Twenty years ago, modern civilization was concerned about what was called the Y2K Glitch. The Glitch was simply a computer flaw; engineers in the1960’s created some of the first computer programs using a two-digit code for the year, so 61 rather than 1961. As the new millennium approached, many were convinced the computers would not interpret the double zeros correctly and would collapse. Even President Bill Clinton advised businesses to prepare two years in advance. Now, merely 20 years later, we are exploring the idea of space tourism. The boom in technological advancements is unmistakable when compared to our recent past.
What exactly is space tourism?
Space tourism refers to recreationally traveling into space, ranging from sub-orbital, orbital, and beyond Earth’s orbit. It is also called citizen space exploration, personal spaceflight, or commercial human spaceflight. UBS–an investment banking company, predicts a $3 billion market in space tourism by 2030.
In the early 2000s, the Russian Space Agency ran its own version of space tourism, successfully sending seven people to space. The Russian Space Agency terminated operations around 2010; however, multiple private enterprises in the area began pursuing space tourism.
So, while the concept is new to most and in its early phases, it is far from hypothetical. In fact, multiple companies are already working on selling space tourism tickets in 2020.
One company, Blue Origin, began launching into space recently. Amazon CEO and President Jeff Bezos’ private space company is working towards carrying tourists to space. In its most recent launch, the rocket carried high school and middle school art projects to space as a science experiment designed by Columbia University. The company hopes to take people into space in 2020, but an exact timeline is unknown. What we do know, however, is that tickets will be expensive.
Another company, Virgin Galactic, started selling tickets at $250,000 per trip. It’s current spaceplane, VSS Unity, first achieved suborbital spaceflight in December 2018 as part of its testing program to bring regular commercial space flights to the public. The company currently has an extensive waiting list.
Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, announced in 2017 that he intended to send two paying customers on a trip around the moon, initially planned for 2018. Plans were delayed with no further developments on expected travel dates, the pricing strategy, or waiting lists.
While the interest in space tourism is abundant, the timespan it may take to make spaceflight a more common activity is relatively unknown.