A lot of people nowadays consider ordinary space travel and tourism as an outlandish vision for the next century and for the upcoming future. On the other hand, scientists and futurists say that space tourism is a possible subject and possibility that current aeronautics and space science will lead to in the next few years. Other people view space tourism as a complete waste of resources given the multitude of earthbound problems that needs to be solved before having a nice flight back and forth from space. In spite of all these foreseen problems, space tourism is a reality that many people await and envision. These people comprise of visionaries and business men who are currently building the required facilities to make space tourism possible and who also have the courage to believe in the idea that space tourism can be a reality.
Space tourism is essentially spaceflight which has been funded by personal interests for the purposes of personal satisfaction. Likewise, space tourism is very similar to any tourist vacation in the Bahamas or in the Caribbean or in any destination in Earth. Some of the personal reasons for spending on space tourism comprise the very unique experience of having been into space, the experience of weightlessness, the ability to view the curvature and disk of the earth, as well as the status of having been one of the few people who have been space tourists.
To be able to gain knowledge from the space travel and tourism.
To be able to explore the different possibilities in travelling through space.
To be able to assess and evaluate current space travel methods and technology available today.
To be able to assess the output of space tourism as a business.
To be able to identify the problems encountered as a consequence to space travel and tourism proposals.
To be able to briefly name and briefly discuss the possible future technologies for space travel.
Space Tourism is the term that’s come to be used to mean ordinary members of the public buying tickets to travel to space and back. Many people find this idea futuristic. But over the past few years a growing volume of professional work has been done on the subject, and it’s now clear that setting up commercial space tourism services is a realistic target for business today.
(Virgin Galactic Website. 2008)
The first steps will just be short sub-orbital flights, like Alan Sheppard made in 1961, since these are easier than getting to orbit. But the technical know-how to make passenger launch vehicles and orbiting hotel accommodation is available, and there is enormous unsatisfied demand market research has revealed that most people, at least in the industrialized countries, would like to take a trip to space if it was possible. This gives huge scope for reducing the cost of space travel by large-scale operation like airlines. (Boyle, 2008)
One of the main challenges is merely the conservatism of the space engineering as it is today. Since Sputnik was launched in 1957 almost all space launches and activities are government related. This race to the space has created many activities that projected an image of space exploration and tourism which almost all people kept thinking about. People like – writers, journalists, politicians, scientists and engineers, and the general public give their own insights to the exploration of space and space tourism.
Developing low-cost passenger launch vehicles is not just to create a pastime for the rich. In business, the companies that make big money are the ones that serve big markets. Like tourism on Earth, there will be a small expensive segment for the rich – but the great majority of space tourists will be middle-class customers – the greater majority of us. ( Dignan, 2008)
The utilization of the space is endless but it is very much dependent on access. Until admittance will become cheap, we can’t make use of the unlimited resources and supplies that are available in space for us to have a solution to the problems of our over populated Earth. When the time comes that access will be cheap, admittance to space will much more be easier. Making space travel cheap will require large turnovers of cash and money. Tourism can generate the large-scale launch activity needed to reduce costs sufficiently to start to use space resources – and so it’s one of the most important projects in the world today. ( Dignan, 2008)
Commercial space activities today include satellites being used for communications, broadcasting and photography (remote sensing). But these are small businesses – no more than a few $billions per year – that will never need humans in space. So “commercial space activities” today are not leading towards space tourism. (Virgin Galactic Website. 2008)
Moreover, if certain companies and people would want a better space travel and tourism adventure, then we should expect that more technologies and activities related to building space vehicles and other will be put in to place.
Some people say “Developing space tourism is very difficult, so it’ll take a long time. Leave it to the government space agencies.” But the agencies already spend $25 billion per year on “space activities” – and they are not trying to develop launch vehicles that could open space up to the public. Barely 2% of their budgets are used for this purpose – although even just one year of their huge funding would be plenty! (Space.com, 2007)
The Space Future is playing a vital part in the development of a more accessible space by collecting all the work needed. This includes technology, logistics and others critical factors for the exploration of space.
Stages of Space Tourism
Similar to any other business franchise, the moment that space tourism begins it will develop and improve dramatically. Today, we can only think of the different stages of space tourism once it gets started and all.. Beginning with a small-scale and relatively expensive “pioneering stage”, the scale of activity will develop and prices will go down as it matures. Finally it will become a mass-market business, like airplanes today. (McKee, 2005)
The phrase “space adventure travel” has been recommended by Gordon Woodcock of Boeing and is a convenient one to describe the first phase. Customers will be relatively few – from hundreds per year to thousands per year; prices will be lofty, $50,000 and up; and the service will be nearer to “adventure travel” than to extravagance hotel-style. Orbital accommodation will be safe but “spartan”. (Virgin Galactic Website. 2008)
This will see demand growing from thousands of passengers per year to hundreds of thousands per year. Tickets to orbit will cost less and flights will depart from many different airports. Orbital facilities will develop from being just clusters of pre-fabricated modules to large structures constructed in orbit for hundreds of guests, permitting a range of orbital entertainments. (Virgin Galactic Website. 2008)
Ticket prices will go down to the equivalent of a few $ thousand, and customers will from hundreds of thousands to millions of passengers per year. Apparently unthinkable to most people in the space industry, even 1 million passengers per year is just 8 hours of aviation! And aviation is still growing fast at today’s level of 1 billion passengers per year. So there’s no reason to suppose that space travel will ever stop growing. There’s certainly no limit to the possible destinations. And the access to space resources that low cost launch will bring about will ensure that economic growth needn’t end for a few more millennia at least. (Virgin Galactic Website. 2008)
Space tourism is a business idea whose time has come in today’s 21st century. Surely it will begin soon and it will grow rapidly and develop progressively. This will now push space related activities in the dawn of the 22nd century.
