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Space Future has been on something of a hiatus of late. With the concept of Space Tourism steadily increasing in acceptance, and the advances of commercial space, much of our purpose could be said to be achieved. But this industry is still nascent, and there's much to do. So...watch this space.
9 December 2010
Updated "What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" to the 2009 revision.
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"What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" is now the top entry on Space Future's Key Documents list.
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A Lindsköld, May 1999, "Space Tourism and its Effects on Space Commercialization", MASTER OF SPACE STUDIES PROGRAM 1998/99.
Also downloadable from http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/space tourism and its effects on space commercialization.shtml

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Space Tourism and its Effects on Space Commercialization

Individual Project Report submitted to the International Space University in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Degree of Master of Space Studies

Anders Lindsköld
Abstract

Space tourism is a natural extension of today's worldwide tourism industry. Instead of traveling around the world, tourists go to space. Anyone will be able to buy a ticket. No astronaut training is needed. This has not happened yet, but a lot of activities are taking place in the world today to make it come true.

Space tourism may be the missing link of space travel that we have been trying to discover for so many years. With the help of space tourism, we can build an infrastructure in space and radically decrease the launch costs. There can be hundreds of thousands of space tourists flying each year, creating a giant market. Through this infrastructure, other commercial ventures will also be possible. Space will finally be opened up for business.

The thesis has two objectives. The first objective is to try to discern what importance space tourism may have for space commercialization. The second objective is to provide a detailed overview of the space tourism field. In order to fulfill the objectives, extensive research was conducted on space tourism. This was done through material available at the host institution as well as what could be found on the Internet. Interviews were also conducted with leading people in the space tourism community.

The main conclusions:

  • There is a great yearning among the public to travel in space. All market surveys point to this. People are prepared to pay a relatively substantial amount to do it.

  • Space tourism is the only activity that can support a high number of flights, which is essential to bringing costs down. There is practically no saturation limit to tourism, just look at the growth of theme parks and cruise lines all over the world.

  • Chances are good that within the next 25 years a remarkable sequence of events will take place in space. We will witness the birth of a completely new industry. An infrastructure between Earth and space will be constructed. There will be regular passenger tours to space and back, carrying mainly tourists.

  • As soon as the infrastructure is in place, a number of orbital facilities will rapidly be constructed.

  • Because the new launch vehicles will be carrying passengers on regular trips, they will be much safer and quicker to handle than the launch vehicles of today.

  • All commercial space activities are tied to the cost of going to orbit. Space tourism is a way to bring down the current high costs.

  • Thanks to the infrastructure established to do space tourism, other commercial space ventures will also have an improved chance of getting going. Space tourism will be the main market driver for this.

  • The industry will become more aware of space as a place to do business because of space tourism. New thoughts and ideas will come up on how to use space.
Résumé

Le tourisme de l'espace est une extension normale de l'industrie mondiale du tourisme d'aujourd'hui. Au lieu de faire le tour du monde, les touristes vont dans l'espace. N'importe qui pourra acheter un billet. Aucune formation d'astronaute n'est nécessaire. Ceci ne s'est pas encore produit, mais aujourd'hui beaucoup d'activités ont lieu dans le monde pour que celà devienne réel.

Le tourisme de l'espace peut être le lien manquant du voyage dans l'espace que nous avions essayé de découvrir pendant tant d'années. Avec l'aide du tourisme de l'espace, nous pouvons établir une infrastructure dans l'espace et radicalement diminuer les coûts de lancement. Il peut y avoir des centaines de milliers de touristes de l'espace volant tous les ans, créant un marché géant. Par cette infrastructure, d'autres entreprises commerciales seront également possibles. L'espace sera finalement ouvert au monde des affaires.

La thèse a deux objectifs. Le premier objectif est d'essayer de discerner si le tourisme de l'espace pourra être significatif pour la commercialisation de l'espace. Le deuxième objectif est de fournir une vue d'ensemble détaillée du domaine de tourisme de l'espace.

Afin d'aboutir aux objectifs, une importante recherche a été menée sur le tourisme de l'espace. Ceci a été fait avec le matériel disponible à l'institution aussi bien que ce qui pouvait être trouvé sur Internet. Des interviews ont également été conduites auprès des principales personnes de la communauté de tourisme de l'espace.

Les conclusions principales:

  • Il y a un grand désir parmi le public de voyager dans l'espace. Toutes les études de marché evoluent vers ceci. Les gens sont disposés à payer un montant relativement substantiel pour le faire.

  • Le tourisme de l'espace est la seule activité qui peut supporter un nombre élevé de vols; ce qui est essentiel à la reduction des coûts. Il n'y a pratiquement aucune limite de saturation au tourisme, d'après la croissance des parcs à thème et des lignes de croisière partout dans le monde.

