The concept of space tourism is growing in popularity all the time, and there are a growing number of businesses engaging in activities within the space tourism industry.
The concept of space tourism is one of the most exciting emerging features of the wider tourism industry, and many companies are already making waves by outlining plans to deliver various forms of commercial spaceflight in the near future. In this article, you will find out more about the space tourism industry, its history, the companies that are most likely to deliver on it, and what the future has in store.
Definition of Space Tourism:
What is Space Tourism?
- Space tourism refers to the activity of travelling into space for recreational purposes. It is sometimes referred to as citizen space exploration, personal spaceflight, or commercial human spaceflight, and it covers spaceflights which are sub-orbital, orbital, and even beyond Earth orbit.
- 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.
- Space tourism is human space travel for recreational purposes. There are several different types of space tourism, including orbital, suborbital and lunar space tourism.
- Some definitions also include hypothetical future spaceflights that are undertaken for business purposes.
A Brief History of Space Tourism
While the concept of space tourism still sounds futuristic, it actually already has an established history. So far, however, the Russian Space Agency is the only company that has successfully facilitated orbital space tourism. This primarily took place in the early 2000s, during which time seven space tourists were taken into space.
Space tourism, recreational space travel, either on established government-owned vehicles such as the Russian Soyuz and the International Space Station (ISS) or on vehicles fielded by private companies. Since the flight of the world’s first space tourist, American businessman Dennis Tito, on April 28, 2001, space tourism has gained new prominence as more suborbital and orbital tourism opportunities have become available.
The Russian Space Agency ceased its space tourism operations in 2010. Since then, a number of private enterprises have started to pursue space tourism, resulting in various proposals in this area.
How Will Space Tourism Look in the Future?
In the short-term, it is likely that space travel tourism will continue to grow in popularity, and that companies like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin will deliver sub-orbital spaceflight for paying customers. Meanwhile, orbital spaceflight will also be pursued by several enterprises, with Boeing among them.
Looking further ahead, however, interest in the space tourism industry is likely to really take off when space tourism extends beyond Earth orbit, especially if lunar missions become financially and logistically feasible.
With that being said, 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.
Orbital & Suborbital Space Tourism
Orbital Space Tourism
The advent of space tourism occurred at the end of the 1990s with a deal between the Russian company MirCorp and the American company Space Adventures Ltd. MirCorp was a private venture in charge of the space station Mir. To generate income for maintenance of the aging space station, MirCorp decided to sell a trip to Mir, and Tito became its first paying passenger. However, before Tito could make his trip, the decision was made to deorbit Mir, and—after the intervention of Space Adventures Ltd.—the mission was diverted to the ISS. Tito, who paid $20 million for his flight on the Russian spacecraft Soyuz TM-32, spent seven days on board the ISS and is considered the world’s first space tourist. However, given the arduous training required for his mission, Tito objected to the use of the word tourist, and since his flight the term spaceflight participant has been more often used to distinguish commercial space travelers from career astronauts.
Orbital space tourism continued to grow following Tito’s mission, with flights to the ISS by South African computer millionaire Mark Shuttleworth in 2002 and American businessman Gregory Olsen in 2005.
These travelers were followed by Iranian-born American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari, who became the fourth spaceflight participant and the first female fee-paying space traveler when she visited the ISS in September 2006. The following year American billionaire Charles Simonyi joined the ranks of spaceflight participants when he shared a ride with two cosmonauts on board Soyuz TMA-10 for a 10-day stay on the ISS, and Simonyi made a second flight in 2009. The sixth spaceflight participant, American video game developer Richard Garriott, was launched in October 2008. In making his flight, Garriott became the first second-generation American in space, since his father, Owen Garriott, was a former astronaut.
(Cosmonauts Aleksandr Volkov and his son Sergey were the first father-and-son space travelers. Sergey Volkov was on the ISS when Garriott arrived.) No spaceflight participants have flown to the ISS since Canadian entrepreneur Guy Laliberté in 2009, but Space Adventures announced that two passengers will fly to the ISS in 2021. Since 2007 Space Adventures has offered a spaceflight around the Moon on a Soyuz spacecraft for a fee of $100 million.