Leading Space Vehicle Technologies and Space Tourism Companies
Virgin Galactic and SpaceShipTwo
Virgin Galactic, one of the leading potential space tourism groups, is planning to have passenger service on its first spaceship, the Scaled Composite SapceShipTwo with the inaugural launch in 2008 and main flights beginning in 2009. The price is initially set at $200,000. Headed by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group , Virgin Galactic will be the first private space tourism company to regularly send civilians into space, by training them for 3 days before their launch. The SpaceShipTwo was built as a result of the X Prize which was won by SpaceShipOne; both SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo were designed by Burt Rutan. Launches will first occur at the Mojave Spaceport in California and will then be moved to the permanent spaceport in Upham, New Mexico. (Virgin Galactic Website. 2008)
The spaceships used will go 360,000 feet (109.73 km, or 68.18 miles) high; this goes beyond the height of 100 km, which is the internationally defined boundary between Earth and space. Space flights will last 2.5 hours, carry 6 passengers, and reach a speed of Mach 3. SpaceShipTwo will not require a space shuttle-like heat shield for atmospheric re-entry as it will not experience the extreme aerodynamic heating experienced during re-entry at orbital velocities (approximately Mach 22.5 at a typical shuttle altitude of 300 km, or 185 miles). The glider will employ a “feathering” technique to manage drag during the unpowered descent and landing. SpaceShipTwo will use a single hybrid rocket motor to launch from mid-air after detaching from a mother ship at 50,000 feet, instead of NASA’s Space Shuttle’s ground-based launch. (Virgin Galactic Website. 2008)
Eric Anderson is the president and CEO of Space Adventures. He co-founded Space Adventures in 1998 with several other entrepreneurs from the aerospace, adventure travel and entertainment industries and has managed the company over the past several years, selling more than $120M in space tourist flights. He has developed and financed over $500 million (USD) in new projects for Space Adventures, including two global spaceports and the first private voyage to the moon, set to launch in 2009. (Space Adventures Website, 2008)
The company sells a variety of flights such as Zero-Gravity flights, cosmonaut training and actual spaceflights. In May 2001, it sent American businessman Dennis Tito to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Soyuz Spacecraft for a reported $20 million payment, making him the first space tourist in history. South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth did the same in April 2002 becoming the ‘First African in Space’. Gregory Olsen became the third private citizen to travel to the ISS in October 2005, followed by the first female space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, who completed her 10-day orbital mission in September 2006. Charles Simonyi, an ex-executive at Microsoft who managed the Office product group became the world’s fifth space tourist in April 2007. (Space Adventures Website, 2008)
The Explorer space plane, which will be the main space vehicle that will be used by Soace Adventures, is a suborbital tourist space plane based on the Space Adventures C-21 design. The plane is being developed by Space Adventures with the Russian Federal Space Agency and is designed to carry 5 passengers. It is to be air-launched by carrier aircraft from a Space Adventures spaceport. The spaceport for the Explorer is being developed with Prodea in the United Arab Emirates. (Space Adventures Website, 2008)
The key in reducing the cost of space tourism is in development of space is in the development of new space vehicles. The current per pound cost of sending anything to space is simply too astronomical for accessible space tourism purposes. The costs climb even higher when sending humans into orbit. Many visionaries and entrepreneurs have realized this and are now working on new spacecraft for the purpose of space tourism.
As mentioned, spacecraft for space tourism should have the goal of being economical and accessible. The Soyuz and the Space Shuttle are neither, being too expensive and needing months of training before a space tourist can climb aboard. Another implied requirement is that the spacecraft is reusable. Both the space shuttle and the Soyuz are not reusable to some degree (the Space Shuttle’s fuel tank is destroyed upon take off and must be replaced). Another requirement is that passenger preparation be much reduced. Current space tourists must undergo months of grueling training before being allowed to fly to space. Lastly, with any tourism experience, the craft should provide a comfortable and safe ride for its passengers.
Today, the most promising space tourism vehicle has been the prototype SpaceShipOne built by Scaled Composites. SpaceShipOne was the winner of the Ansari X-Prize after it was able to reach an altitude of 100 km twice in a two week period while having the capacity for carrying three people. Clearly these abilities are in line with the objectives of space tourism. SpaceShipOne’s flight may not be considered true space flight by some people as it is not able to go into orbit. However at 100km, its passengers will be able to experience weightlessness and will be able to see the curvature of the earth as well as the fading of the atmosphere into the blackness of space.
SpaceShipOne was able to do this through its design. Instead of using rockets to lift it to high altitudes, SpaceShipOne was lifted first to a high altitude before any rockets were ignited. A conventional jet-powered craft, WhiteKnight, carries SpaceShipOne to high altitude. At the predetermined altitude, SpaceShipOne breaks off from WhiteKnight and ignites its hybrid rocket motors to push it to outer space. Upon reentry, SpaceShipOne lands like a conventional plane on a traditional runway. Together with the use of the newest materials and technology, this “spaceplane” approach was the key in reducing the development and operational costs for SpaceShipOne. SpaceShipOne has now been retired and work is now.
Space Tourism may still be a dream for the majority of us but it is undeniable that huge strides have been made in the past decade to make it possible. The development of space vehicles have lowered the cost for space travel and have accelerated the possibility of private space travel. In the next few years, space travel and space tourism will be one of the ordinary things that any family or any person would go to every holiday or every summer. Just like any other place in the planet, travel time will be much faster compared to early flights and the cost will be leveled off. All of these advancements will be our debt to all visionaries and the engineers who are building future space vehicles for our use.