Isle of Man’s space tourism ambitions a distant dream

A lorry carrying one of Excalibur Almaz's space station makes its way from Jurby to Ballasalla for storage on Tuesday

A lorry carrying one of Excalibur Almaz's space station makes its way from Jurby to Ballasalla for storage on Tuesday

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Mission abort! That’s the status of Manx-registered Excalibur Almaz’s space tourism plans.

The company’s founder and chief executive, Art Dula, told the Manx Independent plans for a hotel 400km up in space had been shelved due to a four-fold increase in the cost of getting into space which would have meant tourists would have needed $80m just to get off the ground.

‘We planned to rebuild a space capsule and take tourists. That’s not going to happen now.

‘There are no tourists at that price.’

Excalibur Almaz is now working with the International Space University in Strasbourg to transform a space capsule into a reusable orbital scientific spacecraft.

This space laboratory would be used for microgravity research.

But Mr Dula said progress was difficult at present as they are working with Russia.

‘Relations now with Russia are somewhat strained. We are waiting to see how things work out with that.’

It all seems a distant galaxy far away from 2012, when space industry experts said the Isle of Man was the fourth most likely nation to get its flag on the moon, behind only the USA, China and Russia.

In its report, Ascend consultancy, part of Flightglobal, said it was Excalibur Almaz that gave us our best chance of getting men to the moon.

With the exception of a space capsule, which is on loan to the International Space University for educational use, its units including two former Russian space stations – have been stored at a hangar at Jurby Airfield.

Schools and members of the public had a chance to get a closer look when the hangar was opened up in 2011.

That year, Cosmonaut Colonel Valery Tokarev, who was commander on the 2005-2006 Soyuz mission to the International Space Station, visited the island to outline the company’s plans.

In possibly the shortest space mission known to mankind, the units were transported from the Jurby hangar and into temporary storage at Ballasalla this week.

Due to the over-sized loads, the move was done under police escort.

Mr Dula explained the lease on the hangar expired yesterday (Wednesday) and that its contents were going into temporary storage ‘until we find a new place to put them’.

He said the company was in talks with Jurby Transport Museum about loaning one of its capsules to go on display.

‘It would mean students and the public could visit until we need to use it.’

Meanwhile, another unit is due to leave the island in the next couple of months to be displayed further afield.

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