Space Tourism is a thing. There have already been a number of people who have gone to space for no other reason than to experience it. The weightlessness, the sheer adventure of it, and of course, the perspective changing and mind blowing view of Earth spinning beneath your feet.
Most people who have gone up there have came back changed in some way. There’s just something about leaving our home planet and experiencing it from orbit. Many things have been said about this feeling, and nobody can really describe it well enough, but what is said is that it makes Earth seem kind of fragile and precious, puts various petty concerns in perspective, and causes a shift in awareness.
In the near future there will be a lot more space tourists than ever before, and this is due to a number of companies working to create more efficient, safer, and cheaper means of getting you up there and back. The prices will still be very high, but much lower than they were before, and the key idea is to keep reducing the prices as more and more people go until it becomes affordable to a lot more people, possibly even you.
This then becomes not just a dream for the rich to have, or a desire harbored only by the space geeks. Visiting space for a few hours or a day is like visiting another country or spending a day at the beach, but the experience is multiplied in ways you probably can’t fully imagine.
Here are five companies that are working on offering you the ability to go to space.
1. Virgin Galactic
Probably the most advanced of them all in terms of progress they’ve made is Virgin Galactic, part of the Virgin family of companies founded by Richard Branson, one of the visionary entrepreneurs.
They’ve partnered with Scaled Composites to create The SpaceShip Company, of which they are now a sole owner, to create the innovative SpaceShip series of space planes and WhiteKnight series of carrying motherships designed to safely take tourists just below Earth’s orbit while providing them with utmost comfort during the trip. So far they’ve created the SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo as well as WhiteKnightOne and WhiteKnightTwo motherships.
On launch the WhiteKnightTwo carries the SpaceShipTwo on a horizontal take off (much like an ordinary airplane) towards high altitutes where it releases the SpaceShipTwo which then fires up its own thrusters that take it to space. It’s a pretty thrilling experience, and Virgin Galactic has created a video realistically depicting the whole trip.
Once in space it stops and starts floating while the seat buckles get unlocked to free passengers to float off, have fun, and gaze through the many round Windows to see the Earth.
Virgin Galactic is pretty close to beginning commercial flights, and they have been taking pre-orders from individuals interested in becoming their Pioneer astronauts for years now at a starting price of $250 000 USD. They plan to progressively lower the price as more and more people go until it reaches as low as $10k, if not lower in the future.
They’re expected to start carring passengers to space in 2014, but we’ll have to wait till it happens to be sure since they’ve been revising the expected date a few times now.