Well, the sixth Return to the Moon Conference came and went last week. It was a lot of fun, and it was nice getting to meet some of the people involved in the industry. There were several interesting things that happened at the conference, so over the next few days I’m going to try and see if I can write a few blog entries about my take on what happened. [Note: Michael Mealling posted several good blog entries over on RocketForge during the conference for those of you who want to see a more general overview of the conference.]
I headed out Wednesday evening from Santa Clara, driving down to Mojave to spend the night at Randall Clague’s place. The drive probably would’ve been more enjoyable had my air conditioning been functioning correctly, but I didn’t die, so I can’t complain too much. For those of you who might not know him, Randall is XCOR‘s regulatory guy, and he has also been a real fan of commercial lunar development for some time. He couldn’t make it to the conference this year, but we were able to chat for a few hours about various topics including lunar space tourism. He actually had some good ideas that I hadn’t exactly thought of before. His thoughts were that the earliest lunar tourism would consist of 2-3 person landers, with one tour guide/pilot and 1-2 adventurers, landing near one of the old Apollo landing sites. As he put it, they’d get out, spend a day or so on the surface, walking around, taking pictures, getting to see firsthand those historical sites. Getting shot if they so much as think about stealing any of the artefacts as souvenirs…..etc. Eventually he could see those sites becoming parks of sort. That’d be a good way of preserving the sites while still making a bunch of money off of them.
I then suggested that maybe the tourists would feel safer flying on a commercial lander if it had been thoroughly flight tested. Maybe doing a few landings and such. He concurred. When asked if he was interested in being the safety officer for the flight, he said so long as he wasn’t flying on one of my VTVL vehicles to get to orbit… 🙂 Seriously though, he mentioned that if we did want to do a few demo flights, offering free rides to people helping perform the flights, he suggested an interesting name for someone that really ought to get invited: Jim Lovell. That was one of those ideas that just felt so right that I may just do that. So, if he’s still up to it, and if I ever manage to pull off developing a manned lunar lander, he’s got a free seat as the pilot if he wants it.