Suborbital Space Tourism
Although the orbital space tourism industry garnered much media attention following Tito’s flight, other companies were also hard at work trying to make space tourism a profitable proposition by developing suborbital vehicles designed to take passengers to an altitude of 100 km (62 miles). In addition to the goal of making space tourism commercially viable, the companies were competing for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million reward offered by the X Prize Foundation to the first nongovernmental organisation to launch a reusable crewed spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. (A portion of the prize money was donated by Anousheh Ansari and her brother-in-law, Iranian-born American entrepreneur Amir Ansari.) On October 4, 2004, Spaceship One, funded by Virgin Galactic and designed by American engineer Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites, won the X Prize and, in doing so, ushered in a new era of commercial crewed spaceflight and space tourism.
In 2004 the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act (CSLAA) provided guidelines for regulating the safety of commercial human spaceflight in the United States under the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Under the CSLAA, FAA representatives will attend every launch, evaluate every landing, and work alongside the space tourism operators; however, the FAA will not be permitted to impose any safety regulations until 2023 unless there is a serious incident. The guidelines require space tourism operators to inform spaceflight participants in writing about the risks of launch and reentry and about the safety record of the launch vehicle. The CSLAA guidelines also require spaceflight participants to provide informed consent to participate in launch and reentry.
As the space tourism industry evolves, the ranks of spaceflight participants will grow, and suborbital and orbital flights will inevitably give way to lunar excursions and trips to Mars and beyond, by which time space tourism will be operating as a full-fledged industry capable of truly opening the frontier of space.
Space Tourism Companies:
The space tourism industry is gathering pace fast, as a growing number of organizations seek to deliver on the aim of putting paying customers into space. Moreover, there are a number of aerospace companies that are either exploring this option, or helping to develop the technology that will enable space tourism companies to operate.
For those who are hoping to one day visit space as a private astronaut, the following five companies may offer the best chance of achieving that dream.
The following five companies above all have interesting proposals – and most have produced promising results through early testing – it is worth remembering that these are not the only companies that have made such plans.
- Virgin Galactic
- Blue Origin
- Orion Span
The following companies are several space tourism companies that did not achieve their goals.
- Galactic Suite Space Resort
- The Golden Spike Company
- XCOR Aerospace
Aerospace Companies That Build Spacecraft
The following are examples of aerospace companies that are primarily associated with building spacecraft.
- Virgin Galactic
- Blue Origin
- Orion Span
Top of the Space Travel Destinations on earth:
Fire up the jet pack, suck in some thin air, get a taste of zero g – it’s time to take one small step for yourself, and a giant leap for humanity. Here are 11 destinations related to space travel, whether you’d rather observe from the ground or head up there yourself.
- Palomar Observatory, USA
High on Palomar Mountain, at an elevation of 1800m to avoid light pollution, the Palomar Observatory in San Diego is simply spectacular – as large as Rome’s Pantheon. It’s almost as beautiful as the Pantheon, too, with a classic design dating from the 1930s. The Observatory houses the world’s once-largest telescope, the 5.1m Hale Telescope, operated chiefly by computers now rather than humans. These days the observatory is chiefly used to track near-earth asteroids and is open to the public daily.
- Kennedy Space Center, USA
Located on the famous Cape Canaveral in Florida, this is the granddaddy of all space facilities, the launch pad for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, as well as the various space shuttles. Remember masses of spectators gleefully cheering on astronauts ascending to the heavens; the Challenger shuttle falling to the sky to the horror of those watching…that’s all Kennedy. You too can witness history: select a launch date and park beside the highway a few miles away for free views. Or pay to get inside the VIP visitor’s area on the cape for the ultimate view.
- Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Fans of Borat may laugh, but Kazakhstan has at least one genuine tourist attraction: the Baikonur Cosmodrome, still under lease to the Russians. This is the world’s oldest facility for launching space vehicles (Gagarin blasted off here) and has been a backdrop in Star Trek and William Gibson stories, among others. Join a tour and geek out at the obligatory space museum, as well as seeing the facilities where rockets are prepared and the actual rockets themselves.
- Arecibo Radio Telescope, Puerto Rico
The Arecibo Observatory houses the world’s largest radio telescope, a beautiful structure (a work of art to many) featuring a huge, spherical reflector dish, 300m in diameter, composed of 40,000 perforated aluminium panels embedded into the surrounding jungle. Suspended by cables almost 140m above is a 900-tonne platform housing an extremely complicated system of antennas and units for focusing radio waves received from deepest space. It’s all far too complex to do justice to in 100 words. The telescope features in the films Golden Eye and Contact. Thankfully, it is open to the public (or at least an observation platform is).
- Very Large Array, USA
Like Arecibo, the VLA in New Mexico is also featured in Contact, as well as in 2010 (sequel to 2001) and Independence Day – all films about alien contact. The VLA consists of 27 radio antennas, each 25m wide, arranged in a Y shape, with one arm of the array extending 21km. Each antenna can be moved to various positions on locomotive tracks and the output of the entire array syncs together, effectively functioning as one super-antenna with an area of 36km.
- Star City, Russia
If you were a civilian visiting here a few decades back, you might have been shot or detained indefinitely, for Star City, Russia’s cosmonaut-training complex, was strictly off-limits while the Cold War was yet to thaw. These days you can book a tour to Star City, which has its own shopping centre, post office and train station. While you won’t be able to peer in at the cosmonauts’ living or training quarters, you will be able to visit the awesome Space Museum, with its 20,000 exhibits including space suits, space vehicles and assorted Gagarinalia.
- Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, China
This gargantuan launch facility, 1500km from Beijing in the remote Gansu province, is where most Chinese space vehicles leave Earth. The centre’s huge – about 3000 sq km – and, China being China, is strictly off-limits to nonrocket types. Still, you can visit Jiuquan, the small town it takes its name from. It’s in the desert, but because of the whole space infrastructure, it’s not as primitive as other isolated Chinese towns. And it boasts thoroughfares with names like ‘Space Road’, so you know you’re in the right place.
- RSC Energia Space Museum, Russia
The RSC Energia Corporation built the Salyut and Mir space stations, the Soyuz rockets and numerous other extraterrestrial vehicles – the backbone of the Soviet space fleet. Now they’ve put this exceedingly rich history on display in Moscow, showcasing everything from rusting descent modules to gleaming satellites and massive booster stages. The ‘60s selection is surely the best, featuring those exotic, grandiose, bulbous designs that seemed a million light years away from NASA’s functional hardware. Marvel at how three cosmonauts squeezed into a space the size of a closet; lie down on Mir’s bunk beds and dream of Mars.
- International Space Station, Low Earth Orbit
The ISS has been inhabited since 2000 and was assembled in space; construction is ongoing. A joint project between the USA, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency, the ISS promises to usher in a new age of spacey cooperation. Do you want to visit? Then shell out $US20 million like Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist, who spent seven days, 22 hours and four minutes aboard this box in the sky.
- Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
No, it’s not the complex where Ernst Stavro Blofeld launched his secret rocket fleet, only to be foiled by James Bond. In fact, Japan has a legal space programme plan and Tanegashima is a vital cog in that, mainly used for satellite launches. Located on Tane Island, 100km south of Kyushu, the center is open to the public, except when Japan’s space agency is shooting complicated hunks of metal into the air. Visit the launch complexes and interact with the wonderful full-scale simulacra of the Japanese Experiment Module.
- Spaceport America, USA
The launch pad for Virgin Galactic, Spaceport America, is in New Mexico. Flights are expected to begin in the next couple of years, so you have just enough time to save up the $200,000 needed for a ticket.
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