Space: Tourism’s Next Big Disruptor

Space: Tourism’s Next Big Disruptor

By Paula Hock

Adventure tourism is about to take one giant leap forward. Soon, rather than booking a trip around the world, travel enthusiasts will book one across the skies. In fact, two already have.

To the Moon and Back

Late last month, SpaceX announced that they already have two space tourists signed up for the first private trip to the moon. The two men, who have put down a hefty deposit towards the eventual multi-million dollar price tag, will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. They will be the first humans to travel past low-Earth orbit since the last Apollo mission (’72).

The private space company has recently passed another milestone towards a successful trip next year: On March 30, 2017, SpaceX successfully landed first-stage rocket boosters on one of their drone ships. The boosters are the largest and most expensive piece of the $62 million Falcon 9 rocket system. The video captured onboard the drone ship, Of Course, I Still Love You (yes, that’s the actual name), was posted on Instagram on April 5th and is truly a sight to behold.

Paradigm Shifts in Space Travel 

The technological changes that SpaceX has proposed and begun to achieve over the last 15 years represent major changes to the way we think about space exploration. This successful landing marked the first time rocket boosters have ever been reused. Prior to this point, they have been marked “Space Garbage” soon after engine ignition.

In fact, John Logsdon, a space policy expert and historian at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University called the launch “potentially revolutionary”, as “reusability has been the Holy Grail in access to space for a long, long time.”

A Growing Industry: Space Toursim 

SpaceX, while currently getting the most buzz for its bold agenda, is certainly not alone in the quest to push travel farther than ever before. The Russian Space Agency was the first to put tourists in orbit with trips to the International Space Station (ISS). Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are currently both in development to achieve orbital space flights for tourists, with human test flights set to begin in 2018 for both companies.

While a trip into space sounds like a spectacular way to spend your vacation, it is decidedly not in the financial cards for an average citizen. In 2001, the world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito, spent $20 million for a trip aboard a Russian Soyuz craft to the ISS that lasted for 8 days. By next year, NASA will have to pay $81 million per person to hitch a ride on a Soyuz to the ISS, and this cost has been steadily increasing since the largest jump soon after NASA retired its space shuttles.

Back here, on earth, would-be passengers are already clamoring to put down a whopping $250,000 deposit for a chance to get on a SpaceX flight (conceivably sometime in the next handful of years). For those of us who don’t have a quarter million laying around, space travel will have to remain a dream.

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