WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
As the cost of accessing space plummets enterprising companies are seeing an opportunity to pioneer space tourism.
Slowly we’re entering the new age of so called space tourism, with companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic starting to realise their dreams of creating sustainable commercial space vehicles that can carry tourists to and from space “affordably,” where affordably means “millions or tens of millions of dollars,” and with companies like NASA and Orion Span developing new space hotels to house them all.
Now another company, Space Adventures, has announced that it has signed an agreement with SpaceX to fly paying passengers aboard the aerospace company’s funky Crew Dragon spacecraft, and if it plays out, it will mark the first time that space tourists will be launched into space from US soil aboard an American rocket and craft.
So far, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft have either gone into orbit for test flights or visits to the International Space Station. However, the goal of NASA’s effort to commercialise low-earth orbit includes the eventual expansion into companies like SpaceX carrying astronauts on private missions, so the expansion into space tourism, which SpaceX has expressed interest in on more than one occasion, is a logical next development.
According to Space Adventures, the plan is to carry up to four paying passengers on the first Crew Dragon free-flyer mission. The tourists would receive several weeks of training before their flight, which is tentatively scheduled to launch in 2021 or 2022. The mission, which would last up to five days, wouldn’t dock with the ISS but would see the spacecraft fly at least twice as high as the station.
Space Adventures hasn’t specifically stated whether any additional crew would be onboard the first flight but a spokeswoman for the company told AP that the fully autonomous spacecraft doesn’t require any professional pilot or astronaut and that passengers could take control if need be.
The company has also avoided stating a ticket price for the trip, although Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, said on Twitter it would cost under $50 million per person – “not dramatically less, but significant enough to note” – and that the confidential pricing would depend on various factors, including special requests.
“Creating unique and previously impossible opportunities for private citizens to experience space is why Space Adventures exists,” Anderson says. “From 2001 to 2009 our clients made history by flying over 36 million miles in space on eight separate missions to the ISS. Since its maiden mission in 2010, no engineering achievement has consistently impressed the industry more than the SpaceX Dragon-Falcon 9 reusable system. Honouring our combined histories, this Dragon mission will be a special experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity – capable of reaching twice the altitude of any prior civilian astronaut mission or space station visitor.”
Source: Space Adventures