Now that the airlines have been deregulated, they may fly just about anywhere they wish. And Pan American World Airways is more than ever convinced that it will one day offer regularly scheduled flights on a new route that is out of this world.
The airline has a list of 90,002 persons who hold reservations for the flights--to the moon.
Pan Am insists its moon-flight reservations program, established in 1968, is not a publicity stunt. Officials point to the airline’s involvement in a host of space-related activities which make it a natural to fly the first tourists to the moon.
“For 30 years or more, we have been involved as a contractor at Cape Kennedy,” says James A. Arey, a Pan Am spokesman. “We provide telemetry support, all kinds of engineering support, communications support and we even park the Boeing 747 which brings back the space shuttle to the cape.”
“Flying people to the moon would be normal commercial endeavor. . . . Commercial flights to the moon are going to happen. They might not happen next year, they might not happen in five years--but they will happen.”
Civilians on Shuttle
Interest in Pan Am’s moon reservations have revived of late because the day is drawing near when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will take what it calls “citizen observers” on flights of the space shuttle. NASA plans to take along as many as three civilian observers a year and hopes the first of them will travel later this year. President Reagan has suggested that the first should be a public school teacher.
The agency will train citizen passengers for 100 hours and a cost of about $100,000 each, according to John Lawrence, NASA’s public affairs officer. He says that the physical qualifications are minimal and that there are “no rigors involved” for the observer-passengers.
Already, Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) is scheduled to join the shuttle crew on Feb. 20, the first passenger who is not a scientist or engineer or in the military. Garn, however, will be designated a payload specialist, assigned to perform tasks that measure space adaptability. He will, in effect, be a guinea pig for such experiments as measuring the effects of exercise in space, of space motion-sickness, and of weightlessness on the redistribution of fluids in the body.
But NASA says that it does not plan to carry droves of private citizens into space. It is leaving that to private industry.
Space Fever Cooled
Pan Am began its lunar reservations at the height of the Apollo space program and the year before astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon. Trans World Airlines, caught up in the same space exploration fever, also began taking reservations about then. But after collecting about 6,000, TWA found that public interest had waned and now stores the applications in a warehouse.
The list of those who hold reservations to the moon on Pan Am include journalists--Walter Cronkite holds card number 90,002--scientists who hope to do research there, Hollywood types who think that the moon would make an ideal movie setting and just plain tourists seeking a new adventure.
Pan Am distributed numbered cards to anyone who asked. Though 100,000 cards were printed, the airline stopped taking reservations a few years later when they became an administrative burden at a time when the airline was experiencing severe financial difficulties. It does not plan to take new reservations until it inaugurates service to the moon.
The cards, says Pan Am, are not transferable and card holders must produce them before they can buy tickets to the moon. Although no deposits were required for the reservations, one would-be passenger was so anxious to secure his place in line that he sent along a check for $1 million. The check wasn’t cashed, Arey says.
Some of those who hold reservations to the moon feel that the trip will help in their work.
Super Place to Study
Lawrence G. Dishman, a research scientist at Wayne State University in Detroit, for example, specializes in quasi-stellar radio sources. “It’s a super place to study,” he says. “All of the moon flights have landed on the back side of the moon and that’s away from all of the noises emitted from the earth.”
George Shapiro, a Beverly Hills producer, hopes one day to make a movie on the moon. But on his first trip, he says, he simply wants to scout locations.
But William J. Kelly, a retired Air Force colonel who now operates a lighting fixtures business in Palm Desert, is in it for the adventure pure and simple. He holds one of the lowest numbers (562) on the Pan Am list and his wife, LuCille holds number 563.
Although he is 65, Kelly still has lunar ambitions and made his reservations because “it seemed like a heck of a place to go to where no tourist has been.”
“If they beat the undertaker to the front door, I’ll make it,” he added.
Times intern Tony Robinson contributed to this article.