“It’s bungee jumping for rich people” says John Logsdon of the Space Policy Instute, whilst talking about space tourism.
This is our slightly off-the-wall article for the week!
In Mojave, California the space tourism race marked a milestone as British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and American aerospace designer Burt Rutan waved to a crowd from inside the cabin of an exotic jet that will carry a passenger spaceship to launch altitude.
The photo-op was the public unveiling of the White Knight Two mothership before a crowd of engineers, dignitaries and space enthusiasts at the Mojave Air & Space Port in the high desert north of Los Angeles.
White Knight Two, billed as the world’s largest all-carbon-composite airplane, is “one of the most beautiful and extraordinary aviation vehicles ever developed,” Branson proclaimed.
Space buffs are scoffing that suborbital flights are really just a ‘sideshow to the large-scale exploration of space’. Now that tourism down here on terra firma has been conquered (or nearly) some people are looking ahead to the ‘space race’, and … colonization.
Imagine floating out there in space, at zero gravity, and gazing back at the small brightly coloured ball that is our planet.
According to the Space Tourism Society, millions of people would love to have this experience and they intend to “make space tourism possible, to as many people as possible, as soon as possible”.
On 28th April, 2001, Dennis Tito, a Californian based multi-millionaire, became the first ever space tourist. Launched into space in a Russian Soyuz capsule, Tito proved that travelling beyound earth’s gravity was not just the province of a select few, but that anyone with drive, determination and, at this point in history, a LOT of money, could become an astronaut!
As of 2008, orbital space tourism opportunities are limited and expensive, with only the Russian Space Agency providing transport. The price for a flight brokered by Space Adventures to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft is now $20 million. Flights are fully booked until 2009.
Space tourism will rank as THE ultimate status symbol.
Once travel to orbit becomes a commercial service, the question of how to get to space will be mainly one of saving up for a ticket – or looking for work in one of the many space hotels that will be built. Space offers unique pleasures including the view, and zero gravity activities that provide a whole range of things to do on an orbital holiday – including space sports.
Space tourism, still a fledgling industry, born out of necessity, yet driven by the same curiosity and ambition that took us to the Moon – appears to be here to stay. In Russia, Europe and the United States, private companies are already vying to become space tourism leaders.
I think a trip to space would most certainly classify as an extreme vacation – perhaps THE extreme vacation.