Future Tourism: Adventurous journeys beyond the blue sky
Back in 2001, American businessman Dennis Tito became the first private citizen to travel into space on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and spend six days at the International Space Station. In 2004, veteran test pilot Mike Melvill flew SpaceShipOne at Mach 3 beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and became the first civilian to fly an aircraft into space. Well, the commercial space travel is getting very close to reality, with a number of private companies revealing their plans to offer thrilling space rides. Private space travel is now ready for booking and we are expecting hundreds or even thousands of space flights every year in the near future. One of the most illustrious names in commercial space travel is Richard Branson, and the affluent have already spent a whopping $200,000 per ticket for 2.5-hour flight aboard his SpaceShipTwo.
With the space tourism industry heating up, we can really expect cheaper suborbital spaceflights in the near future. Lately, a team of experts also said that a ticket for suborbital flight would most probably cost between $50,000 and $100,000 by 2014. For years, Virginia-based firm Space Adventures and Russia’s Federal Space Agency has been offering space flights for around $30 million. They take the paying passengers on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS.
Let’s take a look at other space tourism companies and their spaceships that are all ready to take you on an amazing journey to the edge of space.
1. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo has successfully completed its first flight with the crew on board as it soared over California’s Mojave Desert this July. As of now, the company has received more than 300 bookings from the super-rich persons and about $45 million in deposits. They are charging $200,000 a ticket for 2.5-hour flight. Designed to take two daily trips to space, the service might take off in 2011 or 2012.
2. XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx
Recently, Xtraordinary Adventures, in partnership with RocketShip Tours, started taking reservations for the thrilling space ride aboard XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx suborbital spaceship. The complete package of training, medical screening and suborbital flight comes for a cool $95,000. You need to deposit $20,000 in advance to start the process. The $95,000 package also includes a five-night stay at a luxury resort during training and preparation, medical evaluation and screening. Current plans call for first civilian liftoff to begin in early 2012.
3. EADS Astrium Space Jet
EADS Astrium has taken the “airplane to rocket” approach. The four-passenger jet looks like a normal aircraft, but it is in actual is a space jet fitted with rocket engines. The Astrium Space Jet will take off from a conventional airport using its jet engines but when it will reach at an altitude of about 12 km, the rocket engines kicks in to give the jet enough acceleration to reach 100 km in no time. Astrium hoped the first flight to take off in 2012, with the tickets to cost a little under $300,000, but in 2009, the company put its space jet on hold indefinitely.
4. Excalibur Almaz
Excalibur Almaz Limited (EA) announced its plans last year to open up a new era of private orbital space flight for commercial customers by 2013 using vehicles based on Soviet-era spacecraft built for classified military space stations. As of now, Excalibur Almaz hasn’t revealed any details about the price per trip.
5. SpaceDev Dream Chaser
The Dream Chaser is a proposed crewed suborbital and orbital spacecraft being developed by SpaceDev, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation. The Dream Chaser design is designed to carry six to eight people to and from low Earth orbit. Sierra Nevada Corporation was also given $20 million in seed money under NASA’s CCDev program for the development of the DreamChaser.
6. Armadillo Aerospace’s Fishbowl Spaceship
Christened the Fishbowl Spaceship, this spaceship from John Carmack’s Aerospace firm will offer passengers a 360-degrees view of space. The bizarre-looking spaceship will take two persons into the space at a time and the ticket will cost around $100,000 per passenger. The flight is scheduled to take off from Spaceport America. Manned suborbital flights are proposed by the end of 2010.
7. Boeing Spaceship
Boeing has also joined the race and is working on a new capsule spaceship, which will transport people to and from the International Space Station. The project has gained momentum after the $18 million award under the NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Space Act Agreement. The Crew Space Transportation-100 spacecraft (CST-100) can fly up to seven people. When it comes to size, it will be bigger than the Apollo spaceship and smaller that the Orion capsule.
8. Blue Origin New Shepard
Designed to be used for space tourism, the New Shephard reusable launch vehicle from Blue Origin will do both vertical take-offs and landings. Blue Origin is a company owned by Amazon.com founder and businessman Jeff Bezos. The New Shepard RLV will launch vertically, ascend to suborbital altitudes to carry both people and experiments to space, then perform a powered vertical landing for recovery and reuse of the vehicle.
9. Starchaser Thunderstar
Starchaser Industries is working on two concepts to promote space tourism, and the one we are talking about here is the 3-person reusable space capsule called Thunderstar that will be used for suborbital flights. They will launch the Thunderstar capsule with the help of the Starchaser 5 launch vehicle. Starchaser will charge £98,000 plus tax for a suborbital flight aboard the Thunderstar.
1. Galactic Suite Space Resort
A trip to space is still big on the list of the uber-rich, and that’s exactly why the Barcelona-based architects of the Galactic Suite Space Resort are hopeful of opening their futuristic space resort to the public in 2012. This dream-come-true space travel will cost $4.4 million for a three-night stay at the hotel, including an eight-week training course on a tropical island. The other charms for the guests include the rare chance of seeing the sunrise 15 times a day and travel around the world every 80 minutes in Velcro suits. Richard Branson’s space tours firm, Virgin Galactic, will use the facility to propel tourists into suborbital space. Galactic Suite hopes to start its project with a single pod in orbit 450 km (280 miles) above the earth, traveling at 30,000 km per hour, with the capacity to hold four guests and two astronaut-pilots.
2. Bigelow Aerospace Sundancer space habitat
The Sundancer is the proposed third prototype space habitat for three persons to be launched by Bigelow Aerospace. Sundancer is intended for launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, but as of now, the launch has been continuously pushed back.