When hearing the word “tourist,” most people envision a trip to the tropics or some European country. Now, people can pay exorbitant amounts to experience the wonders of space, thanks to the booming space tourism industry. Depending on the type of trip, you can expect minutes to a month of experiencing weightlessness.
Below, you’ll learn how to become a space tourist. Besides what you need, various companies in the business will also be introduced. Read on for all the details.
What Is Space Tourism?
You can sometimes see it referred to as commercial human spaceflight or even citizen space exploration. Space tourism isn’t just for reaching the International Space Station (ISS); it includes the space between it and the Earth’s surface and beyond.
At least for now, space tourism isn’t going to let you go to the moon. Since the Apollo 11 mission in 1972, no human beings have set foot on the moon. However, the possibility of that happening again may arrive in the years or decades to come.
Space tourism began in 2001 when Dennis Tito, an American businessman, was the first to spend time on the ISS as a tourist. It was said he paid $20 million for the trip and was highly discouraged by NASA. Finally, he reached the ISS thanks to Space Adventures, a company that made a deal with Roscosmos, a Russian state corporation.
Before the rise of more private space companies, only six other space tourists were traveling aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS. The ISS crew doubled. But the space shuttle’s retirement spelled the end of this generation of space tourism.
The new space race has changed everything. While many private companies have failed, there are now successful ways to become a tourist in space.
Becoming a Space Tourist
Depending on how long your trip lasts, the process of becoming a space tourist will differ. Generally, longer trips will require extended training and a certain level of physical fitness. However, signing up is only the first part of space tourism.
Space tourists must also be 18 years old if they plan to fly with an American company. In addition, some space tourist companies have an upper weight limit placed on their seats.
For example, Virgin Galactic requires all passengers to be fit enough to climb seven flights of stairs within 90 seconds. The accepted height and weight range are between five feet zero inches, 110 pounds, and six feet four inches, 223 pounds. Overweight or underweight candidates are rejected.
The next step is to receive training. Training can last from a day to several months. Some training regimens begin the day before launch.
Space tourism can be very expensive. For example, a weightless flight that uses special planes or the Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX can cost a few hundred thousand dollars.
Longer trips span days to months and have wildly varying costs, from several million to even exceeding 100 million dollars. These are only possible for the wealthiest members of society.
There is at least one way to experience “space” without spending everything you have. The Zero Gravity Corporation uses a modified Boeing 727 to induce weightlessness. A ticket costs only $5,000, which is a steal compared to what we mentioned above.
Becoming a space tourist includes the following three things:
- Physical fitness
- Being of legal age
Space Tourism Companies
You can now find out what companies offer space tourism tickets or stay with the general requirements covered. Most of them aren’t available yet or have been delayed, but that’s the nature of this relatively new industry (not to mention a worldwide pandemic grinding most industries to a halt). In the future, technology will improve, and space travel will become more accessible.
Virgin Galactic is the leader of commercial space tourism as the first commercial space line, thanks to its spaceplanes. Sir Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Galactic and the Virgin conglomerate, was the first-ever space entrepreneur to reach space in his own company’s product. Today, you can purchase tickets and be placed on the waiting list.
As of 2022, delays have pushed flights back to 2023, but the company is optimistic that operations will continue as normal as they sort out the supply chain and labor problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Virgin Galactic spaceflight consists of a 90-minute trip. First, the spaceplane takes off and reaches a height of 50,000 feet. At that point, the pilots will detach the spaceplane from the mothership. Then, the rocket motor ignites after a short wait.
The plane can reach Mach 3.5 as the rocket motor ignites, but it will only last around a minute before deactivating. You’re now in space and can experience microgravity. Floating around the plane is now possible.
Virgin Galactic designed its spaceplanes to have 17 windows to peer out from, and the view of Earth is undoubtedly something to write home about. After the minutes of weightlessness, the spaceplane uses the company’s “feather technology” to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere. The process makes the plane behave like a space capsule.
