Space: The Final Tourist Frontier
Up to now, it’s been the province of the world’s richest people. Very soon, it will be available to mere multi-millionaires. And how far behind can the middle class be? Space Island Projects has a visionary plan to put 20,000 inhabitants/guests on their orbiting playgrounds by 2020.
The latest big news, announced last week, is the partnership of Boeing and Space Adventures to sell one week low-Earth-orbit trips to the public aboard the commercial flights that carry astronauts to the International Space Station. A similar venture was recently established by Richard Branson’s Virgin Airlines. Both projects are aiming for a 2015 launch.
In the meantime, Branson is ready to test fly his SpaceShipTwo next year. This is a two-and-half hour “sub-orbital” budget adventure, flying 62 miles above the Earth. The tab? A reasonable $200,000, which is petty cash to the 350 who have already signed up and the 600 on a waiting list.
The more ambitious, full orbital, plans (2015--)will offer the tourist a seat aboard a seven-person vehicle that whisks astronauts to the International Space Station, and includes a stay at the facility. The initial price is yet to be set but one executive at Boeing estimates a ticket will be “in the tens of millions.”
So when can the masses get in on the action? Maybe sooner than you think. Most travel innovations, like ocean liners and airplanes, began as upper class pleasures, but prices quickly tumbled. Here’s a vision for 20 years from now.
Some have suggested that companies award trips as Best Employee awards. Or give it as a prize on American Idol type shows--the first place Dancing With the Stars team gets to dance in the stars. How about lotteries with Space Station vacations to the winner?Continued on the next page