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Tech
Entertainment
U.S. & World

Orbital Tourism: Traveling to Space is Now Easier

By on February 20, 2013

While suborbital flights continue to generate interest and big plans, orbital tourism already took its first steps in the first decade of the century. Currently, new businesses and new destinations are expanding the horizon of this unique business activity that brings a bit of science fiction to our reality, but it is limited to those whose pockets are fuller than ordinary mortals are.

Visiting the final frontier has been limited activity in these professional astronauts just over 50 years of space exploration. These people train for years in order to support a trip that lasts only a few days, or if you are lucky enough to be the chosen astronaut to go to  the International Space Station, and they will be working at least three months beyond the boundaries of our planet. Being an astronaut, feel the utmost freedom, became the dream of children and adults, and both space agencies and private entities saw a business in the dream of these people.

The first steps to provide access, relatively free space for people and nations without space capabilities were Interkosmos programs of the former Soviet Union and Payload Specialist on the Space Shuttle program of NASA. As Interkosmos (1978-1988) provided an opportunity for countries politically close to the Soviet Union to fly on Soyuz missions (14 cosmonauts from 13 different countries who received training and the opportunity to spend a couple days in space). Furthermore, the program of NASA Cargo Specialists was an arrangement between companies or institutions carrying a special cargo in the space shuttle, these astronauts did not receive the same training that the professional astronaut and not perceived any compensation economical. During the existence of this program (1983-2003) 24 mission specialists from 11 nations joined to a space shuttle to leave their cargo into orbit, another 36 U.S. mission specialists also flew during the program and 60 for a total benefit.

The first two space tourists arise from the need of the Soviet Union to raise funds to finance its space program. The Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings paid $ 28 million in 1990 to spend a week Toyohiro Akiyama Space Station MIR giving the evening news for the company and for the rest of the day doing experiments to Japanese companies. A similar cost should pay the Juno project in 1991, they managed to send the first Briton in space in the person of Helen Sharman, but fell short in funding and in good faith ended up being paid by the same order of Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. There is debate whether they were actually space tourists or businessperson visitors, since they did not pay their travel but private initiative.

An economic agreement between Space Adventures Ltd and the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) achieved during 2001 and until 2009 to orbit to 7 space tourists who spent between 8 and 15 days in the International Space Station. The first space tourist in history was recognized Dennis Tito, American millionaire, former employee of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which paid $ 20 million to spend eight days in space in 2001. Other clients of Space Adventures have been Mark Shuttleworth – South Africa (2003, $ 20 million), Gregory Olsen – American (2005, $ 20 million), Anousheh Ansari – Iranian-American (2006, $ 20 million), Charles Simonyi, Hungarian-American (2007 , $ 20 million, $ 2,009 35 million), Richard Garriott – American (2008, $ 30 million) and Guy Laliberté – Canadian (2009, $ 40 million). The company expects to continue its tourism activities to the International Space Station in 2015 sending Sarah Brightman who also promised the first show from space.

Dennis Tito

Dennis Tito

Space tourism certainly is limited to billionaire customers who are physically able to make the hard journey. A study by Derek Webber, director of Spaceport Associates, found that there would be between 10,000 and 100,000 millionaires who might be potential space tourists, which keeps alive the possibility of seeing growing space tourism may eventually reach people with a portfolio much less extensive.

Thinking about these millionaires and people supported by their countries, some companies have developed plans for the future to have more presence in the field of space tourism. Space Adventures Ltd. plans to offer a trip circumlunar for just $ 150 million after 2015 and before 2020, and rumors indicate that the renowned actor Ashton Kutcher has already made its first payment on this exclusive journey that would last nine days round Return. The company Virgin Galactic has plans to make a SpaceShipThree, a vehicle that would take up to 6 tourists to take a few laps in low earth orbit. Finally, the appearance in 2012 of Golden Spike Company has created a completely new market but must show great interest before having some development. Golden Spike provides scientific expeditions, commercial, educational or tourist on the surface of the Moon for government agencies, companies or individuals. The company says it needs a funding of $ 8 billion to provide flights for two to the surface of the Moon for only $1.5 billion dollars. Will he have success?

Image courtesy of Space Adventures Limited

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