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Isle Of Man Firm Offering £100m Trips To Moon

(c) Sky News 2012

A British space company has announced details of a plan to take people to the moon for the first time since 1972.

Excalibur Almaz is offering members of the public a passport to orbit the moon - but budding space-travellers will have to find around £100m first.

Four second-hand space capsules and two disused space stations have already been bought from the Russians.

The Soviet-era equipment has been undergoing a refit involving the latest software and electronics at Excalibur's headquarters in the Isle of Man (Other OTC: MAGOF.PK - news) .

If that seems a rather unlikely frontier for space exploration, you may be surprised to find it listed by analysts as the nation fifth most likely to man the first mission back to the moon, behind Russia, the US, India and China.

Lured by zero tax for space projects and an income tax rate of just 10%, the island has carved out a niche for itself in the space business and is now home to over half of the world's satellite companies.

Excalibur is confident its recycled equipment will be enough to attract the handful of multi-millionaires it needs to fund and crew its lunar orbit.

Art Dula, EA chief executive, said the scheme was not "space tourism", and insisted that passengers would undergo rigorous training in how to control the spacecraft.

"This is a private expedition, it's not tourism. It's like the expeditions to the South Seas years ago that made Britain so rich."

One of the four smaller spacecraft will be used to take amateur space travellers to one of the company's recycled space stations in low earth orbit.

From there the station and its inhabitants will blast into the moon's orbit, taking them 234,000 miles from Earth.

It will then continue into space, taking man further from Earth than ever before.

The trip which could last up to six months, offers a very different prospect to those offered by Virgin Galactic, whose craft will provide only a few minutes of weightlessness at just 60 miles up.

But critics point to the vast cost of launching one of Excalibur's space stations and question whether the figures add up.

Excalibur says the first trip could be less than four years away, and claims the second-hand space ships have the potential to become a billion-dollar business.

But its first and toughest mission will be to prove all this can become scientific fact, rather than fiction.