Space tourism is a unique idea that may become very popular in the near future. It is a term that’s interpreted as general public buying tickets to travel to space and back. Many people find this idea too futuristic but, with the space travel technology advancing by leaps and bounds, it won’t be long, when people would be able to explore the outer space while on a vacation! It is now clear that the extensive research and professional work that has been put in the subject has made the idea of space tourism a realistic target for various businesses.
In 2001 Russia made Dennis Tito, an American businessman the world’s first space tourist. Tito spent $20 million to fly aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket and reached the International Space Station (ISS) on April 30th 2001. He stayed there for a week. The second space tourist was South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth who travelled to the ISS in 2002. In 2006, Anousheh Ansari, became the world’s first female space tourist and the fourth space tourist overall, the third was Greg Olson, an American businessman. Up till now, only seven people have travelled to the ISS in this fashion. But this exclusive club is about to gain more members very soon.
Billionaire and business Tycoon, Richard Branson’s company Virgin Galactic is ready to launch its first commercial space shuttle this year. The aircraft, called ‘Spaceship 2’ will carry 6 passengers and 2 pilots above the earth’s surface (100 Km / 62 miles altitude), but below its orbit. In this 2 hour ride, passengers will be able to see the earth’s curvature and experience weightlessness for a few minutes. The price per seat is $200,000, and about 500 people have already booked a seat and paid the advance. While some people are cynical about this trip saying that these flights are not worthy of being called ‘spaceflights’ and that the price is very high for just a 2 hour ride, but the exclusivity and the subsequent bragging rights that would come after this trips would be priceless.
These trips are just the beginning of what might be a highly lucrative industry in 21st Century. Several space tourism companies plan to build orbital cities and suborbital vehicles within two decades. It is an industry that is growing rapidly. Companies have invested millions of dollars, in the belief that the space tourism industry is on the verge of taking off and open up space to a huge and wide range of activities for people.