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Wednesday, January 22, 2020 04:32:06 PM
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Billionaire wanted to orbit moon, but ended up in court

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29th-May-2019       
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The Washington Post  :
Harald McPike had been to the North Pole. The South Pole. Climbed the tallest peak in Africa, the volcano that is the highest point on Earth and the mountain that's not Everest but gives you a great view of its deadly face. What was left? He wanted to hit the moon with a tennis ball.
So when the northern Virginia company Space Adventures told McPike he could get into lunar orbit for $150 million, the Bahamas-based, Austrian-born billionaire trader put down a $7 million deposit.
Five years later, McPike has settled a lawsuit against entrepreneur Eric Anderson's company after spending two years in litigation trying to get his deposit back. McPike's not going around the moon. When any private traveler might do so is unclear.
The lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, shows how precarious the world of commercial space travel is, in which customers hoping for the ultimate exclusive vacation fund technological projects both uncertain and extremely expensive.
In litigation, lawyers for the company said McPike had bought not a seat but "an opportunity" to be part of a potential mission.
"It is an undeniable fact that the Russians have never sent a man around the Moon and that the U.S. had not done so in forty years," they wrote in one filing.
Space Adventures declined to comment for this story. In one court hearing, an attorney for the company said it is "not in the business of litigating, they're in the business of getting people to space."
Unlike Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Elon Musk's SpaceX and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures is not trying to build its own tourist rockets. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.) The company contracts with the Russian government, which uses investments from tourists to modernize. NASA also buys seats on Russian rockets.
But Anderson, the co-founder and chairman, is the first and only entrepreneur to successfully send tourists - seven of them - to the International Space Station. He set out to be the first to get them to the moon.
Anderson has founded several other companies, with mixed success. Planetary Resources, an asteroid-mining project, floundered before being bought last year by a blockchain company. Planetary Power, which aimed to bring hybrid generators to places off the electric grid, folded.
Former board members of Space Adventures - now part of a company called Zero-Gravity Holdings - have complained that Anderson kept investors in the dark.
One shared with McPike emails airing concerns about lack of access to contracts and other information. In one 2013 email, highlighted by McPike, a Space Adventures attorney said he couldn't provide the company's contract with Russia for the "lunar voyage" because it did not yet exist.

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