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Company plans to sell moon rides

By Mark K. Matthews

Tribune Washington Bureau

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6 2012 11:29 p.m. MST

WASHINGTON (MCT) — The idea sounds so preposterous that even its backers admit it seems lifted from the pages of an Isaac Asimov novel.

But the architects of a new aerospace company say they plan to create a business that could send tourists to the moon, perhaps by the end of the decade.

"This sounds like science fiction. We intend to make it science fact," said Alan Stern, a former NASA science director who is leads the company, Golden Spike.

Stern and a team of aerospace insiders, including former Apollo flight director Gerry Griffin, announced their plan Thursday at the National Press Club.

The overarching idea is to use rockets and capsules already built — or under development — to send two astronauts to the moon for the (relatively) low cost of about $1.5 billion, roughly $750 million a seat.

Stern said the company's intent is not to attract eccentric billionaire tourists — though they would be welcome — but instead sell seats to other countries' space agencies looking to see their astronauts' bootprints on the lunar surface.

"It is going to energize people around the world," said Stern, adding that he hoped regional rivalries could spur countries to fight for the prestige of reaching the moon. "It's not about being first or second; it's about being part of the club."

Before that happens, though, lots of questions must be answered. Replicating the Apollo landings — even 40 years after the launch of Apollo 17 — is no small step.

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