Source: 新浪    2012-07-04  我要投稿   论坛   Favorite  


Moon tourism


Fly me to the moon.

Two private firms are offering moon jaunts to the rich and dedicated.

Are we nearly there yet?

The space race between America and the Soviet Union was as much about ideological one-upmanship as extraterrestrial exploration. A new space race to the moon has an even less lofty goal: sightseeing. Two space-tourism companies are planning rival lunar missions that could see private individuals paying to fly to Earth's nearest celestial neighbour.

On June 19th Excalibur Almaz, a space company based on the Isle of Man, a British dependency in the Irish Sea, became the second company-after Space Adventures, an American space-tourism firm-to offer tickets for a commercial moonshot. Both firms are charging $150m a seat, a price that includes months of ground-based training. Neither is offering a descent to the moon's surface-just a lunar fly-by.
6月19日,继美国的太空探险公司(Space Adventures)之后,设在爱尔兰海(Irish Sea)中的英国属地曼恩岛(Isle of Man)上的航天公司王剑钻石(Excalibur Almaz)[注1]成了第二家向公众出售探月航行飞船票的公司。两家公司的票价都是每位1亿5千万美元,其服务包括升空前的几个月地面训练。它们都不提供登月之旅。

Whereas the Americans won the first space race, the Russians are favourites for the rematch. Both Excalibur Almaz and Space Adventures are using Russian-made rockets and spacecraft. Space Adventures plans to re-engineer the veteran Soyuz craft that it has used to shuttle seven space tourists up to the International Space Station (ISS). Excalibur Almaz intends to refit two Almaz space stations that were originally made for the Soviet armed forces.
尽管美国在第一次太空竞赛中获胜,但在当前的复赛中俄罗斯却备受青睐。王剑钻石和太空探险都使用俄制火箭和飞船。太空探险计划重建老式的联盟号飞船(Soyuz),这种飞船完成了7名太空旅行者的国际太空站(International Space Station (ISS))往返航程;而王剑钻石则想重新装备原来为苏军打造的两座俄罗斯钻石空间站(Almaz space station)。

The space-tourism business is famously long on hype but rather short, so far, on results. And both firms face big engineering challenges, to put it mildly. The easier task probably falls to Space Adventures, whose well-tested Soyuz capsules-which have been flying, in one form or another, since the 1960s-require a beefier communications system, larger portholes (everyone wants a window seat, after all) and a better heat shield for re-entry. A separate booster rocket will be necessary to break the craft out of Earth orbit.

Excalibur Almaz's bulky space stations will need a lot more work to convert into lunar spacecraft. The first step will be to attach engines. The company plans to use ion thrusters, a high-tech propulsion system in which propellant is ejected using an electric field. Such motors are extremely efficient, and can be powered from a station's solar panels. But they generate little thrust, meaning that Excalibur Almaz's mission will take at least six months, compared with just six days for Space Adventures' chemical-powered craft. In fact, the low-energy trajectory planned by Excalibur Almaz will take its crew members farther from the than any other humans have been.

A journey that long would be risky. One danger is from uNPRedictable and potentially deadly solar flares, giant releases of stellar energy that would bombard the craft with radiation and fry its occupants. To protect its passengers, the company plans to build an internal "storm shelter" that uses the spacecraft's water supplies to absorb radiation.
这样长远的太空航行会有风险。一种危险来自无法预测而且很可能会致命的太阳耀斑,这是恒星能量的大规模爆发,它会以强烈的辐射轰击飞船,煎烤飞船乘员。为保护乘客,王剑钻石计划在飞船内建造 "暴风庇护所",它可以利用飞船中贮存的水吸收辐射。

Neither firm will start refitting its spacecraft, a process expected to take around three years, until it has sold all the seats on its maiden flights (two for Space Adventures, three for Excalibur Almaz). The companies are marketing their lunar missions to the same high-tech entrepreneurs and ultra-rich thrill-seekers who have snapped up tourist visits to the ISS and suborbital joyrides-long planned, but yet to fly-with firms such as Virgin Galactic.
这两家公司都没有开始重建飞船,这一过程会持续三年,要在公司售出了处女航的所有船票(太空探险两张、王剑钻石三张)之后才开始。已经有一批高科技企业家和追求刺激的超级富豪抓紧机会买了维珍银河(Virgin Galactic)等公司的船票,将要进行计划已久但尚未成行的国际太空站访问,或在环地球轨道上作较短的兜风航行;上述两家公司正向同一批人兜售他们的探月之旅。

Space Adventures already claims to have sold one ticket. That has led Excalibur Almaz to sweeten its deal by offering equity in the company to its first paying passengers. But filling seats may prove tricky. Not only is the asking price more than seven times the $20m cost of a jaunt to the ISS, it also requires months of demanding physical and psychological training. And even if the engineering can be perfected, it remains to be seen how many daredevil billionaires will be willing to spend months cooped up in a metal tube eating freeze-dried food.

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