Russia offering trip around the Moon

MSNBC is reporting that Russia is offering a $100 million trip to the Moon using a free return trajectory.

I had completly forgotten that the Soyuz was originally designed as part of the Soviet lunar program and that it had lunar orbit capability. This is really exciting. It means that we essentially could see a return to the Moon in as little as two years.

Thoughts? Comments? Practical? Lunacy?

Finally. Bill Gates has something to spend those excess billions on. :wink:

The EU or perhaps China should cobble together a lander and take em up on it to do a foot prints and flag planting thing. Of course I’m sure they’d charge more for that but even at 10 times that price it would be cheap.



Unless they’ve developed a new habitat module and an uprated booster, the Soyuz doesn’t have cislunar capability. The Zond program was supposed to develop a lunar transport, but tests of the stripped down Soyuz capsule launched in a free return trajectory on a Proton were failures, and could have only carried a 2 man crew at any rate. The Soviet effort to effect a manned moon landing were thwarted by the failure of the N1 rocket, which was the only rocket powerful enough to put the Zond capsule to the Moon with enough fuel to enter a lunar injection orbit and carry a lander.

The Russian Space Program is desperate for money, and this wouldn’t be the first time they’ve made some kind of offer based upon the hope that they could figure out how to make it happen later. In any case, the system has never been tested for cislunar man-rated flight; to take a dead-heading tourist on such a flight would be absurd.


In the most literal sense. :slight_smile:

Can you imagine spending $100 Million to scrunch into an SUV-sized Russian tin can for 2 weeks with a fair chance of missing the free return trajectory and spending eternity in solar orbit?

Actually, there would be a pretty good Earthside betting pool. What are the respective odds for the following outcomes?

  1. Return safely according to plan.

  2. Return by the skin of their teeth.

  3. Miss the moon entirely and tumble eternally into deep space.

  4. Swing around the moon, but miss the return trajectory and tumble eternally into deep space.

  5. Plow into the moon.

  6. Blow up on the launch pad.

How many other ways could this go horribly wrong?

My guess is that someone wants to make a fast buck $100M at someone elses expense.

  1. Then why are we using Soyuz for the ISS?

3, 4, and 5 all assume that the inital Trans Lunar Injection burn is messed up, and thus all represent the same hazard.

  1. Then why are we using Soyuz for the ISS?

It seems that the danger for this proposed mission is about the same order of magnitude as Apollo 8. Actually less, since there is no LOI or TEI.

BTW, the death toll for Soyuz is 4, with the last casualties occuring 34 years ago. The Space Shuttle has killed 14, with the last deaths occuring 2.5 years ago. Based on those statistics, which is the safer spacecraft?

Actually, Atomic Dog, Cervaise’s list of things-that-can-go-wrong is basically true for ANY translunar flight on ANY vehicle we can conceivably get our hands on in the near future, and WAS part of the list of risks for the Apollo programme (which involved spending a week and a half in a Chevy-van-sized American tin can with a fair chance of getting killed; but then again we weren’t selling tickets. BTW, a true FRT flight, with no Lunar-Orbit insertion, should be just about a week). I don’t think it is in any way a diss of the capabilities of Korolev’s posthumous product.(*)

Oh, BTW, Cervaise, add to it:

  1. Catastrophic system failure while underway (Apollo 13)
  2. Mare the return trajectory, but miss reentry window (too steep or too shallow) and either get destroyed in the upper atmosphere or bounce off of it
  3. Not quite miss the reentry window but hit it “wrong” and subject yourselves to a pure ballistic, rather than aerodynamic, reentry, pulling crippling G’s all the way down.
    Now, as Stranger on a Train points out, many of the specs required to do a FRT lunar Soyuz make the flight significantly different from earth-orbit operations in which the Soyuz has proven a near-indestructible workhorse, and moslty they have to do with launch/boost systems. For instance you’d need to have a * man-rated escape-v-capable heavy lift boosted – which AFAIK is not on anyone’s inventory nowadays – AND integrate it to the Soyuz vehicle so it work as well together as it does with the Soyuz booster.
    (* Cervaise’s point 6 (launch blowup) HAS happened to a Soyuz T-series crew, who survived it – badly bruised – thanx to the emergency pullaway rocket.)
    Still, if you can work out a reliable man-rated TLI booster, and a reliable recovery-from-FRT protocol, you COULD do this using the basic Soyuz platform, after having whatever habitability/navigation upgrades necessary done to the guts of the sytem. Just that you’d have to do a lot of patient testing, a luxury Korolev did not have in the 1960s.

Well, our Shuttle isn’t even designed for the moon. So you’ll have to compare stats to our Lunar spacecrafts (The Apollo Program 1963 - 1972). Three were lost in the Apollo 1 disaster. And then another snafu with Apollo 13, but they all survived. Of course a modern Lunar spacecraft by NASA would be interesting.

Both of these are significantly unlikely; objects in orbit are much more likely to crash and burn than to fly off into space.

That’s not quite fair, as the Shuttle, by nature of its larger crew complement, is naturally going to have a higher lose of life per actual operational failure. Flight for flight, the Shuttle actually has the better safety record and has put more bodies in space.

Nonetheless, the Soyuz has demonstrated a pretty mature design for a surface-to-LEO transit. It has not, however, shown any positive capability with regard to a cislunar mission. The offer, as it stands, is predicated on a seperate translunar booster stage that a Soyuz will match up with in orbit, which is a piece of hardware which is, at this point, entirely conceptual. In other words, the first flight will be a test flight with the two passengers plus a pilot/navagator/mission commander as guinea pigs.

This sounds like a recipe for potential disaster to me. At $200M (and for two Soyuz rockets per shot–one for the crew, one for the translunar propulsion module) they might be able to afford one or even two unmanned tests, but if those don’t work, the money is spent and the design is a failure. I know I could find a better way to spend $100M dollars.

BTW, the offer is being extended by Space Adventures, Inc., which is an American company that contracts to RSA and RSC/Energyia. They can promise whatever they want and are in fact selling suborbital flights on a Scaled Composites spaceplane that isn’t even designed yet. One does get a whiff of con-artistry from them. Just because they’re promoting this venture doesn’t mean that anyone in Russia can or will fulfill it.


Or remain in an Earth orbit. In no case will this vessel achieve an Earth-escape velocity; at most, it’ll end up in a highly elliptical orbit about the Earth. Not that it’s any difference to the crew; it’s not as if you can pop the hatch and paddle your way back to Earth.


True, but again, over very long periods of time perturbations of that orbit (quite likely in a system such as ours, with a large moon) are quite likely to result in a reentry trajectory.

[my emphasis]

You could perhaps have worded that a little better…:wink:

And I could have coded that a little better. Try again:

I could totally see Ted Turner doing it and planting a flag that says something like “Screw you, Rupert”.

The world’s most expensive joke!


Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! … Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gers…oh, most expensive joke.

Never mind. :wink:

If Ted Turner went to the Moon he’d claim it for himself and then turn around and sell it to Time-Warner and bitch that they’ve turned it into an ornament and tourist attraction.

That’s better than if Donald Trump went to the Moon; he’d have “Trump Moon” etched in 25 mile tall letters on the facing surface and pave it over as a parking lot for an orbiting casino for octogenarians.