Just got off the phone with Eric Anderson, CEO of Space Adventures. Yesterday his company announced the first privately funded mission to the moon (see my last post). It’s a real mission that really will happen. Space Adventures has cut a deal with the Russian Space Agency to use existing hardware. I got some more details from Anderson, who is absolutely glowing; this is the biggest coup yet for the company that brokered the first tourist flights to the International Space Station.
I’m writing up a report for Wired News now. I’ll post the link when I have it, probably early next week. The important thing to note now is that the mission will not orbit the moon as I and the New York Times reported, but will use a free-return trajectory, where the craft will loop around the moon and sling back to Earth without going into orbit. This is a less technically ambitious mission than going into lunar orbit, but still amazing: the Russians are going to upstage NASA’s own return-to-the-moon program by getting there first (by 2010 instead of 2018).
I told you things were going to get wild! Stay tuned….