Lawsuit reveals two customers for Soyuz circumlunar tourist flight


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Capitalism in space: A lawsuit against Space Adventures, the company that has previously organized tourist trips to ISS using Russian rockets, has finally revealed the names of the two individuals who had purchased tickets for a circumlunar flight around the Moon using a modified Soyuz capsule.

The details are included in a lawsuit now winding its way through U.S. District Court in Virginia. Harald McPike, a wealth Austrian investor and adventurer who resides in the Bahamas, has sued Space Adventures, its chairman and CEO Eric Anderson, and its president Thomas Shelley seeking to recover the $7 million down payment he put down on the flight in March 2013.

The other lunar tourist? The lawsuit says Space Adventures told McPike that it was Anousheh Ansari, who flew to the International Space Station (ISS) as a tourist in 2006 on a Soyuz in a deal the company brokered with the Russians. Ansari’s family also sponsored the $10 million Ansari X Prize won by Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne in 2004.

The dispute centers on McPike’s realization, after paying $7 million of the $30 million down payment, that Space Adventures probably could not deliver on its promises, mostly because of a Russian reluctance to sent tourists on such a mission. He wants his money back, and Space Adventures doesn’t want to return it.

While several modified Soyuz capsules, called Zond, were sent around the Moon during the 1960s, that was a very long time ago. Configuring the modern Soyuz for such a manned mission would require a lot of work, and I suspect the Russians didn’t want to do it without money up front. Moreover, I’m not even sure that the $300 million from the two tourists would have been sufficient.

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