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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 August, 2005, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Moon visit trip set for lift-off
Space tourist Dennis Tito
Those wanting to follow Dennis Tito into space will have to pay $100m
Intrepid travellers with $100m (55m) to spare could soon enjoy the trip of a lifetime - a journey around the moon.

The firm which launched the first "space tourist" into orbit in 2001 now wants to send two passengers on a round trip to the moon as soon as 2008.

According to Space Adventures, the trip would last between 10 and 21 days while travelling conditions, although not exactly luxurious, would be bearable.

Several people have already shown interest in the project, it said.

Bird's eye view

The US company intends to break new ground for space tourism less than ten years after it launched Dennis Tito into space in 2001 in the first-ever commercial space flight.

It hopes to work with the Russian space agency to get the moon visit project off the ground.

Space flight can be opened up
Eric Anderson, Space Adventures

Its plan would see two passengers travelling in a Russian Soyuz space vehicle - used to transport Mr Tito - flown by a Russian pilot.

The vehicle would dock with a booster craft, potentially at the International Space Station, before making its way to the moon.

The craft will not land but the passengers will get a bird's eye view of the Moon before returning to earth.

Changing expectations

Despite the apparently prohibitive cost of the trip, Eric Anderson - chief executive of Space Adventures - said there were about 1,000 people wealthy enough to contemplate it.

International Space Station
A visit to the International Space Station could be on the itinerary

"Space flight can be opened up," he said.

"I just love the idea of demonstrating that things can be done for less money than people thought and paradigms can be shifted."

One man unlikely to be making the voyage is Mr Tito.

He told the New York Times that, having just turned 65, he was probably too old for a trip of that kind.

"I would be considering it if I were younger and I had that kind of money," he said.

Tough conditions

Experts are divided on the merits of the proposed mission with sceptics claiming travelling conditions could be very unpleasant.

According to Christopher Kraft, former director of the Johnson Space Center, the spectacle would be fantastic but conditions on board the craft - roughly the size of a sports utility vehicle - would be cramped.

"I imagine you could endure that, but man, it would be tough," he said.

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