  • Il est très probable que dans les 25 années à venir une séquence d'opérations remarquable aura lieu dans l'espace. Nous verrons la naissance d'une industrie complètement nouvelle. Une infrastructure entre la terre et l'espace sera construite. Il y aura des excursions régulières de passagers entre l'espace et la terre, portant principalement des touristes.

  • Dès que l'infrastructure sera en place, un certain nombre de stations orbitales seront rapidement construits.

  • Puisque les nouveaux véhicules de lancement vont transporter des passagers lors de voyages réguliers, ils seront beaucoup plus sûr et rapide à manipuler que les véhicules de lancement qui existe aujourd'hui.

  • Toutes les activités commerciales de l'espace sont attachées au coût d'aller en orbite. Le tourisme de l'espace est une manière de réduire les coûts élevés actuels.

  • Grâce à l'infrastructure créé pour ce tourisme de l'espace, d'autres entreprises commerciales auront la possibilité d'aller dans l'espace. Le tourisme de l'espace sera le principal gestionnaire du marché pour ceci.

  • L'industrie se rendra compte que l'espace est un moyen de faire des affaires en raison du tourisme de l'espace. De nouvelles pensées et idées seront soulevées sur la fa&cc=edil;on d'utiliser l'espace.
Acronyms
DC-X
Delta Clipper Experimental
EAA
Experimental Aircraft Association
ET
External Tank
FAA
Federal Aviation Administration
ISS
International Space Station
JRS
Japanese Rocket Society
LB
pound, 1 pound = 0.454 kilograms
LEO
Low Earth Orbit
NASA
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
OCST
Office of Commercial Space Transportation
RLV
Reusable Launch Vehicle
SSTO
Single Stage To Orbit
STA
Space Transportation Association
STS
Space Tourism Society
TBS
Tokyo Broadcasting System
VTOL
Vertical Take Off and Landing
Introduction

What is space tourism? Other names for it are 'Public space travel' and 'Personal space flight' and that is exactly what it is: you and me going to space to do some sight-seeing. No astronaut training is needed. All you have to do is go to a travel agency and book a ticket, just like you would for a normal airline flight. We are not quite there yet, but a lot of things are happening that will make it come true sooner than you may think.

Space tourism is a natural extension of today's worldwide tourism industry. Instead of traveling around the world, tourists go to space. This may sound like science fiction, but is taken very seriously by the commercial space industry as well as the US government. Even several national space agencies have acknowledged that space tourism is something worth keeping an eye on.

So why bother about space tourism? What is special about it?

For more than 40 years, ever since the space age started, people have been waiting for the day when space is finally opened up on a large scale to mankind. There have been numerous suggestions on how to make this a reality. Early on, many thought that the governmental space programs would take us to the planets and stars. This did not happen, as we see today. Other ideas came up for putting industries in space, manufacturing new medicines and materials for giant world markets. Solar power satellites bringing endless amounts of electricity to the Earth was another suggestion. All of these ideas failed for similar reasons, the main one being the high cost of putting something into orbit. Companies could not convince investors that there was a market large enough to cover the huge launch expenses.

The number of commercial space launches in a year is between 70 and 80. Compare this to the 70 or 80 take-offs by commercial aircraft every fraction of a second all around the world. It is obvious that the way the space industry works today makes it very difficult for any commercial venture in space to yield a profit.

This is where all the excitement about space tourism comes in. Space tourism is the only space activity which has the potential to provide a high number of flights on a regular basis. This is essential to radically bringing launch costs down. Tourism has practically no saturation limits, just look at the growth of theme parks and cruise lines all over the world. In other words, people are the payload of the future.

Space tourism may be the missing link of space travel that we have been trying to discover for so many years. With the help of space tourism, we can build an infrastructure in space. There can be hundreds of thousands of space tourists flying each year, creating a giant market. Through this infrastructure, other commercial ventures will also be possible. Space will finally be a place where it pays off to do business.

At the moment, no space flights are available to the public, but the space tourism industry has already taken off, with travel agencies offering parabolic flights where you can experience weightlessness, space camps where you can train like the astronauts, visits to space facilities and other space related activities. The adventure tourism industry is also very much alive, with people paying substantial amounts to get an uncommon holiday experience. These are the kind of people that may be interested in space tourism during its early phases.

A number of private companies around the world are currently developing new, reusable launch vehicles, which hope to lower launch costs enough to make it possible for the public to buy trips to space. This development is spurred on by the X PRIZE competition.

Several organizations are doing their part to promote space tourism and study the problems around it.

The variety of potential tourist activities in space is as large as the Universe itself. In the early years, though, the focus will be on sub-orbital flights, short trips to orbit, simple orbital hotels and after that trips to the Moon, perhaps with a stay at a lunar hotel. This is also as far as this thesis goes.

