Will space tourism ever happen?
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX recently announced that two unnamed people will be flying in a loop around the Moon on a ‘holiday trip’ that they have paid significant amounts of money for. Space tourism is an exciting and innovative area, but a lot of debate surrounds it. Apart from the obvious technical difficulties that crewed flights to space presents, there are also questions surrounding affordability, morality and potential environmental concerns that may set back the potential new industry of space tourism.
Why are we looking into space tourism?
One of the big questions when talking about space tourism is: Why? What’s the big deal and why are lives potentially being risked to make it happen? Well, the answer seems to be simple: Innovation. As a species, we have always been very creative and have consistently, since the industrial revolution, been pushing forward to explore new and possibly dangerous opportunities. Many consider space exploration simply the next step in the advancement of the human race, and worth the risk.
What is preventing space tourism?
So, what is preventing regular, everyday people from flying to orbit? After all, we’ve sent astronauts to the Moon and the International Space Station, so why aren’t more people considering taking a holiday in space?
Well, there seem to be two main reasons: first, the prospects and logistics of space tourism aren’t actually looking that great. So far, most of the proposed tourist flights are only to suborbital space, which would provide most likely only a few minutes of weightlessness. Orbital space flight would provide more of the experience one would imagine: the ability to see the vast expanse of space and properly experience what it would feel like to live in zero-gravity. However, this is much harder to achieve from an engineering perspective and many companies simply don’t have the money to fund orbital flights yet.
The second reason is of course, affordability. A ticket upon Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will get you a few minutes of zero gravity and a two hour flight for a whopping $250,000, which obviously, is far out of the price range for most people. At the moment space tourism is only really available to the super-rich, and that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon. If space tourism was to suddenly become popular, it’s likely that ordinary people would be having to take out a fast loan just to afford it.
What advancements are being made?
This is not to say that space tourism will never happen, or never be available to the general public. Space exploration is a fascinating industry and has many incredibly wealthy people creating their own companies dedicated to furthering the cause. From Jeff Bezos to Sir Richard Branson, there are many people dedicated to bringing space tourism to the general public, and we could finally see sub-orbital flights for tourists appear in the near future. Some experts even estimate tourist space flights as becoming mainstream as soon at the 2020’s, so if you’re desperate to take a flight beyond Earth’s gravity, don’t give up hope just yet.
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