When you land, your loved ones and Virgin Galactic staff will greet you as you return home to solid ground. This journey inducts you into the Virgin Galactic Astronauts and Future Astronauts group. Being part of this community grants you some exclusive perks and perhaps bragging rights.
A ticket costs between $200,000 and $250,000, but Virgin Galactic has mentioned that prices will only go up, which is unusual for the industry. Unfortunately, there’s also a waiting list, so patience is required as you wait for your turn to reach space. Currently, there may be tickets available for 2025 and beyond.
Virgin Galactic’s training program only lasts five days because this is a very short trip that nevertheless inspires many.
Even though Virgin Galactic has been successful, Space Adventures is the original true success in the space tourism industry. The first seven space tourists to the ISS were all sent to their destination by this company. While the ISS’s capacity issues have prevented Space Adventures from sending people there today, it’s still around.
Space Adventures was founded in 1998 by Eric C. Anderson. It has headquarters in Tysons Corner, Virginia, while an office building is currently in Moscow, Russia. The company is the first private space company to exist.
Thanks to a longstanding relationship with Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, Space Adventures was able to send these tourists to the ISS via Soyuz spacecraft. While there are no active trips today, Space Adventures has signed a contract with Energia, a Russian space corporation, to repeat history.
In 2021, Yusaku Maezawa and Yozo Hirano were the eighth and ninth private citizens to fly with Space Adventures as clients. They stayed on the ISS for 12 days after receiving training.
The next trip is scheduled for June 25, 2023, and will feature two tourists visiting the Russian segment of the ISS.
Aside from this, Space Adventures offers different space tourism events. For example, there are spacewalks at the ISS, which a private citizen hasn’t done, and even a trip around our moon. The latter will include a stay on the ISS.
The circumlunar mission will allow tourists to see the illuminated far side of the moon, culminating in watching the Earth rise above the moon’s surface. This phenomenon is called an Earthrise.
Besides going to space and visiting the ISS, Space Adventures also operates Zero-G, similar to Virgin Galactic’s spaceflights. Private flights are available, and the tickets cost $8,200, including tax. Passengers will board a modified Boeing 727-200 named G-FORCE ONE.
What sets G-FORCE ONE’s flights apart is that besides zero gravity, you’ll also experience the moon’s gravity and that of Mars. They are a sixth and a third of the Earth’s pull, respectively.
Besides Zero G’s price, the costs of going to space through Space Adventures’ programs are kept secret. You’ll have to contact the company for details.
CEO Michael Suffredini and Executive Chairman Dr. Kam Ghaffarian founded Axiom Space in 2016. The corporation’s primary goal is to construct the world’s first commercial space station, a direct counterpart to the ISS, which five agencies jointly operate.
- The U.S.
Axiom Station’s first module, Axiom Hub One, is currently under construction, with completion scheduled for 2023. When complete, it will be launched into low-Earth orbit from Houston in late 2024. Axiom Hub One will contain crew quarters and have research and manufacturing capabilities.
Since 2021, Axiom Space has also been sending modules to the ISS.
When Axiom Station is complete, private and federal astronauts can start booking 7- to 10-day missions on the station. They will undergo several weeks of training before reaching Axiom Station.
Axiom Space isn’t a novice regarding sending people to space. On April 8, 2022, the world’s first all-private mission, the Ax-1 mission, completed a 17-day trip to the ISS. The astronauts were sent to the space station by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft.
The mission ended on April 25 with a successful parachute drop. However, there are currently no known plans for similar future missions to the ISS.
Elon Musk’s company SpaceX isn’t entirely focused on space tourism, but that hasn’t stopped its products from making it possible. In addition, Musk has announced that there will be future circumlunar missions and moon landings. But, of course, that’s not to ignore his impressive dream of colonizing Mars either.
Companies outside the space industry but that are related, such as telecom, weather, and defense sectors, don’t have their own rockets to launch their satellites into space. That’s where SpaceX’s Falcon 9 comes in since it’s a small rocket that can be partially reused. To date, it’s the most successful reusable rocket in the industry.
