The only natural satellite of our planet can be considered a landmark springboard in space exploration. After all, if mankind manages to study it far and wide, to run on the flights to it and colonize the main technologies and techniques for conquering stellar expanses, we will finally be able to expand our life and worldview horizons, quench our thirst for exploration and expansion into deep space and decide to become more and more acute problems of existence on Earth.
In recent years, the theme of the moon and its development sounds more and more loudly. And, as it turns out, not only planetary and state research missions become realities of the coming months, but also flights of private companies there. In addition, several startups related to space are planned to be launched in the coming years, for example, the first artificial meteor shower.
Lunar tourism in 2020
Space tourism is not a new concept in world practice. Since 1989, commercial astronauts have been joining research orbital missions almost regularly. However, there was no such thing as an entirely private shuttle flying. But, about to happen!
In June 2019, according to an official statement by NASA, permission was given for the first test flight and docking of the Dragon 2 manned spacecraft, the authorship of SpaceX, from the ISS. There will be two astronauts on board: Robert Benken and Douglas Harley. Recall that before this, in January 2019, the reusable Dragon unmanned aerial vehicle successfully completed the 16th orbital flight, docked with the ISS and returned to Earth.
Since 2020, if manned flights are successful, Ilon Mask plans to start taking on board space tourists, and then send ships to the moon, especially since, unlike cooperation with the ISS, no permits from NASA and Roscosmos will be required. Recall that in all cases, the Falcon 9 reusable booster was used.
In speed, plans to begin construction of the space hotel Aurora private aerospace company Orion Span. It will be put into orbit, according to plan, in 2021, and it will begin to receive the first guests in 2022. Tentatively, living there for 12 days will cost $ 9.5 million. The launch of the Texas orbital travel business will be carried out by ULA, SpaceX or Blue Origin.
Private exploration flights to the moon
All planned lunar flights can be globally divided into private under NASA contracts and those that are undertaken by spacecraft developers at their own risk. It is well known that the US Space Agency has collaborated with SpaceX on unmanned cargo and upcoming manned contracts to serve the ISS and research missions.
And recently, they have seriously started talking about the development of the American lunar program by attracting private performers. So, at the end of 2018, a tender was announced for manned flights to the moon, in which nine private companies took part. It involves a number of consecutive research missions, totaling $ 2.6 billion with a frequency of at least two flights per year.
For the right to fly, along with research, realizing their own commercial goals, they fought: Astrobotic Technology (Pennsylvania), Deep Space Systems (Colorado), Draper of Cambridge (Massachusetts), Firefly Aerospace (Texas), Intuitive Machines (Texas), Lockheed Martin (Colorado ), Masten Space Systems (California), Moon Express (Florida) and Orbit Beyond (New Jersey).
It is believed that Lockheed Martin, which has already successfully landed its InSight aircraft on Mars in 2018, has the most chances for success.
Separately from NASA, the US company Bigelow Aerospace is working on projects for inflatable space residential modules. She has already repeatedly tested her products in orbital conditions, and in 2016 she even equipped it with the ISS.
Together with ULA, they intend to put such a module into low-moon orbit in 2020, and then use it as a leased transshipment point for astronauts. At the same time, the complex will become an interplanetary gas station, from which previous vehicles will be able to recharge.
In addition, the Moon Express also has an ambitious lunar program, which began by sending unmanned probes and plans to organize an International Observatory on the Moon, for which, with the help of its flying vehicles, starting in 2017, it is slowly sending cargoes. So far, all this is unmanned, but who knows how things will be in the future?
History of lunar exploration
Humanity has been observing the moon from time immemorial. At first only from Earth and with the naked eye. Then, thanks to Galileo, and with the help of a telescope, but also without looking up from the surface of the planet. The first spacecraft to reach the satellite and begin its research in 1959 was the Soviet Luna-2.
And in 1969, for the first time, a man’s foot stepped on it: the Apollo 11 ship landed and on July 21, 1969 at 2:56 a.m. Neil Armstrong was the first to land on the moon. Then all the planned tests and collection of samples were made, the flag of the United States of America was set, after which the astronauts safely left the surface.
Few people know, but that first study was associated with serious hassle for American astronauts. As you know, at that time the USA and the USSR were in a state of fierce rivalry in the space program, and the first to lunar, successfully take samples and complete the remaining research stages, and then return with samples to Earth - it was a matter of honor and principle for both the other side.
Just before they entered the lunar orbit, the American crew was informed that the Luna-15 automatic Soviet spacecraft launched almost simultaneously with them, without pilots, but with a similar task - to get ahead of the States and declare their superiority in the study of the satellite. However, he crashed.
Since then, in the exploration of the Moon, mankind has advanced far ahead: unmanned aerial vehicles and probes became frequent guests there, powerful orbital telescopes studied its visible surface far and wide. However, until recently, the true idea of colonizing the Moon and regular transport links with it lived, except, perhaps, in the dreams of earthly science fiction writers.
There were plans to advance in expansion, of course, but they almost crashed: NASA was working on a program to create a permanent lunar base "Constellation", but due to lack of funds in 2011, its funding was discontinued. In different years, such ambitious ideas were sluggishly reported by such large space agencies as ESA (to build a base before 2025), Roscosmos (first flight until 2025 and the creation of a base two years after), India and Japan - until 2030.
But, all this was more reminiscent of populist actions than the already destined reality. Although on January 3, 2019, the Chinese automatic station was able to surprise everyone by landing on the far side of the Moon and even sending sensational photographs of germinated cotton seeds to the Earth obtained during a regular biological experiment on the satellite’s surface.
But at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the flag of colonization, which the states almost dropped, was confidently picked up by private business, behind which, in the opinion of the world community, there is nothing less - the cosmic future of the Earth. Launched several private high-profile moon exploration programs. This was stated by Blue Origin Jeff Bezos from Amazon, SpaceX Ilona Mask and many others.