Space Tourism

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Adventure tourism, such as trips to Antarctica or Mount Everest, has long been a profitable business. This can involve packages with prices as high as $100k range and even higher. Though you commonly hear talk of "space joyrides for the rich", the development of space tourism will follow the normal course of development seen for most all consumer technologies and services. The space tourism industry is officially open for business, and tickets are going for a mere $20 million for a one-week stay in space.

    1. Description

    2. How- The Space Tourism Menu

    3. Future Trends

    4. Related Links

Description 

Despite reluctance from NASA, Russia made American businessman Dennis Tito the world's first space tourist.In April of 2001, DennisTito became the first traveler to pay for a trip to space with money out of his own pocket. He decided to do it and then just did it.That's what tourism is all about. His flight, and the subsequent one by Mark Shuttleworth, forever removed the giggle factor from discussions of space tourism.In October of 2004, Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne won the X PRIZE and thereby started a new race to develop the first vehicle that will provide suborbital space rides to paying customers.Suborbital generally refers to an up-and-down (i.e. mostly vertical) flight that reaches an altitude of around 100km or more but does not go into orbit around the earth. 

How- The Space Tourism Menu 

Tourism itself began as something only done by the very rich. Passenger flights on airlines were initially very expensive. VCRs, DVDs, PCs, etc. all started out as very expensive "toys". Eventually competition and economies of scale (i.e. mass production) take over and prices drop to the level the middle class can handle. Space tourism companies are aiming to send their customers into orbit on beefed-up versions of existing spacecraft designs. Its interesting to view their different tourist packages. 

Lunar tourism: The Deep Space Expedition from Space Adventures and the Lunar Express Mission from Constellations Services each involve sending two people around the Moon (ala Apollo 8) on modified Soyuz spacecraft for ticket prices in the $100M range.

Orbital Tourism: Three tourists so far have ridden Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station for one week stays and more are waiting to go at a ticket price in the $20M range. They are intended to serve as both scientific stations and space tourist destinations within the next decade.

Suborbital tourism: At least three companies are expected to begin selling rides in the 2007-2008 time frames on spaceships that will fly the X PRIZE style trajectory to 100 km or higher. This will provide around 5 minutes of weightlessness, a view of the curvature of the earth and a dark star-filled sky. Ticket prices will be in the $100k to $200k range. High altitude jet flights - Ride a MIG 25 to 36 km. Ticket price is $24k.

Weightlessness on aircraft flying parabolic trajectories. Weightless periods last 25 - 30 seconds. Tickets in the US are currently $3750.

The billionaire Richard Branson in September 2004 announced a contract with Burt Rutan that gave him funding to design and build a 5-8 passenger vehicle - unofficially referred to here as SpaceShipTwo. SS2 will safely and routinely fly above 100km for a cost of about $200k per seat.Within a month of this announcement, Virgin Galactic already had 7000 people expressing strong interest in buying tickets to ride on the vehicle when it becomes available. 

Future Trends 

The company Space Adventures also has had over 100 people place deposits, or pay the full $98k price, on a suborbital craft as soon as one become available. In the meantime, this company and others offer rides on MIG-25's that go to 25km in altitude. Some companies claim their spaceships could even ferry government astronauts to the International Space Station after NASA retires the space shuttle in 2010.Market Studies by NASA and many other organizations have shown that there are sizable markets for space tourism, both suborbital and orbital, and that the markets will grow rapidly as the cost of sending a person into space drops from current levels.Before orbital rides are widely available, suborbital flights will be the most common way to ride into space. Going to 100km or so, one can see the horizon out to 1000km or so and clearly see the curvature of the earth and the blackness of space. 

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