Falcon 9 rockets can carry a payload and deploy it in a designated location. It can also bring a crew capsule called Dragon. The Dragon can hold up to seven passengers and launch with a maximum payload of 13,228 pounds.
SpaceX is the first company to bring Americans to the ISS since 2011 when all astronauts had to arrive through Soyuz spacecraft. The Dragon has been tested and proven effective in the field. After the mission, deployed parachutes will reenter Earth’s atmosphere and land safely in the ocean.
The first space tourists SpaceX sent to space spent three days orbiting the planet aboard a Dragon capsule, flying 367 miles above the surface of the Earth. NASA didn’t sponsor this 2021 mission; instead, it was organized according to passenger Jared Isaacman’s requirements. A fun fact is that SpaceX would send the Ax-1 mission to the ISS the following year.
There are two more rocket developments by SpaceX, the Falcon Heavy and Big Falcon Rocket. The latter is also called the BFR, and Musk intends to send astronauts to the moon with it. However, he’s also open to using the Falcon Heavy should the BFR’s development not go well.
With Elon Musk’s grand plans for eventual Mars colonization, it’s clear that SpaceX will be a more prominent force in the space tourism industry. But, for now, the corporation mostly sends satellites to space with Falcon 9 rockets.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, created Blue Origin in 2000. As such, it’s the second-oldest company on this list. Blue Origin has goals for sending a lunar lander to the moon but is primarily famous for its New Shepard rocket.
New Shepard is named after Alan Shepard Jr., the first American to reach space. This reusable rocket can take payloads and passengers to the Karman line, allowing passengers to experience space for 11 minutes. The crew capsule has a maximum capacity of six and is entirely autonomous.
Ever since the first successful New Shepard test flights, Blue Origin has successfully taken space tourists into space. The first human flight carried none other than Jeff Bezos and his brother, Mark, into space, allowing the former to fulfill his dream of space travel in his own product. This mission took place about a week after Sir Richard Branson’s flight, making Bezos the second to accomplish this grand achievement.
You must receive one day of basic training to embark on Blue Origin’s flights. To date, the ticket prices aren’t made public, but an anonymous person did spend $28 million on the first flight after successfully bidding for a seat. They decided to defer the trip, and no concrete ticket prices have surfaced.
It has since been known that cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun was the one who bid the $28 million. He hasn’t given up on his journey to space, but he wishes to do so with five other people. These five will be nominated by Sun.
Sun has mentioned there will be cryptocurrency sector members, scientists, celebrities, and others.
Blue Origin isn’t content with these spaceflights. There are plans to develop more rockets and work on the ISS’s replacement. For context, the ISS can only operate until 2024 or 2028 with an extension. Along with some partners, NASA has awarded Blue Origin a contract to build Orbital Reef, a commercial space station.
NASA’s goal is to launch Orbital Reef to space before 2030. Until then, the teams are hard at work with production.
The Future of Space Tourism
The space tourism industry is only growing and will be worth billions in the future. Besides spaceflights and cheaper trips that let you view space but not reach the Karman line, humanity will eventually get to stay in space for far longer.
Orion Span was a company that intended to build the first luxury space hotel, but it wasn’t a successful project. Nevertheless, its concept was sound and ahead of its time. At one point, Orion Span even contemplated building space apartments for people wishing to stay in space for longer. Perhaps one day, humans can book stays in space in luxury hotels.
Tickets for space tourism are now very scarce, with waiting lists lasting years. The technology will one day make it easy to manufacture rockets and other components needed for space tourism, and civilian space flight may even become widely adopted. For example, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic may opt to launch more rockets or organize more flights.
The retirement of the ISS will also spawn new opportunities for private companies. New space stations are already planned and are even in construction, and the era of nationally operated space tourism will be left behind. Space tourism will most likely be left to corporations with the required expertise in the future.
More Opportunities to Come
Now that you know how to become a space tourist, the process and possibilities may not seem so daunting. But, of course, a spaceflight is the most affordable option for many readers. Nevertheless, the space tourism industry is booming, and one day, space hotels, floating apartments, and colonies on other planets will undoubtedly become a reality.