Objectives

The thesis has two main objectives:

  • The first objective is to try to discern what importance space tourism may have for space commercialization. With commercialization I mean people making money in space. This involves actually doing activities in space, such as space manufacturing and solar satellite power production. The predictions made are partly based on the knowledge I received while doing the research for the first section, but the main source of information was the interviews I conducted with leading people in the space tourism community.

  • The second is to provide a detailed overview of the space tourism field. This was done by conducting extensive research, the sources being the published material, books, brochures and video cassettes that were available at the host institution, as well as the Internet. Where there was little material available, I attempted to directly contact the people responsible.
Methodology for interviews

Together with my mentor, I worked out a set of questions, which would give a good view of space tourism, and the factors involved in making it come true.

My mentor also advised me on people to interview. The aim was to really get an inside view of what is happening in the field today and what we can expect in the near future. The people selected for interviewing are all contributing to the birth of this new industry in various ways.

All interviews were conducted over the telephone, with the exception of 3, which were done via email. When all the interviews had been completed, I did a thorough analysis of the answers.

The answers to quantitative questions, such as When will the price be $1000/kg to LEO, was put into an MS-Excel spreadsheet to produce a graph where one can more easily study the results and see the most likely prediction.

The essay-type questions, such as What are your visions on space tourism for the next 25 years, are presented as a summary of all the individual replies, with the more common opinions being listed first and other comments of interest following after that. If answers were contradictory between different interviews this is remarked upon. Sometimes a quote or two was added at the end.

The story so far
Early aviation

In trying to predict what the early space tourism industry will look like, studying the early aviation industry is helpful. Many of the phenomena that occurred then will come back when tourists start going to space, albeit at a higher level when it comes to cost and safety regulations. The fascination and thrills created by the early aviators will most certainly remain the same, however, as the public starts journeying into outer space.

Barnstormers

The first space tourism trips will most likely be so called sub-orbital jumps, where customers pay an initially high price to go on a quick ballistic flight in a spacecraft into space, get a few minutes of weightlessness and then return to Earth, without reaching orbit. These space "joyrides" are very similar to the airplane flights offered by the first barnstormers, which provided the first commercial market for aviation.

The concept of barnstormers existed already around 1910, but their major days of glory started in the early 1920s, just after World War I. In the USA, but also in countries such as the United Kingdom and France, a lot of pilots had been drafted to take part in the war. When they returned home they were dismayed at the thought of going back to ordinary jobs or school. Aviation and piloting had gotten a hold of them and they were not prepared to let go. Instead, many of them bought war-surplus planes and started touring the country from town to town, offering people rides. The interest in these flights was enormous at first, some people paying up to a week's salary to be able to take a ride lasting only a few minutes. The total amount of customers can be counted in millions. It also served to create jobs for pilots who came after World War I. One of the most famous of those pilots was Charles A. Lindbergh.

After a few years, as the novelty started to wear thin, the pilots begun attracting customers by putting on air shows, in which they performed death-defying stunt tricks in the air. This could involve climbing out on to the wing and standing up, jumping from one plane to the other or fighting each other on the wing with the loser falling to the ground, releasing his parachute at the very last moment.

All this gave enormous PR to aviation that no regular advertising campaign could possibly have matched. However, it was a very risky business. A lot of good pilots were killed during flights. Eventually, many pilots and aircraft builders started opposing the barnstormers' activities, believing that they were giving aviation a bad name by drawing attention to its risks instead of emphasizing the safety, increasing reliability and usefulness of aircraft.

In 1926, the Air Commerce Act finally put an end to unlicensed barnstorming in the USA. From now on pilots and mechanics would be licensed, aircraft would have to be registered and certified and air traffic regulated. However, in the years that followed more organized barnstorming in the form of flying circuses took over. Speed races were also arranged and went on right up to the start of World War II. [1]

Russia

The Russian space station MIR is open for tourists, although the conditions are quite hard. First of all, the cost is about $10 million and up. You must also speak fluent Russian or agree to learn it as well as spend a little more than a year training in Star City outside Moscow. Finally, the physical examinations are tough and must be passed. This hardly qualifies for a relaxing vacation and it is definitely not available to the general public. [2] Still, space agencies from all over the world have used this opportunity to give their astronauts proper training.

