Every time someone talks about space travel, it’s hard not to think about “Interstellar.” Remember how Mathew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway set out to save human civilization? While Nolan’s movie revolves around members of NASA, we all dreamt of visiting space. With the commercialization of space travel, the dream is now capable of coming true. But is the state of space tourism the same as portrayed in Nolan’s cinematic world? This article will shed light on what space tourism looks like in today’s world. It will also discuss how further space tourism is expected to grow in the upcoming five to ten years.
The Evolution of the Space Tourism Business
The journey of these initial “space tourists” was facilitated by the company Space Adventures, in collaboration with the Russian Space Agency. The success of these trips paved the way for the burgeoning space tourism business. However, orbital space tourism was restricted to those with deep pockets, given the high costs associated with each trip.
In recent years, a number of private companies have ventured into this potentially lucrative market, aiming to make space travel more accessible.
Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are investing heavily in developing technological solutions to reduce the cost of space travel, and in creating unique space adventures for the thrill-seeking, affluent tourist.
With this progress, the future of space tourism looks promising. The next five to ten years are expected to see a significant surge in the number of space tourists as the cost of travel decreases and the opportunities for unique experiences increase.
This expansion of the space tourism business will not only contribute to economic growth but also foster a new appreciation for our planet as more people are given the opportunity to experience the overview effect.
Space Tourism in the Current Times
Dennis Tito, a wealthy businessman, made history in 2001 as the first person to visit the International Space Station as a space tourist. His groundbreaking journey sparked the era of orbital space tourism, with several more adventurous individuals following suit in the next two decades. These space tourists, willing to spend tens of millions of dollars, embarked on awe-inspiring adventures among the stars, thanks to private companies flying customers to space.
Space Adventures, a space tourism company founded in 1998, has since organized eight trips to the International Space Station. Through its collaboration with the Russian Space Agency and other private companies, Space Adventures makes it possible for wealthy individuals to experience life in low-Earth orbit.
What Does the Future os Space Tourism Look Like?
The opportunities for commercial space
But the year 2021 had a huge impact on kick-starting space tourism. The industry is expected to be worth around $3 million by the end of this decade. Some milestones in space tourism in the year 2021 are as follows:
Virgin Galactic Tourist Flight
In July 2021, the first space flight from Virgin Galactic was launched. The flight with two pilots and four crew members had as a passenger the founder of Virgin Galactic Richard Branson.
The flight took off from New Mexico, where Virgin Galactic has a facility named Spacecraft America. It flew into outer space, and the members of the flight experienced weightlessness for four minutes. Virgin Galactic is selling tickets for $450,000 for space tourists those willing to have “the experience of a lifetime.”
Jeff Bezos Visiting Space
Closely followed by Virgin Galactic’s launch, Blue Origin also launched its first spaceflight with normal passengers. This time it was the turn of founder Jeff Bezos to become a space tourist. The flight had three other space tourists, and Mercury 13 aviator Wally Funk was one of the tourists. The autonomous system dismissed the need for pilots. The spaceflight flew above the Karman line, which Virgin Galactic could not reach.
Inspiration4 Launched the First Orbital Mission
Inspiration4 was the first spacecraft to fly without professional astronauts on board. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft was commanded by Jared Issacman, a billionaire pilot. The other passengers on the spacecraft included Hayley Acreneaux, Chris Sembroski and Sian Proctor. The three passengers are a physician assistant, data engineer and science communication specialist, respectively. The spacecraft with four civilians flew high in the Earth’s orbit for approximately three days.
Blue Origin Launches Second Flight
Blue Origin further increased the popularity of space tourism by launching its second spaceflight in 2021. It was the “Star Trek” celebrity William Shatner who went to space this time. The actor became the oldest person to visit space. The spaceflight to suborbital space had three other crew members apart from Shatner.
Blue Origin Last of 2021
Blue Origin’s third and last crewed spaceflight of 2021 was launched in December. The flight had Michael Strahan, a former football player and the current host of “Good Morning America.” The spaceflight also had Laura Shepard Churchley. Blue Origin named their third spaceflight, the New Shepard system, after her father, a NASA scientist. The six seats of the spaceflight were filled out by four other passengers who paid to set out a space adventure.
