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Russia offers $100-million lunar tour


MOSCOW, July 26 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian space-shuttle maker Energia has submitted a proposal for would-be space tourists to the Federal Space Agency Roskosmos to charter a flight to the moon, the daily newspaper Izvestia reported.

Spacecraft have already been selected, a flight route worked out and a business plan compiled. All that is left to do is find someone wanting to take a 2-week trip to the Moon for $100 million.

The game tourist will spend the first seven days aboard the International Space Station (ISS). After that, a Soyuz TMA spacecraft will carry a mission commander and the tourist for a flyby of the Moon, subsequently returning to the Earth. It will take 18 months or two years to manufacture all the required equipment and to implement the project as soon as the money is received.

Roskosmos Director Anatoly Perminov has already negotiated with Energia President Nikolai Sevastyanov, who was recently elected amidst workers' protests of what they called his poor aptitude as an engineer. Consequently, Sevastyanov is now forced to look for sensational projects that will win him acclaim and provide Energia with money.

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space and who was to have commanded the aborted Soviet mission around the Moon, is quite pessimistic about the project because Russia does not have any dependable space technology for this purpose.

Colonel Yury Shargin, who worked seven days aboard the ISS in 2004 as the first Russian Space Force cosmonaut, volunteered for the project, playing the part of a tourist.

However, Russia has only managed to attract two space tourists to date for the ISS flight. And the question of where Energia plans to find someone willing to drop $100 million on a two-week vacation also comes into play.

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