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TRAVEL | SCIENCE & TECH

From Issue #6

Your Next Big Vacation

How about a trip to the moon?

by Can Bui

MoonHave you ever had that fantasy to visit the moon, grab a rock and throw it into space so it would float forever? Soon, if you've got the cash, you can!

Enter the Artemis Project. This new and bold project is a private venture that will "establish a permanent, self-supporting manned lunar base," which translates into a community on the moon for people to live in.

According to Gregory Bennett, the founder of the Artemis Project, "It's not a question of whether it'll work, but rather how long it will take."

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. That moment became a crowning achievement in both the space community and for humanity itself.

Despite the significance of the occasion, almost certainly when viewers saw images of his weightless, bouncing figure they thought, "That looks like fun!"

Moon BaseSo, the Artemis team is taking a realistic approach to a human fantasy: they are marketing the project of a lunar base as purely entertainment. One small step for man, one giant leap for entertainment!
They plan to pay for the initial stages of the project through commercialism. After all, Kurt Cobain summed up the state of our nation when he sang, "Here we are now, entertain us!" And the records show that we will pay to be entertained.

Veronis, Suhler & Associates are investment bankers for the communications and media industries. Their research found that Americans spent over $40 billion dollars (all amounts in US$) to be entertained at the movies, through home videos and television in 1999.

California investor, Dennis Tito, recently took a trip to the International Space Station, after donating $20 million dollars to the Russian Space program. Wealthy celebrities like Canadian director James Cameron and the brothers of rock band Oasis have also voiced their interest to visit the big ball in the sky.

Artemis ProjectIn the same report by Veronis, Suhler & Associates, consumers spent close to $4 billion dollars on video-game software alone. So, for a mere $1.42 billion dollars the Artemis Project is a drop in the entertainment bucket.

The project expects to pay for the initial lunar base primarily by exploiting the fun factor of the grand adventure of space flight. Planners expect to make the experience so much fun that net revenues from the entertainment value of the project, through its first flight, will be more than US$5 billion. These revenue estimates are based on comparisons to similiar mass-marketing ventures which tie movies and television shows in with associated merchandise and services.

Clearly, the real challenge of the program is to make it fun!

Although the United States government does not encourage this project, there are those at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), who support the program. "I wish commercial enterprise would be more commercial, and stop running to Uncle Sugar every time they want to do something," says NASA Administrator Dan Goldin.

Moon BaseSo, what will a two-week vacation to the moon cost? Apparently, the price you would expect to pay for a luxury-class European capital tour, or probably less than $10,000. For that, you would play in zero gravity, sightsee for the few days it takes to get to the moon, of course, moon walk and if you're in the mood, perhaps take a bus tour.

At first, the expedition-class flights would be for rugged explorers, the sort of trip that will appeal to safari-goers, mountain climbing types and perhaps hidden cave adventurers. Eventually, the lunar tourism industry will grow into luxury-class trips suitable for the casual sightseer.

University bound student, Al Dharsee says, "I would certainly go to the moon, if given the opportunity, so that I could look at the Earth and laugh. But with the way we treat our own planet, I don't think we deserve to set foot on any planets or moons for that matter."

However, if you are one of those ready to book a flight, don't pack your bags quite yet, your flight is not scheduled to depart for at least a couple of decades.



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