Space Tourism: A New Hobby for the Rich

spacex--p-KCm6xB9I-unsplash

Movies like Star Wars and Star Trek have humans fighting Aliens and traveling around the galaxy. The latter may soon become reality.

In 2001, Dennis Tito, a businessman and entrepreneur from Los Angeles, paid over US$20 million to go to space. He arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and became the world’s first space tourist.

Today, over two decades later, space tourism has surged in popularity. While only seven others have followed suit, space travel could soon become a reality for many. Currently, several companies, led by millionaires, are working on building rockets and even balloons to carry people to space.

English business magnate and Virgin Airways Founder Richard Branson, for instance, has started a space tourism company called Virgin Galactic. Similarly, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has ventured into space tourism business with his company Blue Origin.

Bezos is also gearing up to travel to space with his brother next month. In June, he sold a spare seat on the flight for over $28 million in a 10-minute auction.

The growth of space tourism

Rockets can not be reused and use up a lot of fuel, making space travel expensive. For instance, Houston-based Axiom Space charges up to $55 million for a week-long trip to the ISS.

Suborbital flights are a cheaper option. Here, a rocket goes high enough to reach a certain height, and then come back down immediately, without completing an orbit. Passengers would be able to feel weightlessness for a short period of time, and see incredible views of Earth. Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic offer such suborbital flights.

Owing to the expenses involved, space flights have traditionally been carried out only by nation-states. At one point in time, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) even forbade opening spaceflight to ordinary citizens. It was only in 2019 that it reversed its stance to open the International Space Station to tourists.

Branson first developed Virgin Galactic by buying SpaceShipOne, an experimental air-launched rocket-powered aircraft, in 2004. As of now, Virgin Galactic rockets can only carry up to six passengers in a suborbital flight. Branson says he intends to be the first passenger aboard the spacecraft, following which the company will start sending more tourists into space.

However, Virgin Galactic’s plans have been delayed multiple times. Branson had suggesting opening the business to tourists by 2009. Over a decade later, it’s still not open to tourists. A major hurdle in Branson’s plans was the 2014 SpaceShipTwo plane crash, which claimed the life of a pilot. The crash revealed many problems with the plane’s operation system, which included the ship’s air-braking descent device deploying too early.

Meanwhile, Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000. He has reportedly been spending 1 billion per year from his earnings on the company. The company’s flagship rocket, the New Shepard, successfully flew to the edge of space in 2015. While Bezos is yet to send tourists to space, he is planning to go to space with his brother on July 20 this year.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is another major player in the space tourism industry. Founded in 2002, SpaceX’s goal is to develop reusable and renewable launch technologies, and decrease the cost of space travel. SpaceX’s rockets will land on earth so that they won’t contribute to the problem of space debris.

In 2020, SpaceX became the first and only private company to send astronauts to space, taking them a step ahead of their competitors in the space tourism industry.

Another player in the space tourism industry is Space Perspective. Space Perspective aims to take tourists to space inside a balloon. They recently had a test of the stratospheric balloon, which successfully flew over 20 miles above Earth. The stratospheric balloon requires much less fuel than a private rocket, and runs on liquid propane from pressurized gas tanks, with oxygen to ignite.

Company Co-founder Jane Poynter believes that this way of travel can be more affordable compared to others. One ticket to space with Space Perspective would be $125,000 per passenger, far below what Blue Origin or SpaceX are charging.

Risks in Space Tourism

Due to the complexity of space travel, it is quite difficult for governments to ensure spacecrafts are safe. One way that the government could regulate space travel is by giving a stamp of approval, appraising the safety standards of such flights.

Presently, space flight companies are required to give consent forms to customers, outlining the potential dangers of space travel, and the risks involved. Furthermore, since the U.S. government has yet to certify a space launch, travelers must sign waivers that there is a chance of injury or death. Moreover, if space travel companies indulge in reckless or negligent behavior, the American Supreme court may allow travelers to sue them.

It is likely that the industry will grow tremendously in the next few years. With billionaires like Bezos and Musk putting their resources into the field, reaching the stars would soon become more than a dream for many. However, due to the expenses involved, space tourism is likely to be accessible only to the uber-wealthy for a long time to come.

Images courtesy of SpaceX on Unsplash

SHARE THIS STORY

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

RELATED POSTS

4 Business Sectors Reaping Profit from FIFA World Cup 2022

4 Business Sectors Reaping Sweet Profit from FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

The 2022 FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar will generate roughly US$6.5 billion in revenue, topping the previous record of US$5.4 billion from the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Thanks to the once-in-four-year tournament, Qatar’s GDP is estimated to grow by 4.1% in 2022, and the tournament alone could add up to US$20 billion to Qatar’s economy.

Transparency in the Post FTX World What is Proof of Reserve

Transparency in the Post FTX World: What is Proof of Reserve?

In November this year, two big league crypto businesses, FTX and BlockFi, filed for bankruptcy. FTX had a death spiral after news broke out that the Sam Bankman-Fried-owned exchange had used customer funds to make risky bets through his hedge fund Alameda Research. On the other hand, FTX was closely associated with BlockFi, with them having signed a loan agreement with each other and BlockFi holding US$355 million in digital assets on FTX.

How Do Recommendation Engines Work

How Do Recommendation Engines Work?

Picture this: You just finished a film on Netflix and want to follow it up with something similar. Luckily, Netflix comes to the rescue and gives you the perfect suggestions to continue your weekend movie binge. This isn’t just a hypothetical scenario but something a lot of people actually go through.

Quantum Computing Has a Cybersecurity Problem. Here’s How Experts Are Solving It

Quantum Computing Has a Cybersecurity Problem. Here’s How Experts Are Solving It

In 2019, Google used its quantum computer, the Sycamore machine, to prove that quantum computers can solve a problem in mere minutes. Experts working on the quantum computer found that their system could execute a calculation in 200 seconds, whereas a standard computer would take 10,000 years to complete. What on earth is this powerful tool?

Here Are Some Alternative Sites People Are Jumping To

Musk May Have Killed Twitter: Here Are Some Alternative Sites People Are Jumping To

Ever since Elon Musk purchased the social networking site Twitter for US$40 billion, things haven’t been looking too good for the company’s future. Not only did Musk fire over 50% of the employees soon after stepping on board as the new chief executive officer, but he also intends to allow maximum freedom of speech. This can end up making Twitter a cesspool of racism and misogyny, as well as other forms of hate speech.

How Do Venture Capitalists Choose Which Project to Invest In?

How Do Venture Capitalists Choose Which Project to Invest In?

For those in the entrepreneurial space, raising funds can be very challenging. Not only is it difficult to find the right investor for your startup, but it is also hard to convince said investor to put money into your venture. With over 75% of venture-backed companies failing, the venture capitalist (VC) you approach is taking a serious risk when putting their money into your startup.