Russian Film Being Shot on ISS
A Russian film crew has traveled to the International Space Station to shoot a movie. The film crew included actress Yulia Pereslid and producer Klim Shipenko. Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy was also a part of the crew. Oleg Novitsky was associated with the Russian federal space corporation Roscosmos. With the inability to make a huge film crew fly to space, Shipenko had to play various roles behind the scenes, from director to cinematographer.
Axiom Space’s Crew for 2022
Axiom Space will launch its privately-funded and operated mission in 2022. Under a commercial agreement with NASA, the spaceflight is all set to take a retired NASA astronaut Michael-Lopez-Alegria along with three other civilians. They will spend around 260 days in space as part of the mission. Axion and SpaceX have collaborated to fly three more missions after their first one named Ax-1.
After noticing some of the milestones of space tourism in 2021, it can be concluded that it is too expensive to be within reach of an average American. The year 2022 brings in more promises in the industry, with Axiom Space all set to launch its private crew to space. On the other hand, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX will continue with their adventure.
A New Horizon for Space Tourism in the Next 5-10 Years
The sector of space tourism was dominated by national space agencies once upon a time. But with the advent of private companies, the technology-based space industry is being revolutionized. SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin were all founded after Dennis Tito’s adventure to space. It was a time when NASA was strictly against the concept of civilians flying to space. The national space agency stood strong on its decision considering the burden of taking care of a non-professional space crew.
A lot has changed in the space tourism industry since the flight of Tito, and a lot of changes are also expected in the industry. But in the current scenario, space tourism can turn into reality only for the super-rich. The uncertainty regarding whether the space travel industry will show profits is largely because of the high costs. Elon Musk founded SpaceX in an attempt to decrease the cost of space travel. The development of reusable launches is a major leap in lowering costs and making the space industry a viable market.
In the coming years, the commercial market of space tourism will be shaped by the availability of infrastructure in spaceports from specialized agencies like RocketBreaks. Axiom is also planning to set up hotels and space stations, which will likely influence more civilians to visit space. It can be expected that companies that will be able to provide an unforgettable space experience will become profitable.
People in the quest of seeking cool adventures will help the space tourism industry grow. The rich people with a net worth of billions are likely to settle for the once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic will see the seats of their spaceflights filling up. Despite safety concerns, high costs and technological restrictions, the space tourism industry is likely to advance by the end of this decade.
Impact of Space Tourism on Economy
Private space companies are already investing in space tourism, and it will only increase in the next five to ten years. Access to space tourism is likely to create more economic opportunities. Space scientists and engineers will demand as the space tourism industry expands. With fresh minds working in the industry, innovations will flow all over the concept of space travel.
As a result, it will lead to lowered costs. Ultimately, space travel will come under the affordable nature of people with average incomes. The advancement of technology will also lead to improved safety and comfort for space travelers.
In 2004, the U.S government enacted the “Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act”, a critical piece of legislation that laid the groundwork for the private sector to enter the space tourism industry. The act provided a legal and regulatory framework for private companies to start flying customers into space, marking a significant transition from state-controlled to commercially driven space exploration.
One prominent player is Virgin Galactic, a private company flying customers with their spaceplane, the VSS Unity. This rocket plane, capable of carrying up to six passengers, has already conducted several test flights to the edge of the atmosphere.
The company plans to make space tourism accessible and affordable for more people, but for now, the price tag remains in the tens of millions.
The emergence of private companies flying customers into space represents a seismic shift in space exploration. It heralds a new era where becoming a space tourist is no longer a mere fantasy reserved for astronauts, but a tangible reality within reach for many in the coming years.
Space tourism is going to be a prominent sector of the NewSpace industry in the next five to ten years. Space tourism will gradually become mainstream and influence socio-economic factors on Earth positively. It will create job opportunities and educate everyday citizens more about space. Improved infrastructure, better safety and lowered costs will attract space travelers. The awe-inspiring exploration of space will awaken human minds into the world of the unknown.