Ever since the Sputnik and the men on the Moon, people have dreamt of becoming cosmonauts and astronauts. Trips in space are extremely expensive, and this type of tourism is accessible only for the very few. However, more affordable suborbital space tourism is viewed as commercial proposition by several companies, for example “Space Adventures”.
Vienna based Space Adventures is a company that has developed a number of programs designed to immerse customers in the adventure of space travel, without leaving the Earth’s atmosphere. It is possible to sign up for an Orbital spaceflight. Space Adventures writes about this experience: “Orbital spaceflight is one of the most exhilarating experiences known to man. When you reach earth orbit you are traveling through space at over 17,000 miles an hour, and are over 200 miles above the earth surface. The weightless environment means you are floating inside your spacecraft, which is a thrill in itself.
While the highlight is the spaceflight, an integral part of the experience and a very rewarding time is the training. Space Adventures will ensure you are appropriately trained and prepared for your spaceflight, using state of the art facilities, simulators and methods.”
What fascinates most is the experience of weightlessness. Space Adventures has developed a tour in a modified Boeing 727. Here, parabolic arcs are performed to create a weightless environment. The customers will be able to float, flip and soar as if they were in space. This tour is cheap compared to the orbital spaceflights: around 5,000 dollars per person, or 165,000 dollars for a charter of the whole flight for 35 people. Seats/space can be reserved on www.spaceadventures.com
Space tourism is highly competitive and also emerging business with critical alliances with space science and technology. Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson has taken the initiative to build a fleet of commercial spaceships and launch aircraft with the intention of making widespread space travel a reality. Virgin may eventually become a pioneer in space tourism, but in a shorter perspective commercial and image branding impacts are likely to be importance for the company. Fiddling with the space issues provokes significant, helpful and cost-effective media attention. www.virgingalactic.com
The Space Tourism Society monitors the development and works for the expansion of the phenomenon.
Carl Cater provides a comprehensive analysis: Cater, C.I. (2010) Steps to Space; opportunities for astrotourism, Tourism Management, 31, 6, 2010, 838-845.