They NYT's John Schwartz files this story on plans by Space Adventures, Inc. to send tourists into lunar orbit. They've already sent two civilians to the ISS with help from the Russian Space program — US businessman Dennis Tito in 2001; and South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth in April 2002.
Today, it is to unveil an agreement with Russian space officials to send two passengers on a voyage lasting 10 to 21 days, depending partly on its itinerary and whether it includes the International Space Station. A roundtrip ticket will cost $100 million.
The space-faring tourists will travel with a Russian pilot. They will steer clear of the greater technical challenge of landing on the Moon, instead circling it and returning to Earth.
Eric Anderson, the chief executive of Space Adventures, said he believed the trip could be accomplished as early as 2008. Mr. Anderson said he had already received expressions of interest from a few potential clients. The Soyuz vehicle to be used does not have the power to reach the Moon on its own, so the Russians have devised a plan to send up a booster. The Soyuz would dock with the booster, either in low Earth orbit or at the International Space Station. The booster would take the passengers the rest of the way. The price of the two tickets, Mr. Anderson said, would pay for the costs of the Moon shot. His company's demographic research, he said, suggests that 500 to 1,000 people in the world can afford to do this.