Lunar Tourism? Solar System Tourism?

Lunar tourism looks to be right around the corner. If Christ does not end the history of the world as we have known it, via the Rapture and the Tribulation, for the next several decades or a century or longer, quite possibly there will be solar system tourism, as well.

Lunar tours lasting no more than a few weeks should be possible without protection for astronauts from heavy ion galactic cosmic rays (GCRs); see Radiation. Solar system journeys will, however, be impossible without this protection.

Two companies are in the running for near-term moon tourism. Space Adventures was hoping to fly before the end of this past decade. SpaceX plans to go in 2023. Both of these tours are to be swings around the moon - no orbit, no landing. At least SpaceX plans on providing a solar storm shelter. If Space Adventures does not plan a shelter, its mission(s) would be far too risky.

But when will tourists get to walk on the moon? A company called Golden Spike was planning on sending two tourists to the lunar surface for $750 million apiece. But it has since ceased operations. The European Space Agency (ESA) is talking about a "moon village", possibly as soon as 2030. But 2030 sounds overly optimistic, like a lot of Elon Musk's dates. But at least, this plan is taking the radiation hazard into account.

The MOBIUS system is a proposal for staged lunar tourism developed at the University of Southern California. It involves a set of four cycling spacecraft set ups to take tourists to and from the moon on, eventually, a weekly basis. It also involves a "lunar transfer lounge" to be placed at the LaGrange point between the two worlds. There is one point of this plan that I disagree with. At an earlier stage, voyagers would be landed on the moon but not exit the lander. I think that anyone who lands on the moon is going to want to get out and walk on it. To note, when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon, they were scheduled for an eight-hour sleep period before doing their moonwalk. But, having just landed on the moon, they were very excited and wanted to do the walk right away. Thus, the moonwalk was telecast live at something like 11 PM, Eastern time. I stayed up to watch, even though, as an elementary school student, that was past my bedtime. I think even the first tourists to land should not be denied the experience of walking on the moon. From the PDF linked to: "The MOBIUS conept is modeled using state-of-the-art tools and proposes a viable profile that attempts to balance available technologies with entreprenurial needs and capital to make commercial, self-sustaining lunar missions possible in the earliest timeframe."

Given enough time, tours to Mars and other worlds of the solar system may get going. This is probably at least several decades away, and may be centuries off. The danger posed by space radiation will have to be dealt with. To note, if there is protection from heavy ion galactic cosmic rays onboard the spacecraft but not on the surface of the world to be visited, the trip is still doable. They just have to shorten stays on the surface to a couple to a few weeks. That would mean the voyage to get there, as well as the trip back, may take months, all for only two weeks or so on the planet or moon. But there is probably no shortage of people who would be willing to go on such an escapade, if they could only afford it.

Forbes magazine had a long article about the economics of Mars colonization. The article is almost entirely about the concern: "What could a Mars colony export to make it self-sustaining?" But I am concentrating on tourism, which would likely occur much sooner than colonization. Forbes makes a brief reference to Mars tourism:

"It's reasonably possible that you'll get wealthy tourists going for holidays on the moon in the not so distant future. But who would go on a holiday to Mars, whether to the surface or to orbit or its moons, if it means you have to take two years or more out of your life to go there and back?...The moon seems likely to get the lion's share of any space tourist industry beyond LEO in the near future, unless transport is speeded up hugely, and especially also given the much higher costs of a long mission to Mars or elsewhere in the solar system."

But I say that anyone wealthy enough to fly to Mars is wealthy enough to not work for a couple of years. And many people would be willing for a years long sojourn to another world. Besides that, Franklin Chang Diaz says we should be able to get to Mars in 39 days using a plasma rocket engine, which NASA is paying him to do research on. If it was 39 days each way and two to four weeks on the surface - no problem, as to mission length.

There is currently a Mars race between SpaceX and Boeing, which is contracted by NASA to build the Space Launch System. Both say they plan on getting someone to Mars in the 2030s. Neither seems to be prepared to protect their astronauts from heavy ion galactic cosmic rays. Elon Musk and SpaceX have a history of making rosy predictions. Also, at the moment of this writing, the SLS is over budget and behind schedule. When we will see the first human on Mars remains in doubt. Mars tourism will be significantly later than that.

As I cull the internet for serious articles about Mars and Solar System tourism, I have come across an article which considers health concerns of deep space travel: Engadget. The author says that SpaceX was repeatedly contacted about this, but with no response. Similarly, I have twice gone to an "Ask NASA a Question" website and asked about astronaut exposure to galactic cosmic rays. I did not receive a direct response, but was told to look at articles on the NASA website.

Here is a brief piece in which two UCF Professors debate space tourism, including a couple interesting statistics on the economic value of existing tourism, worldwide. has a nifty site about what it would be like to live on other worlds. While I am concentrating on tourism, not colonization, the site is a good source for what tourists might find in solar system worlds. The Portalist has a brief piece contemplating space tourism, including solar system tourism.

There is an MSN kids' site called The Space Tourists Guide to the Planets that is worth looking at.

UPDATE: BTW, NASA now plans to land humans on the Moon by 2024.

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