July 20, 1969 is often considered the most important day in the history of mankind. At 02:56 UTC, Neil Armstrong set the first step on the moon, opening up a plethora of possibilities for the human race. Questions quickly emerged as to where we would go next, and NASA’s PR officers strongly hinted at the possibility of space travel being mass adopted in less than ten years.
Today, 40 years later, all that optimism has faded away, thanks to a series of disastrous endeavors taken up by NASA. The closest we got to space travel being trickled down to regular folks was the Challenger space mission, which seated regular people such as a school teacher for the first time in history. The dramatic mid-flight explosion shattered all possibilities of regular space travel being a reality.
However, things did take an interesting turn in 2001, when American businessman Dennis Tito brokered a deal with the Russian Federal Space Agency to take him to space. The price? An unprecedented $20million for a two-way journey to a space station.
Dennis’s 8 day mission was significant for a number of reasons. The most important being that it showed entrepreneurs that there was a lot of potential in the space tourism industry. Now ten years later, there have been a total of 8 space tourists, the final one making the trip in 2009.
A number of companies have started offering space vacations as a result. The most prominent of these is Virgin Galactic, run by Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin group. The group is building an upgraded model of the Space Ship Two (SS2), which crashed in 2014 due to human error.
A single tour will take six lucky passengers to about 45000feet in the air, where they will experience zero gravity for a few minutes before falling back to earth. The estimated price per person is expected to be somewhere in the seven digit figure.
Virgin Galactic has already received over 700 applications for its space tour program. Seeing the potential for this market, X-Cor has also started working on their two seat rockets that can take tourists 20,000 feet in the air for a few minutes before gliding back down onto earth. The MSRP for one ticket is much cheaper, at a little less than $100,000.
While we dream about vacationing on a remote crater on Mars, the best that we have accomplished is a few minutes of ‘weightlessness’. However, the future seems to be optimistic once again, thanks to numerous technological advancements in the field.
For example, in the early 2000s, it was predicted that the first manned flight to Mars would take place in 2063. Ten years later, the date has been postponed by 40 years, with the first manned flight expected to take place by 2025. With technology being mass adopted and higher, the prices for space travel are likely to go down as well.