Space tourism is a new form of travel which offers exactly what the name states: the ability to go to space. Many startup companies, such as XCOR Aerospace and Virgin Galactic, have opened with the hopes of creating a sub-orbital space tourism industry. To this point, there have only been a handful of space “tourists”, and that term is debateable because the majority of them visited space for research purposes. Still, this is an industry that figures to grow over the next 100 years.
Pros and Cons
Obviously there are both positives and negatives when it comes to space tourism.
Over the next 100 years, space tourism may become the biggest travel trend, and provide employment to thousands of people.
At this point, however, the only plausible destination is the moon, and there is not much to see on the moon’s surface other than craters and rocks (and a pretty cool view of Earth). Still, a trip to space is more than just a sightseeing opportunity; it is a step into the future. The biggest downside is the cost; so far, every space “tourist” has paid millions of dollars for their trip. Thus, it is not a reasonable vacation for the average person.
Because space tourism is still in its infancy, there are no real “popular destinations” yet. The most reasonable destination, at this point anyway, is the moon. Certain American politicians even pledged to establish a moon base within the next 10 years. The International Space Station is another destination, particularly for tourists who wish to spend at least a few days living in space. To gain a seat on a space shuttle to either of these places, however, costs in the hundreds of millions. According to experts, however, they expect to have a mission to the moon ready by 2017.
The Road Less Travelled
Outside of the moon and the International Space Station, the most desirable place to go to in space is Mars. Unfortunately, this is even further off than a trip to the moon. Still, Lansdorp’s Mars One has the goal to establish a human settlement on Mars by the mid-2020s. The technology exists to allow humans to get to and live on Mars, but not to bring them back, which means travellers are essentially on a one way trip. They would be able to live in inflatable components and essentially carry out typical day-to-day lives. It would cost nearly $6 billion US to send the first four astronauts, however, and even more to send additional crew.
Costs and Savings
At this stage, travelling to space is only for the wealthiest individuals. Of the seven space tourists so far, each has paid somewhere between $20 million and $40 million for their visit. Richard Branson’s Virgin empire plans on transporting people just beyond the earth’s atmosphere, costing each passenger around $200 000. As competition increases and the industry develops prices may slowly decrease, but as of right now space travel is only for the wealthiest members of society.