Many people have dreamt about eating and drinking while floating in microgravity, just like real astronauts. This dream will soon become a reality, as a few companies are pioneering the challenging goal of making space travel available for everyone. This new market is called space tourism.
It is probable that many people have heard about Elon Musk’s SpaceX, but how many have heard about other aerospace companies such as Blue Origin, which belongs to the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, or Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic? These companies are the tools through which the above-mentioned multimillionaire businessmen hope to establish space tourism.
We have already seen a few space tourists. For instance, the Hungarian-born American computer businessman, Charles Simonyi, has already been to the International Space Station twice. Simonyi is considered a space tourist rather than an astronaut, because he paid an enormous amount of money in order to book a trip to the ISS. So far this has distinguished the astronauts from the tourists.
However, the main aim of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson is to make space tourism available to the general public. They have both promised to lower the price of space travel to USD 250,000 by 2020. But they also aim to further decrease this number, and the final goal is to reach USD 50,000. That means that anyone who can afford to pay USD 50,000 and has good physical and mental health could become a space tourist.
Space tourism mainly focuses on providing the feeling of being in space. For this reason, the first trips will only last for a few minutes, hours at most, enough for space tourists to perceive the feeling of being in a microgravity environment and then return home. During this short period of time they can experience what it is like to be an astronaut at the International Space Station.
Of course, the owners of these aerospace companies have long-term visions for how space tourism could develop. Blue Origin, for example, says it plans to organize trips for space tourists around the moon, as even to establish a moon base to begin building a human colony on the moon.
The emergence of the whole market of space tourism is the result of an international trend that is known as New Space. At the core of New Space is the global emergence of the private spaceflight industry. These new members of the space industry have strengthened and earned the right to be part of the market, along with national space agencies (NASA, ESA, Roscosmos etc.).
For now it seems that New Space has prompted cooperation between national and private space companies. However, it is more likely that private companies are willing to overgrow their national competitors, and space tourism could definitely be a solution for this, therefore we follow the developments of this sector with great interest.