Space tourism has been a dream with a long history for mankind. The innate need of man to conquer new and unknown lands and the scientific interest for our solar system have been the main cause for the development of aerospace technology. And fairly satisfied we may say. Or not. The need to take a step further, and go beyond the scientific purposes, has led to the emerging of an new niche : that of space travel for civilians. Well, for the wealthiest of them, more accurately.
Nowadays a handful of companies have been investing in tourism beyond earth and are planning to take ultrawealthy non-astronauts on a galactic tour: Tesla Founder Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
Are galactic trips affordable?
Not in the least. For the majority of us. As expected, going to space comes with a price. And a very high one. To book a seat in one of the Virgin Galactic’s suborbital trips would cost you $250.000. Not one or two but six hundred people have already made their bookings for 90-minute flights on Branson’s SpaceShipTwo according to Reuters. Bezos’ Blue Origin, on the other hand, has not yet announced official prices but a ticket for a seat next to him and his brother on his brief space journey in July, was sold in an auction for $28 million! You found that expensive? Not so fast…Axiom and SpaceX travelers will pay the low, low price of $55 million for a flight and a stay on the International Space Station!
Are they safe?
Of high risk for sure. Well, we all remember the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger back in 1986 that killed it’s crew among which was Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian and teacher set to travel to space. So, it is not an exaggeration at all to say that visiting the stars is inherently dangerous. And since Congress has agreed in 2004 to largely let the space-tourism industry self-regulate, few laws and restrictions exist so far on taking civilians (safely) into space. The government only demands from the companies to clearly inform their – beyond earth’s atmosphere – tourists, prior to their trip, that the may die up there, and then it’s up to them to make a decision if they want to take that risk or not.
Does space travel come in one shape?
Of course not. Infinite the space, infinite the human imagination. Space Perspective, a company in the space tourism field, is planning to fly passengers to the edge of space in a high-tech version of a hot-air balloon, “the size of a football stadium,” lifted by hydrogen. Flights are planned for early 2024, with tickets priced at $125,000 per person.
Orbital Assembly Corporation, another company wishing to conquer space touring, offers a different option. To take you to a vacation away from earth in the luxury space hotel that plans to open in 2027. The hotel, named Voyager Station, looks almost like a Ferris wheel floating in orbit and features a restaurant, gym, and Earth-viewing lounges and bars. A three-and-a-half-day stay is expected to cost up to $5 million, according to the Washington Post. Are you packing yet or not?
Celebrities forming a queue for space touring
Justin Bieber, Ashton Kosher and Leonardo DiCaprio are among the celebrities which have already stated their wish to travel to space and have bought their tickets with Virgin Galactic. Tom Cruise on the other hand has come to an agreement with NASA to collaborate on making a film on the International Space Station. A galactic mission impossible maybe?
Is there hope for the average person?
Hopefully yes, but it will take a long way to get there. The cost is, above all, the most significant barrier. It all boils down to the high costs of the space technology. However, back in the old days, air travel used to be, prohibitively expensive as well. A simple ticket across the country could sum up to the cost of a new car. With the rise of the competition and the development of the aerospace technology similar price reductions are expected in the future. We cannot do many things besides hoping and waiting. And maybe singing : Fly me to the space and let me play among the stars…