It’s not that often that the science and travel worlds collide. But with the successful launch of billionaire Richard Branson to the edge of space and safely back to Earth, both are abuzz with the possibility of opening sub-orbital (and beyond) adventures to a wider public.
If you’ve ever dreamed about soaring above our planet, you might be wondering what’s coming next – and when you can get up there, too.
Of course, space tourism is rife with complications and barriers to entry. High costs, limited options for transport, and risk to life and limb are just some of the concerns that might stand between you and viewing the Earth from above. Before you book your out-of-this-world tour, here’s what you need to know about the future of space tourism:
Multiple Companies Are Vying to Take You There
And they are almost all owned by billionaires. Branson – founder of the Virgin Group collection of companies – started Virgin Galactic, which has already sold roughly 600 tickets to space. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has Blue Origin. Tesla’s Elon Musk started SpaceX (their rockets have already worked with NASA to resupply the International Space Station).
All three companies develop their own spacecraft, for which travelers can or will be able to purchase tickets.
Taking a slightly different approach, video game developer Richard Garriott’s Space Adventures coordinates flights for passengers on Russian space program rockets. Garriott himself spent 12 days in space after buying a spot on the Soyuz spacecraft (The U.S.’s NASA has declined requests to carry private travelers on its spacecraft).
Cost Could Be A Barrier to Entry for Awhile
Speaking of that 12-day trip to space, Garriott spent 30 million dollars to experience it. Tickets via Virgin Galactic for a launch like the one Branson experienced are going for a slightly more affordable $200,000 apiece. Blue Origin is booking tickets at a similar price point.
Needless to say, at these price levels, space tourism remains out of reach for the vast majority of travelers. But like many consumer goods before it, the cost of space tourism could come down with increased supply (more companies selling tickets to space), improved technology, or other market factors. It’s unclear, though, when or if that will happen. After all, the first general public flights haven’t even happened yet. Stay tuned.
Are Travelers Prepared to Accept the Risks?
Something that could also be barrier that prevents otherwise able travelers from booking that ticket to space? Images of spacecraft – some manned, some not – experiencing catastrophic failure. If you vividly remember watching live as NASA’s Challenger exploded shortly after take-off in 1986, killing all seven on board, you might not be inclined to buy your own ticket to space. Other risks of space travel to the human body include exposure to radiation and antigravity environments.
Of course, commercial air travel is not without its risks as well, and the majority of travelers readily accept that risk to obtain the reward of travel. Rocket technology is constantly improving and learning from past disasters (as does commercial air travel, which is one of the safest ways to get from Point A to Point B), and with more recent memories of private space travel companies launching successful missions, getting in a rocket might one day feel as normal as getting in a Boeing 747.
Oh, and Branson Didn’t Technically Travel to Space…
While of course no visible physical barrier exists between the end of our planet and the beginning of space, there is an international organization that has attempted to set such a boundary. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (in English, The World Air Sports Federation) holds that space begins at 100 kilometers (roughly 62 miles) above the Earth’s surface. Branson’s craft reached a height of 86 kilometers above the Earth, in an area referred to as sub-orbital space.
It might seem like a technicality, but these differences could matter to future space travelers. When paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a trip, you might want to know exactly where you’re going.
There Are Other Ways to Experience Weightlessness
One of the big draws of space flight is the opportunity to experience weightlessness. But you don’t have to go to space to make it happen. A commercial aircraft can provide the experience by conducting a series of aerobatic maneuvers called parabolas. Space Adventures offers travelers the opportunity to take zero gravity flights, starting at $6,700 per person.
Indoor skydiving in another way to feel something similar to weightlessness. Using powerful wind tunnels, iFly offers this experience at locations across the U.S.
Lugos Travel is Tracking the Future of Space Tourism
No matter what the future holds for space tourism, Lugos Travel will be ready. We’re keeping an eye on the latest developments, and are eager to provide you the custom travel experience you’ve come to expect from our luxury concierge services. Email us here to start planning you next out-of-this world adventure.