April 22, 2024

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How Space Tourism Is Skyrocketing

3 min read

Sales in the space tourism space, Mr. Curran acknowledges, “are reasonably difficult to make,” and mostly come from peer-to-peer networking. “You can imagine that people who spend $450,000 to go to space probably operate in circles that are not the same as yours and mine,” he said.

Some of Mr. Curran’s most popular offerings include flights where you can experience the same stomach-dropping feeling of zero gravity that astronauts feel in space, which he arranges for clients via chartered, specialized Boeing 727s that are flown in parabolic arcs to mimic being in space. Operators including Zero G also offer the service; the cost is around $8,200.

You can almost count the number of completed space tourist launches on one hand — Blue Origin has had four; SpaceX, two. Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, on Thursday announced the launch of its commercial passenger service, previously scheduled for late 2022, was delayed until early 2023. Many of those on waiting lists are biding their time before blastoff by signing up for training. Axiom Space, which contracts with SpaceX, currently offers NASA-partnered training at Houston’s Johnson Space Center. Virgin Galactic, which already offers a “customized Future Astronaut Readiness program” at its Spaceport America facility in New Mexico, is also partnering with NASA to build a training program for private astronauts.

Would-be space tourists should not expect the rigor that NASA astronauts face. Training for Virgin Galactic’s three-hour trips is included in the cost of a ticket and lasts a handful of days; it includes pilot briefings and being “fitted for your bespoke Under Armour spacesuit and boots,” according to its website.

Not ready for a rocket? Balloon rides offer a less hair-raising celestial experience.

“We go to space at 12 miles an hour, which means that it’s very smooth and very gentle. You’re not rocketing away from earth,” said Jane Poynter, a co-founder and co-chief executive of Space Perspective, which is readying its own touristic balloon spaceship, Spaceship Neptune. If all goes according to plan, voyages are scheduled to begin departing from Florida in 2024, at a cost of $125,000 per person. That’s a fraction of the price tag for Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, but still more than double the average annual salary of an American worker.

Neither Space Perspective nor World View has the required approval yet from the F.A.A. to operate flights.

Whether a capsule or a rocket is your transport, the travel insurance company battleface launched a civilian space insurance plan in late 2021, a direct response, said chief executive Sasha Gainullin, to an increase in space tourism interest and infrastructure. Benefits include accidental death and permanent disablement in space and are valid for spaceflights on operators like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, as well as on stratospheric balloon rides. They’ve had many inquiries, Mr. Gainullin said, but no purchases just yet.

Debra Kamin

2022-05-07 09:00:15

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