With the success of three Blue Origin launches throughout 2021 and Space X’s first all-civilian spaceflight in September, the future of space tourism seems to be getting closer and closer. Viewing the Earth from space has long featured as one of the most common bucket list ambitions, but now it’s starting to seem like a real possibility.
The very wealthy are starting to dip their toes into the waters of outer space, and the stars perhaps don’t seem as far out of reach, but will space tourism ever be an affordable adventure for the average person? In the future, how will space travel change as new technology makes it even easier for people to go even farther than before?
Billionaires like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos are seemingly paving the way for future space travel through private enterprise and commercial industry. In this article, you can learn more about how space tourism is likely to change and consider whether you can expect to take a flight in your lifetime.
What is the future of the space industry?
National space programs have historically been at the forefront of space exploration, especially since NASA captured the world’s imagination with the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Organizations like NASA are starting to rely more and more on commercial companies.
Private contractors have always been a part of the American aerospace industry, but NASA is now more involved with commercial enterprises. For example, the agency relies on SpaceX and Boeing to build its new spacecraft, and both of those companies own and control their spacecraft once they have been built.
It seems that the future of the space industry is no longer a battle between the power of different nations. Instead, it will be different corporations’ power that leads the way.
What is the future of space tourism?
Space tourism may seem like a dream of the future, but it was first accomplished in 2001 when a wealthy businessman named Dennis Tito paid $20 million for a spot on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
In the 2000s, Russia started to view space tourism as a way to make back some of the serious investment in their extensive space program, while NASA has been more hesitant to host private individuals on their flights.
Now, though, with private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin getting involved in the industry, the options for private individuals to get a seat on a spacecraft are increasing rapidly. As a result, more and more people may be allowed to travel into space, and space tourism could pave the way for even further exploration of the stars.
If the world begins to see space travel as safe and reliable, more investment will be put into the industry, and space tourism and space travel possibilities will continue to grow.
Who is involved in space tourism?
While there are many corporations in the game, three companies (led by three of the wealthiest men on the planet) are leading the way for space tourism.
Elon Musk began his venture into space with the founding of SpaceX in 2002. Driven by a desire to offer humanity the freedom of interplanetary travel and worries about the longevity of life on Earth, Musk has become one of space tourism’s most ardent pioneers. The goal for SpaceX is to establish a colony on Mars that would allow humanity to build a civilization outside of Earth.
SpaceX improved the outlook for space travel with the development of the first-ever recycled rocket in 2017, and they have demonstrated the viability of their spacecraft many times with various stunts and test launches. In addition, SpaceX has been working with NASA for a long time. Since 2012, SpaceX has sent cargo to the International Space Station.
Both the Falcon 9 and the Dragon spacecraft have seen great success. In 2020, the Dragon carried out the first human-crewed space mission from the United States in nearly ten years, and the Flacon 9 took its first all-civilian crew into space in September 2021.
Jeff Bezos has said that his desire for space exploration follows the vision of renowned physicist Gerard O’Neill. However, rather than seeking ways to colonize other planets, Bezos aspires to a future of suborbital existence, where humanity can live sustainably at the edge of space. Blue Origin was first established in 2004 and is slowly developing its reusable rockets.
The New Shepard rocket was first flown in 2015, and it made its first all-civilian suborbital flight in July 2021. A few months later, New Shepard made Willian Shatner, of Star Trek fame, the oldest human in space with its second successful mission, and in December of the same year, it carried out its first flight with six astronauts on board.
British billionaire Richard Branson started Virgin Galactic with a vision of adventure. The company began when he bought SpaceShipOne, which had developed the world’s first reusable spaceship Virgin Galactic is now working on SpaceShipTwo, which is a bigger, reusable craft that can carry six people on suborbital flights.
In July 2021, Virgin Galactic’s first expedition with a whole crew – including Richard Branson himself – reached the edge of space just nine days before Bezos’ New Shepard rocket took off.
Will space travel become common?
At the beginning of the 21st century, manned space exploration declined due to the massive costs involved and reductions in NASA’s funding. However, now that billionaires and huge corporations are investing more money, that trend is quickly changing.
Without a doubt, more people than ever before will be given the option to visit space, with so many companies competing to take more and more people to the stars. For now, though, you need to be able to write a massive check to get on board.
Will space tourism ever be affordable?
Although space tourism is becoming more accessible, it is still far out of the average person’s reach. SpaceX is currently the only option for someone who wants to make it outside of the suborbital range as it already has planned tourist launches. Unfortunately, getting on one of these trips, and staying on the ISS, will set you back a whopping $55 million.
The suborbital trips that will soon become available on Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin spacecraft will be less expensive, but they are still expected to cost between $200,000 and $250,000 for a single flight.
However, once these flights become more commonplace, the price will keep coming down. It’s worth remembering that Dennis Tito paid $20 million in 2001 for a flight that may have cost as little as $200,000 in a year or so.
If the cost keeps reducing and the technology keeps advancing the way it is, who knows? Maybe a space holiday is not such an impossible dream after all.