Saturday, 03 December 2016 13:12

Moon Express: £8,000 lunar flights on target to begin by 2026


So infectious is the enthusiasm of billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Naveen Jain that just a few minutes in his company is enough to convince you that anything is possible. That’s just as well because - were it explained by someone lacking his unwavering confidence – his latest endeavour would sound entirely outlandish.

Founded in 2010, his company Moon Express has become the only private enterprise to be granted permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the Moon.

In 2017, Moon Express will send an unmanned vessel into orbit in the first of a series of missions that will, says Jain, teach humanity “to stand outside our planetary system and to learn how to live somewhere else”.

The curvature of the Earth as viewed from space

The curvature of the Earth as viewed from space CREDIT: FOTOLIA

Jain’s investment in the project stems from his recognition that a band of entrepreneurs now possesses the means “of doing things that were only being done by superpowers before” and his belief that man must colonise planets and satellites beyond Earth to ensure our survival: “Ask a dinosaur for advice on what we should do if an asteroid were to hit us.”

Long-term though his ambitions are, a successful launch could radically change our travel habits in the near future. As well as laying the groundwork for colonisation of the moon, the mission will herald a new era of commercial space travel – Jain expects Moon Express to shuttle intrepid customers into space for holidays on the moon within a decade.

That such advancements in interplanetary transit are so imminent is largely due to the increased affordability of the technology required to send humans into orbit.

The rocket to be used by Moon Express next year will cost about $5 million; Jain expects the same apparatus to cost $2 million within five years; within 10 years he predicts we will be able to buy passage to the Moon and back for about $10,000 (£7,925), with the journey no more strenuous (albeit longer) than taking a flight from San Francisco to Sydney today.

Only time will tell if his endeavours will prove successful, but Jain isn’t alone in his commitment to making commercial space travel a reality.

World View flights will take passengers to heights of 100,000ft, or 20 miles
World View flights will take passengers to heights of 100,000ft, or 20 miles

Besieged by delays though his plans are, Sir Richard Branson remains committed to launching Virgin Galactic flights to the edge of space, with tickets available at $250,000 per person.

Arizona-based World View Enterprises is aiming to launch World View flights that would hoist passengers up to 100,000ft (or about 20 miles) in a pressurised capsule lifted by an immense, high-altitude balloon.

Spanish company Bloon will use a similar vessel to lift travellers to 116,000ft, or 22 miles; tickets cost €110,000.

The most ambitious plans of all come from Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX, a private company aiming to innovate space travel and to capitalise on the associated commercial opportunities.

The South African entrepreneur has revealed his plans to colonise Mars “within our lifetime”, with the price of a ticket to the planet less than £150,000 per person.

NASA is similarly committed to exploring Mars in greater detail, and has launched a Journey to Mars programme that aims to send humans to the planet by the 2030s.

With such bold objectives from his peers, Jain is confident his own (significantly closer) target is achievable.

To celebrate their 25th anniversary he gave his wife a piece of Moon rock; now his aim is for newly betrothed couples not to promise each other the Moon but to go there for themselves instead.

Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Auhtor : John O'Ceallaigh

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