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US company announces $1.5 billion round-trip to the moon

Plans unveiled by two former NASA officials could make it possible for a private citizen to set foot on the moon. But before you lace up your moon boots, consider the out-of-this-world price tag.

A full moon

Mond Vollmond

The company proposing to offer the trips to the moon said on Thursday that a lunar round trip ticket would cost about $1.5 billion (1.15 billion euros). The first trip offered by the Golden Spike Company could come in 2020, giving potential moonwalkers plenty of time to start saving for the journey.

According to a statement from the company, which takes its name from the final railroad spike that completed the transcontinental railway in the United States, the flights are designed to be sold to "nations, individuals, and corporations with lunar exploration objectives and ambitions."

It added that the price was a relative bargain, given that the estimates were a fraction of what previous lunar programs had cost and is similar in cost to current robotic missions.

The last successful attempt to put a human on the moon was the Apollo 17 mission 40 years ago. Golden Spike's announcement came one day before the 40th anniversary of that mission.

Gerry Griffen, a former Apollo flight director and head of NASA's Johnson Space center, and Alan Stern, a former NASA scientist, are the two men behind the company.

They said the company will capitalize on "available rockets and emerging commercial crew spacecraft" to bring down the costs.

Although there was no official comment from the company, one assumes that a price tag of $1.5 billion entitles a lunar tourist to take home a free moon rock as a souvenir. Budget-conscious travelers hoping to save money by booking a one-way journey will presumably be out of luck.

mz/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP)