Holiday in space?? How does it sound? Exciting much?
Well, this idea is now a reality! Space tourism is not a science fiction anymore. It has been made possible to travel to the edge of space for the surreal experience of a lifetime.
You better get ready for some space selfies 🙂
Initially, professional astronauts were the only ones to reach the stars, but with the emergence of private space travel companies like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX, space tourism is officially open for business.
What is Space Tourism?
A thrilling addition to the travel and tourism industry, space tourism gives tourists the rare opportunity to travel to space; an exclusive domain of professional astronauts, for adventure and recreational purposes, visit space museums, go stargazing or watch rocket launch. For many, reaching to the stars was nothing short of a dream, but 2021 marked the year of this dream being a little more achievable.
Billionaire Richard Branson who rocketed into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the “experience of a lifetime”. Other space tourists have described their space travel experience as, “viewing the earth from space is simply out of the world, it’s unparalleled”. The downside is that, it can only be experienced by a handful and is out of reach for the majority. At the cost of nearly $50 million per trip, this is ultra-aspirational space tourism of the highest order.
Interesting read: A Timeline of the significant moments in the history of Space Tourism
Brief History of Space Tourism
The concept of space tourism is not new and dates back to the 1960s. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man to travel to space on a 108-minute orbital flight aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft. Later, on May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard became the first American and second man to travel into space during a 15-minute suborbital flight, aboard a Mercury redstone rocket named Freedom 7 capsule. Thereafter, in 1969, US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first human beings to walk on the moon. Since 2000, several affluent space tourists have spent a fortune to fly into space. In April 2001, a wealthy businessman Dennis Tito became the first ever ‘space tourist’ to visit space as a fare paying customer and spent close to 80 days onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The space ticket cost him nearly $20 million.
Between the period from 2001 to 2009, seven civilians took joy rides aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ISS and back. These trips were brokered by Space Adventures, a US based private company and the published price was in the range of US$20–25million per trip.
Year 2021 saw billionaires Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Yusaku Maezawa take off to the skies in a marvellous leap for the space tourism industry.
Till date, nearly 580 other people have been to space.
Types of Space Tourism Activities
- Space tourism holidays
- Space museums
- Rocket launches
Top Space Tourism Companies
Witnessing the demand for space travel, many private companies ventured into this industry in the hope of capitalizing on this new tourist activity.
- Virgin Galactic
- Blue Origin
- Orion Space
Billionaires Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, respective leaders of Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin, were the first key players to start operations in the early 2000s followed by Orion Space and Boeing. These companies have invested millions to gain from the lucrative spaceflight industry. Moreover, there are several other space tourism companies building spacecrafts capable of sending people on suborbital and orbital flights to the edge of space within the next two decades. Aerospace company, Axiom Space plans to send a 3-crew member team to the International Space Station in January 2022, and launch the first “space hotel”, by 2024.
Space Tourism Cost
Going to space is the most expensive vacation ever. These space tours will be priced anywhere between $250,000 and $500,000 for the flight and a one week stay on the International Space Station (ISS).
The space shuttle has to travel at a speed of 15,000 miles per hour, in order to break free of Earth’s gravity, Thus, space shuttles need nearly 1.9 million liters of fuel just to launch into space which is sufficient fuel to fill up 42,000 cars.
Factors to consider before travelling to Space
Apart from the cost factor, one also needs to be physically and mentally fit. Space tourists will have to fill out a simple medical history questionnaire or a more detailed form, undergo blood tests, X-rays and urine specimens, depending upon the type of flight, Furthermore, one will have to dedicate enough time to undergo training for emergencies that can take up to few months.
Space Tourism and India
Sirisha Bandla – The woman who made India proud!
Indian-origin astronaut, Sirisha Bandla, is the third Indian woman, after astronauts Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, to fly into space. Sirisha, 34, along with 5 crew members rocketed into space aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity for an hour and half expedition over New Mexico on July 11, 2021.
The fact of the matter is, space tourism is a reality for people who have the financial means to purchase a ticket. While nowadays it’s possible for many to afford a trip to Australia or Europe, how many will be able to take a trip to space? Only the super-rich, which is certainly true for the moment. However, the minute space travel becomes more common and the cost gets lower, more people will start taking these trips. So, till the time space tourism becomes an affordable domain for all, why not explore other types of space activities such as visiting space museums or star gazing on your next holiday on earth.
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