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Price of a Tourist Ticket to Space

Cost of a Tourist ticket to Space
We’ve all studied the real number system in math class, and most of us have studied the imaginary numbers, and the irrational numbers. Today, I’d like to talk about almost-real numbers.

The reported cost of a tourist to ISS is in the neighborhood of 35
million dollars. The reported cost of a suborbital ticket for Virgin
Galactic flights is somewhere around $200,000. I think both of those
are incredibly low. The cost for a Soyuz launch is something like $150
million dollars, add $100 million dollars for insurance if it were to
be a private commercial operation, and if all three passengers were
paying tourists, they would have to be paying $85 million per ticket
before you get anything to pay for a private orbiting facility, launch of your
orbiting private facility, your ground control team, your ground
control and communications center, and your legal and financing costs.

Off the cuff, I think the cost of a private orbital tourist ticket would need to be near $135 million dollars. There are some advantages – you would be
able to do that every couple of weeks, rather than every five years or
so, and you wouldn’t have the restrictions and international intellectual property
complications that a tourist to the ISS has, but still, 135 million is
way different than 35 million. But you could do it every couple of weeks for folks and organizations with enough money.

That gets a tourist to an orbiting tourist facility. Now, the current paradigm is something similar to a facility like the ISS, in a highly inclined orbit – because orbiting around the equator all the time is boring, and you don’t get to see most of the Earth, and the ISS is constrained to staying in Low Earth Orbit for a number of different reasons. But, if your tourist facility is independent – THERE IS NO REASON IT HAS TO STAY IN LEO.

Consider if the facility were a self-contained structure such as the Excaliber Almaz facility. Famously, once you are in orbit you are half way to anywhere. OK, by itself an Almaz facility is limited to LEO, but the only limitation to sending up a separate booster and docking it to the Almaz is the cost of the booster and the cost of a second launch. The cost of a second launch is once again 250 million dollars, and the cost of a propulsion module based off the Centaur booster would possibly be in the 50 to 100 million dollar range. This would get three tourists to orbit the Moon for a cost of 755 million dollars – or a per ticket price of 252 million dollars. It might be possible to allay part of the cost by having them drop off a small communications satellite once in Lunar orbit, that would then accelerate off and orbit L2 to provide communications to the Moon’s far side.

The costs get really intriguing when you consider that it is possible to rework a Centaur booster to LAND ON AND TAKE OFF FROM the Moon with a 20 tonne payload. That bit of rework might cost 400 million, but at the end of it, you have the capability to send three tourists to land on the Moon for a week at a per ticket cost of 385 million dollars each. And that might be very doable.

Since most of the hardware is already tested, I think I could get it done in 3 years.  Anybody out there want to walk on the Moon in three years? If you and two other organizations pitch in 385 million dollars each, let’s go.

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