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space tourism

Space tourism – for your time in Space

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. 

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In 2019, NASA declared the International Space Station open to commercial business, and it’s looking like that will mean a whole lot of space tourists will get to enjoy microgravity.

First flights to space are sold or even done; other companies plan to launch space hotels, and a balloon-like capsule for space day trips, before the decade is out. Is space tourism going mainstream?

World’s First Space Tourist

Upon his return to Earth from the International Space Station on May 9, 2001, California millionaire Dennis Tito speaks at a press conference about his experience as the world’s first space tourist. The tycoon reportedly paid the Russian space program $20 million for the trip into outer space.

Below are space tourism companies that currently allow customers to book a ticket – or at least to inquire about future flights. If you want to become a space tourist – these are the companies that can make it happen.

VIRGIN GALACTIC

Virgin Galactic this week announced that VSS Unity successfully reached space, completing the Company’s fourth rocket-powered spaceflight.

This week’s flight was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson

Virgin Galactic was founded by billionaire Richard Branson, who hopes to be on the first passenger flight. As of mid-2019, Virgin Galactic is preparing for their first flights with paying customers – once these happen we’ll update this section with more details.

Virgin Galactic will offer a modified space plane flight: passengers will board the VSS Unity. You’ll ascend to space, separate from the mother plane and rocket up to the edge of space. On the descent, you’ll experience weightlessness and get to view the curve of the earth. The current price is $250,000 per person, and over 650 people hold tickets for future flights. You can register your interest in Virgin Galactic here.

Virgin Galactic owner: Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson – an English business magnate, investor, author and commercial astronaut. In the 1970s he founded the Virgin Group, which today controls more than 400 companies in various fields.

Blue Origin space tourism

Blue Origin is the other major space tourism company, founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos way back in 2000. Bezos plans for Blue Origin to offer both commercial launch services and space tourism launches.

Unlike Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin plans to use rockets and passenger capsules to send space tourists to the edge of space. You’ll board the passenger capsule atop a New Shepard rocket, ascend to roughly 300,000ft in elevation, then experience weightlessness as you begin your descent back to earth. Tickets for a seat on Blue Origin are also $250,000 – but the waiting list is a bit shorter than Virgin Galactic if you’re in a hurry to reach space.

On July 20, Blue Origin will fly its 16th New Shepard flight to space, and its first with astronauts on board. The launch will be broadcast live on BlueOrigin.com beginning at 6:30 am CDT / 11:30 UTC. Liftoff is currently targeted for 8:00 am CDT / 13:00 UTC.

A seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard craft was auctioned off at $28 million in June. Nearly 7,600 people registered to bid from 159 countries.

Blue Origin owner: Jeff Bezos, founder and executive chairman of Amazon. With a net worth of more than $200 billion as of June 2021, he is the richest person in the world according to both Forbes and Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.

SpaceX

SpaceX’s private mission with Axiom Space is scheduled to fly four passengers to the International Space Station (ISS) in early 2022.

While the price of a brief suborbital trip with Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin is expensive, trips even higher to orbit and beyond are downright, well, astronomical. Three people paid $55 million each to Axiom Space in Houston to fly in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the International Space Station.

SpaceX owner: Elon Musk – entrepreneur who cofounded PayPal and formed SpaceX, maker of launch vehicles and spacecraft. He was also one of the first significant investors in, as well as chief executive officer of, the electric car manufacturer Tesla.

Space Adventures

Space Adventures offers several different space tourism experiences. On earth, they offer launch tours to Baikonur Cosmodrome, spaceflight training at Star City, Russia, and zero-gravity flights. In space, they currently accept inquiries for trips to both the space station and around the moon. The price depends on who provides the launch and how long you want to stay.

Since it was founded in 1998, Space Adventures was the first company which has sent paying customers to space. Between 2001 and 2009, seven people paid to spend between 7-16 days aboard the International Space Station.

A visit to the ISS is like no other experience.  When you reach Earth orbit you will be traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, over 250 miles above the Earth’s surface and you will be weightless, floating inside your spacecraft.

You can fly to ISS in 2023, fly around the Moon, take a walk in space etc.

Space Adventures owner: Mr. Eric Anderson is one of the leading entrepreneurs in the commercial human space flight and space tourism industry, an astropreneur (as coined by Wired magazine). As the President and CEO of Space Adventures, Mr. Anderson has led the world’s premier space tourism company to several years of profitable success and has sold more than $80M in space tourist flights; including the first and only two tourists to fly to the International Space Station (ISS); Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth.

