Space tourism takes off. You probably can’t afford it – yet
It totally lacks any atmosphere or nightlife. At various times, he lacks night, period, and he has a legendary “dark side”.
Yet within the next 15 years, the moon could become a tourist destination, according to space tourism experts.
“I think it’s entirely possible,” said Rachel JC Fu, chair of the department of tourism, hospitality, and event management at the University of Florida. “I think technology can catch up with our imagination.”
Decades after the first manned space flights, space is becoming the new frontier of tourism, said Derek Webber, founder of Spaceport Associates, a space tourism consultancy.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa plans to take eight artists on lunar orbital missions in 2023, and his The dearMoon project claims to have a million applicants.
two companies, The blue origin of Jeff Bezos and Galactic Virgo, already offer suborbital flights. Two months after his highly publicized venture in which STar Trek legend William Shatner participated, Blue Origin launched another flight on Saturday morning from his Texas site, this one featuring a TV celebrity and former NFL star (and the Eagles’ nemesis) Michael Strahan.
The first two Blue Origin flights carried six passengers, and six were on board Saturday.
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Space X could offer orbital flights “very soon” Webber said, adding that a commercial company could even beat NASA to Mars. “Certainly the data shows that people want to go there,” he said.
Webber and other proponents say it’s not madness, that space tourism holds enormous potential economic, scientific, environmental and even existential benefits.
Not everyone agrees with the move, and it has raised questions about security, national priorities and damage to the atmosphere.
Despite these reservations, for whatever reason — and Fu says fatigue from COVID-19 may be a factor — many people want to get away from it all.
If you dream of traveling in space, know that it will cost you a little more than a SEPTA train ride to Paoli.
Bezos said Blue Origin has already sold $100 million worth of tickets for suborbital flights.
READ MORE: Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
While the company declined to disclose ticket prices, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor Erik Seeder estimated they could cost up to $400,000 each.
The price of an orbital flight would be in the order of $55 million, he added, and suffice it to say that the cost of a return ticket to the Moon would be astronomical.
A more affordable option might be the Neptune spaceship “space balloon,” at just $125,000 per person, including free Wi-Fi. And it wouldn’t require the 14 hours of in-flight training Blue Origin passengers were required to complete under FAA regulations. The company, Space Perspective, calls it a “radically smooth” experience requiring “minimal” preparation.
The “capsule” will rise about 20 miles at around 12 mph and will give passengers a spectacular view of the planet and provide what company founder Jane Poynter calls “a unifying and profound encounter”.
While this may fall short of conventional definitions of “space”, Webber points out that the atmosphere has no hard boundaries, it “just gets thinner and thinner”. At 20 miles, according to the company, passengers will have a view of 450 miles in all directions.
But don’t get your hopes up: the company says it’s sold out through 2024.
While space ventures could be great experiences for the ultra-rich and well-connected, other earthlings could fall victim to collateral damage, said University College London professor Eloise Marais.
If the industry “expands significantly”, the emissions could both degrade the ozone layer which filters out harmful UV rays and contribute to global warming. She added that although Blue Origin’s current rocket does not produce carbon dioxide, its next iteration will use CO2-producing methane.
University of Central Florida professor Asli DA Tasci agrees on the environmental risks and calls space tourism a “dangerous business” for participants. In 2014, a Virgin Galactic spacecraft exploded during a test in the Mojave Desert, killing the pilot.
Prince William of England argued that dealing with issues closer to the Earth’s surface would be a more responsible investment.
READ MORE: Billionaires’ space frolics mean mega-pollution for the planet | Opinion
Webber counters that these are short-sighted opinions.
“That’s how aviation began. Only the very wealthy could fly in the early days (and suffer the risk and discomfort),” he said. “And through the revenue generated by their expensive airfares, it has become possible for the airline industry to emerge, to become safer, more routine, much cheaper and almost ubiquitous.”
Astronauts said they were in awe of the planet as they saw it from space and had a strong sense of responsibility for it, a phenomenon known as the “overview effect”. The term was coined in a 1987 book by writer and philosopher Frank White, who interviewed astronauts about their experiences.
“It would probably help even more if rich and influential people had it,” Webber said, “because in principle they might be able to do something to get the word out.”
Ultimately, he said, it could happen that people could fly anywhere on the planet, across 12 time zones, in 45 minutes.
Since it’s still a nascent industry that will take years to mature, it’s impossible to predict which companies will thrive and endure, Fu said.
That said, she added, “The sky is no longer the limit.”