(discussing space tourism)
Space tourism is a recent phenomenon where
wealthy individuals or corporations are spending up to $51
million for a chance to travel in low Earth orbit (LEO)
and beyond. California multi-millionaire Dennis
Tito spent $20 million on space tourism to become the
first paying tourist, in 2001. Tito, the founder of Wilshire
Associates and former JPL scientist, traveled aboard a Russian
Soyuz capsule, launched by U. S. company, Space
Adventures, Ltd, where he spent 7 days aboard the International
Space Station (ISS).
Space tourism will be a $1 billion industry
Extraterrestrial tourism has become a bigger goal over
the past few years as NASA has stopped its space ventures
and the Shuttle was retired in 2011.
NASA hopes to rely on the commercial orbital transportation
systems (COTS) to shuttle astronauts and cargo to the ISS
thereafter and it looks like commercial craft will be available
If you've ever seen Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie "Total
Recall" you'll know that tourism to outer space was
a central theme to that movie. But, this is not just some
pipe dream as companies like Scaled
Origin, and SpaceX
are developing craft and programs to do just this.
Following Dennis Tito as the second
tourist in outer space, in 2002 was South African millionaire,
who certainly was "shuttle worthy" as he also
spent around $20 million to travel aboard a Russian Soyuz
TM-34 and spend 8 days aboard the ISS.
Following Shuttleworth in 2005, was Greg
Olsen, who spent the same amount on tourism to travel
to the ISS via a Russian Soyuz capsule. And space flights
for tourists have not stopped there, as the third fee-paying
tourist, Olsen rejected the "tourist" designation
noting that he had conducted several experiments while on
the ISS. Olsen is co-founder and chairman of Sensors Unlimited
Inc., a company developing infared cameras and sensors.
In 2006, Iran-born American citizen Anousheh Ansari became
the fourth in the ISS tourism lineup and the first female
to buy a ticket to the ISS.
Some have argued that John Glenn
in 1998 was the first official extraterrestrial tourist,
but others discount that claim since Glenn was a non-paying
participant in the flight. If you think also that space
tourism is so expensive that nobody will want to go, then
think again since there is a waiting list to be launched
into LEO and aboard the ISS.
Tourism to space has been
criticized as being a "playground for the rich."
And, while there may be some current truth to this,
the vision for the future is to make the industry
affordable and available to the middle class in just
a few, short years. While 'N Sync singer Lance Bass
may have fallen short of cash and Madonna was voted
down in her request, still many companies are working
on making suborbital flights affordable to the general
Tired of Disneyland and Magic Mountain? Been to all the
major continents and want more? Done all of the extreme
sports and just can't get that adrenaline rush anymore?
Suborbital flight may just be the Next Big Thing on your
agenda in the not too distant future.
Even Bigelow Aerospace and the X-Prize Foundation are getting
in on the act by offering monetary awards for breakthrough
technology in the space tourism industry.
Race to LEO ...
Suborbital flight will be a reality as soon as 2014. Just
as there was a "race to space" decades ago, now
there is a race to LEO in this decade. And this race will
mean big bucks for some companies.
So, if you've got the bug to travel and have always dreamed
of going beyond the confines of Earth, that possibility may
just exist sooner than you think.
A few companies are actually accepting reservations (with
a deposit) now. Isn't it time you jumped onboard?
Updated August 12, 2014