whose title is an obvious homage to Robert Heinlein’s classic novel Starship Troopers. It dates to 1978 and was not a tie-in to Paul Verhoeven’s dreadful 1997 movie adaptation of Starship Troopers, although some YouTube mashups make it appear so. The Heinlein estate did receive significant money from the Verhoeven movie, however. That money was used to endow the Heinlein Prize for space commercialization and is also helping to finance Excalibur Almaz, which is planning to conduct deep-space missions using surplus capsules and space-station modules from the Soviet era. And now, Sarah Brightman has booked a flight to ISS on a Soyuz capsule developed during the Soviet era.

From the Space Adventures press release:

Brightman will be part of a three-person crew travelling to the ISS on board a Soyuz rocket. Once on the ISS, she will orbit the Earth 16 times daily and intends to become the first professional musician to sing from space. The final scheduling of her trip to the space station will be determined by Roscosmos and the ISS partners in the coming months.

Brightman will be part of a three-person crew travelling to the ISS on board a Soyuz rocket. Once on the ISS, she will orbit the Earth 16 times daily and intends to become the first professional musician to sing from space. The final scheduling of her trip to the space station will be determined by Roscosmos and the ISS partners in the coming months.

In conjunction with her role as a UNESCO Artist for Peace ambassador, Brightman sees life on board the space station – which requires the mindful, shared consumption of resources and a clear and unwavering focus on sustainability – as a model for how we might better inhabit our planet. During her estimated 10-day tenure on board the space station, Brightman will advocate for UNESCO’s mandate to promote peace and sustainable development to safeguard our planet’s future. Additionally, this journey will allow Brightman to advance education and empower the role of girls and women in science and technology in an effort to help close the gender gap in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

“I don’t think of myself as a dreamer. Rather, I am a dream chaser,” said Sarah Brightman. “I hope that I can encourage others to take inspiration from my journey both to chase down their own dreams and to help fulfill the important UNESCO mandate to promote peace and sustainable development on Earth and from space. I am determined that this journey can reach out to be a force for good, a catalyst for some of the dreams and aims of others that resonate with me.”

Over the coming months, Brightman will explore and further develop plans with UNESCO to combine their activities and her space journey. Upon her return to Earth, she will continue to work with UNESCO in an effort to plan multiple, epic ‘Space to Place’ concerts at UNESCO World Heritage Sites, biosphere reserves, and geoparks. Together, the over-arching aim will be to organize events including concerts and multi-media, to involve as many people as possible and to engage a generation of ‘dreamchasers’ from all walks of life to help create a more sustainable future for our planet.

Within the coming months, Brightman will be releasing a new record entitled “Dreamchaser” in January 2013 – a collection of songs that has been influenced by the feelings and challenges of her space adventure. Additionally, in 2013, she will undertake the most comprehensive global tour performing around the world, beginning in Canada at the end of January and visiting all five continents over the following months. Following that, Brightman will embark upon six months of training in Russia ahead of her flight to the ISS.

Written by Astro1 on October 10th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Space Adventures

ABC News is reporting that Phantom of the Opera actress/singer Sarah Brightman outbid NASA for a seat on a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station. Brightman reportedly bumped a NASA astronaut from the flight by agreeing to pay more than $51 million. (Update: NASA denies that any of its astronauts were bumped from the Soyuz flight. Update 2: Sarah Brightman has made an official announcement, as expected.)

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Written by Astro1 on October 3rd, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic

Citizen scientists who are interested in the Moon can find a wide range of activities. Whatever your level of ability, resources, and interest, there is a citizen-science activity you can participate in.

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Written by Astro1 on April 9th, 2012 , Astronomy, Lunar Science, Nanosatellites, Space Adventures, SpaceX Tags:

Will citizen space explorers beat NASA back to the Moon?

Space Adventures is pushing the boundaries of citizen exploration by offering a privately funded circumlunar mission. The proposed flight would use Russian Soyuz hardware.

The Soviet Union flew two Zond (modified Soyuz) capsules around the Moon in 1968. Those unmanned test flights used a free-return trajectory – the same sort of trajectory famously used by Apollo 13. The circumlunar flight proposed by Space Adventures would use a similar trajectory.

Space Adventures says it already has a customer for one of the two seats it needs to fill. When it finds another customer, the flight will be booked and a launch date announced.

The seats are going for about $100 million, so finding another citizen explorer for the second seat may take a while. It’s too bad NASA doesn’t have the foresight to take advantage of this opportunity.

Written by Astro1 on February 18th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Commercial Space (General), Space Adventures Tags:

Armadillo Aerospace is a Texas-based company founded by video-game pioneer John Carmac. Armadillo won the first Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge and built the Project Morpheus lander for NASA. The company is currently working on a number of projects, including a suborbital rocket for Space Adventures.

Armadillo’s concept is a vertical-takeoff vertical-landing vehicle that bears an interest visual similarity to the Gemini capsule. Space Adventures has posted a Youtube video.

Written by Astro1 on February 17th, 2012 , Armadillo Aerospace, Citizen Exploration, Commercial Space (General), Space Adventures Tags:

Space Adventures is best known for offering trips to the International Space Station. With Soyuz flights currently going for $35 million a seat, not many people can afford that. Space Adventures does have some more affordable offerings for citizen explorers, though. They are working with Armadillo Aerospace to offer low-cost suborbital flights in the future. Right now, they are offering some very exciting tours of Russian space facilities, including the chance to watch a launch.

Written by Astro1 on February 16th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Space Adventures

Geekwire reports that the Soyuz TMA-14 capsule has been delivered to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Soyuz TMA-14 is historic because the capsule carried two citizen space explorers.

On launch, Soyuz TMA-14 carried former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi on his second trip to the International Space Station. For the landing, Simonyi was replaced by another citizen explorer, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté. Simonyi returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 capsule.

The Soyuz TMA-14 capsule is on long-term loan to the museum from Simonyi, who now owns it. It will be on display in the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.

Next time you’re in Seattle, stop in at the Museum of Flight and check it out.

Written by Astro1 on February 13th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Museums, Space Adventures