The endless possibilities of the epic universe, the broad, vast cosmos’ enormity have always had people’s fancy. Our Earth sits like a tiny blue marble within the magnanimous Milky way. Astronauts returning home from space often talk about the outstanding view of Earth from space. With the advent of space tourism, you can enjoy the rare opportunity to travel beyond Earth, extending your freedom to explore the unknown.
Space tourism has enabled us to change the conventional assumption that space is nothingness, a vast area of emptiness that goes on forever. Human endeavors and discoveries have proved the relevance and importance of space exploration projects, unraveling the unexplored. Read ahead to know more about space tourism, the proposed price trends and its potential future.
What is space tourism?
Space tourism is another niche segment of the aviation industry that seeks to give tourists the ability to become astronauts and experience space travel for recreational, leisure, or business purposes. Not only does space tourism extend the freedom to travel into space for those with the means, but it also promises a profitable market to develop the launch vehicles necessary to expand life throughout the solar system.
Space tourism has been positively seen as humankind’s step closer towards settling and living beyond Earth. With time, space tourism is expected to solve the single most challenging problem holding up space settlement: safe and inexpensive transportation from Earth’s surface to Low Earth Orbit. Space settlement has tremendous potential benefits for humanity but requires a much more robust and affordable launch capacity than is available today.
How much does it cost to go to space?
There are plenty of companies offering (very expensive) flights into space. Ranging from $100,000 to millions of dollars, different companies have a diverse price range for their space trips.
Seven tourists have traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) till now. The publicized price was in the range of US$20–25 million per trip. Unsurprisingly, commercial space travel remains the realm of the mega-rich.
The only market for humans-in-space potentially capable of sustaining thousands of flights per year is tourism if the cost is in the $100,000 range or less. If the price is in the $10,000 range, millions of flights can be supported.
Who will take you to space?
There are several options and aerospace companies out there available for space tourists. Scroll down to find some of the prominent frontrunners in the field.
SpaceX and Axiom
SpaceX is the only private rocket company ever to send a human into orbit. They’re also the only company now NASA-certified to send people to circle Earth. Axiom Space’s goal is to create the world’s first commercial space station. SpaceX and Axiom have inked a deal to send a crew of private citizens to the ISS aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule in October 2021. One seat on the 10-day trip would cost you $55 million. Travelers will spend two days moving to and from the space station, and eight onboard. The tourists will be accompanied by an Axiom astronaut who will make sure they don’t distract the ISS crewmembers.
Known for its dramatic launches and landings, Space-X is also rapidly gearing up towards launching its very first commercial spacecraft launch to the Moon taking Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who paid for the mission, scheduled in 2023.
Virgin Galactic’s goal is to become “the world’s first commercial spaceline.” The company plans to begin regular flights in 2021, with CEO Richard Branson slated as the first non-professional pilot to travel on Spaceship Unity.
Initially, the company charged $250,000 to early buyers, and more than 600 people have signed up for the same. But now Virgin Galactic expects to raise its rates, though they have yet to release a final price. Register via the website, and you will be put in touch with their staff.
Image © bloomberg.com
Jeff Bezos started his rocket company, Blue Origin, back in 2000. Blue Origin’s goal is to one day have millions of people living and working in space. Like SpaceX, they’re prioritizing reusable rockets and spacecraft to reduce the cost associated with spaceflight drastically. Much of Blue Origin’s effort has gone into developing a pair of rockets: New Shepard and New Glenn.
New Shepard is currently taking payloads to space and will soon fly astronauts. New Glenn’s heavy lift capabilities will bring people and payloads to orbit. These next-generation launch vehicles are powered by our family of high-performance, reusable rocket engines. Tickets will reportedly cost between $200,000 and $300,000. By providing your information here, you’ll receive early access to pricing information and tickets when they open reservations.
NASA is also taking advantage of these commercial advances in space travel. SpaceX and Boeing are under contract with NASA to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS); the first crewed missions for both these companies were set to take place in 2020 but were postponed due to the pandemic.
The ISS itself could be open to tourists soon. NASA has announced that it is planning to offer private astronauts the chance to stay on the station, with a bed for the night costing $35,000. However, that doesn’t include the ‘taxi fare’ of actually getting there: flights to the ISS could cost up to $60 million.
Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner spacecraft is being developed in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The Starliner was designed to accommodate seven passengers, a mix of crew and cargo, for missions to low-Earth orbit.
But once Boeing is flying to and from the ISS, the iconic aerospace company is also technically allowed to fly private passengers to the space station.
Image © bloomberg.com
Founded in 1998, Space Adventures, Inc. is the world’s premier private spaceflight company and the only company to have arranged for private astronauts to fly to and live in space. They’ve been responsible for over half a dozen paid trips to the ISS that made use of Russian spacecraft.
The price of the spaceflight depends on the timing and the exact mission profile. Get in touch with them by registering on their website.
Finally, Orion Span is a space tourism company in the United States, which announced plans for a private commercial space station, called the Aurora Space Station. Currently in development, the space station would be placed in low Earth orbit and would effectively function as a space hotel, which would host up to six space tourists at a time. Unlike a hotel stay, guests can work as a team and take part in the station’s operation. There will be plenty to do, from cargo transfer activities to daily exercise and special operations tasks.
While the plans are still in the provisional stages, the company has already sold out several months’ worth of hotel reservations. The total cost of a space hotel reservation currently stands at more than £7 million. At present, Orion Span says it is hoping to host its first paying guests at the Aurora Space Station in the year 2022.
How does the future of space tourism look like?
It is fair enough to say that space tourism will continue to flourish in popularity if companies continue to deliver sub-orbital spaceflight for paying customers. Space tourism may lead to large numbers of people traveling to space in the next few decades. However, interest in the space tourism industry is likely to take off when space tourism extends beyond Earth orbit, especially if lunar missions become financially and logistically feasible.
Yet, it is worth pointing out that space tourism is likely to remain extremely expensive for the foreseeable future. It is also physically demanding, which will mean it will only be available to people who pass fitness tests and undergo training programs in preparation for their flight.