BOEING

Like SpaceX, most people characterize Boeing as a commercial launch company, rather than a space tourism company. But also like SpaceX, we may see Boeing enter the space tourism industry soon.

Boeing is the second company contracted to bring astronauts to the International Space Station, along with SpaceX. As part of their agreement, Boeing will have empty seats on some launches, which they are theoretically permitted to sell to tourists. While any visits to the ISS require NASA approval, in early 2019 NASA suggested that they may entertain this idea in the future – for the price ticket of $35,000 per night.

Roscosmos space tourism

The Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, commonly known as Roscosmos, is a state corporation of the Russian Federation responsible for space flights, cosmonautics programs and aerospace research.

Originating from the Soviet space program founded in the 1950s, Roscosmos emerged following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. It initially began as the Russian Space Agency, which was established on February 25, 1992 and restructured in 1999 and 2004, as the Russian Aviation and Space Agency and the Federal Space Agency, respectively. In 2015, the Federal Space Agency  was merged with the United Rocket and Space Corporation, a government corporation, to re-nationalize the Russian space industry, leading to Roscosmos in its current form.

Roscosmos is headquartered in Moscow.

World View Enterprises

With World View Enterprises, travelers will board a pressurized capsule which is raised to the edge of space using a massive helium-filled balloon. With up to five other passengers and two crew, you’ll spend five hours from takeoff to touchdown, and get a view of the earth from as high as 100,000 feet in elevation.

The tickets cost $75,000 per person, and you can request info on their website. As of 2019, World View Enterprises suggested they might be focusing less on space tourism and more on research and commercial business, but they’re still a contender!

Zero2Infinity

Zero2Infinity is a Spanish aerospace company that made a big splash when they announced their plans to send tourists to space. They became one of the first companies to propose a feasible plan for space tourism with balloons.

The basic idea is that passengers will board a ‘Bloon,’ a capsule capable of carrying four passengers and two crew up to the edge of space. You’ll then be lifted by a helium balloon up to roughly 118,000 feet. You’ll see the edge of the earth and the fine line of the atmosphere before slowly descending back to earth by parachute. They don’t have public pricing on their website, but the total flight time will be roughly four hours.

SPACE ACCOMMODATION

Bigelow Aerospace

Founded by billionaire Robert Bigelow in 1999, Bigelow Aerospace builds expandable space station modules; It is funded in large part by the profit Bigelow gained through his ownership of the hotel chain, Budget Suites of America.

Bigelow launched two demo modules to orbit in 2006 and 2007. In 2016, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module was attached to the International Space Station. Their idea for space hotels built of these modules is a solid one with great proof of concept.

While Bigelow doesn’t have a timeline or price for ‘rooms’ in their future space hotel, they’re the one most likely to actually do it – and probably do it first!

AXIOM SPACE space tourism

As space tourism becomes a reality, more companies are coming into the industry to help meet traveler’s needs. One such company is Axiom Space founded in 2016. Axiom was the newest realistic space habitat company since Bigelow back in the late 90s.

Axiom plans to build a private space station that will initially connect with the International Space Station, then take over management of the entire station when the ISS is privatized. There’s no timeline set up for this yet, but Axiom Space has been working on design anyway.

If you want to spend eight days aboard the ‘Axiom International Commercial Space Station’ (once it’s open), it will cost $55 million and you’ll need to spend 15 weeks in training. That’s a high cost – but it will be an unforgettable experience!

 

ORION SPAN

The latest space hotel idea comes from Orion Span, a California company. In March 2018, Orion Span announced plans to launch the Aurora Space Station by 2021 – and be ready for guests in 2022.

For the price of $9.5 million, visitors will be able to book a 12-day stay aboard the Aurora Space Station following a three-month training program. Once you’re in orbit, you’ll be able to free-float, look out windows, practice hydroponic gardening, and play in a ‘hologram deck,’ like those ones in Star Trek.

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Driven by wanderlust and a passion for tech, Sandra is the creative force behind Alertify. Love for exploration and discovery is what sparked the idea for Alertify, a product that likely combines Sandra’s technological expertise with the desire to simplify or enhance travel experiences in some way.