Tourists on MIR

Of all the people that have gone into space, only two of them have been private citizens with no relation to the space industry whatsoever. Both flights were to MIR:

  • Japanese journalist

    In December 1990, the Japanese journalist Toyohiro Akiyama, 48, was sent to MIR on a one week mission. This made him the first journalist astronaut in the world. The trip was made in order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Akiyama's employer, the Japanese TV station Tokyo Broadcasting System, TBS. The cost for the flight was $12 million. The viewer ratings were good all through the week. Nowadays, Akiyama is still employed at the TBS. He also tours across Japan, giving speeches on his space experience. [3] [4] [5] [6]

  • British chemist

    The first British astronaut, Helen Sharman, a 27-year-old British chemist working at the Mars candy company, flew to MIR in May 1991 for an eight-day trip. She did this after winning an "astronauts wanted" contest held by Moscow Narodny Bank, London. Sharman was picked among 13,000 competitors. The price for the flight was $10 million. [7] [8] Due to commercial mismanagement, the project's underwriters paid most of the cost. [9]

USA

No real tourists have flown on the space shuttle, although people who were not part of the astronaut corps have taken trips. This includes many of the mission specialists, two of them being US Congressmen who went on flights in the early 1980s, as Congressional observers. They also took part in medical experiments.

Teacher in space

However, NASA once had serious plans to give ordinary people a chance to ride on the Shuttle. On December 23, 1983, the US Government Federal Register published an announcement from NASA that it would select private individuals, provided that they were fit and healthy enough, as passengers on the space shuttle. This was called "The space flight participant program" and was the start of the "Teacher in space" and "Journalist in space" programs.

11,000 applications were turned in. On August 27, 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced that Sharon Christa McAuliffe would fly on an upcoming Shuttle mission.

Little more than a year later, on October 24, 1985, NASA also said that they would fly a journalist into space. NASA had sought and received applications from candidates who felt that they could use their journalistic background to communicate the experience of space travel to ordinary citizens.

Although these programs were not strictly tourist trips, they emphasized the idea that space should be open to anyone and not just an area for scientists and explorers. Eventually, an artist was supposed to be sent into space.

In January 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after lift-off, effectively ending the program of citizen participation in space flight.[10] [11] [12]

Tickets to space!
Hayden Planetarium

In 1951, the Hayden Planetarium published an order form in their magazines and books to be completed by people who wanted to travel into space (Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond). More than 400,000 responses have been collected over the years since then. [13]

Pan Am

In 1969, following the success of the Apollo missions, Pan Am airlines began taking ticket reservations for a shuttle to the moon. The tickets were unexpectedly popular. 90,000 reservations were accepted.

The only problem was that there was no trip itself. The tickets were valid for seats on the first flight to become available, but no such flights have turned up yet. [14] The certificates are now valuable collectors' items.

Society Expeditions

Another company offering flights to space was the adventure tourism company Society Expeditions, based in Seattle, Washington, USA. In 1985, they started " Project Space Voyage", offering short trips to low Earth orbit for $50,000. The flight would orbit the Earth about 5-8 times and take approximately 8-12 hours. The vehicle was supposed to be the Phoenix-E, a Vertical Take Off and Landing ( VTOL) single booster craft carrying 20 passengers and built by Pacific American Launch Systems. Gary Hudson, nowadays the president of Rotary Rocket Company, was the designer of the craft. The launches were to start in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World. [15] [16] [17]

Several hundred people deposited $5000 in the USA, Europe and Japan for a ticket. However, the company failed to raise enough money to develop the Phoenix-E and the program was canceled. [18] The deposits were returned. [19]

Space Travel Company

Robert Citron, one of the founders of Kistler Aerospace, founded Space Travel. [20] He was proposing to offer passengers a ride on the Shuttle for $1 million per seat. Passengers would be carried in a part of the shuttle cargo bay converted to a pressurized habitable module, constructed to accommodate passengers. However, NASA rejected the idea, having concluded that it was unsafe to carry people outside the crew compartment during launches and landings.

Development of the module, called Spacehab, went on, but not for the purpose of carrying passengers but to provide lockers for microgravity experiments. [21]

Where to go in space as a tourist and how

There are an endless number of ways to do space tourism. Once the industry gets started the only limit will be the human imagination. Currently, a few types of trips are discussed more often than others and are described briefly below.

Virtual space trip

With the use of modern technology, space trips can be simulated very realistically. The Space Tourism Society is currently working on a simulation of a 24-hour cruise in Earth orbit. The computer would make up the entire flight and the customer would get a good preview of what the real trip might be like. The only thing missing would be weightlessness. [22]

Sight-seeing via telepresence

Performing space tourism without actually being there, via remote controlled robots, may be one way of seeing more exotic locations in space before the technology has evolved enough for people to go there in person.

LunaCorp, based in Arlington, Virginia, USA, plan to send a rover to the Moon in 2002. Sponsors of the project will be allowed to conduct their own excursion with the rover around the Peary crater, where the Lunar Prospector probe found water in 1998. Cameras on the rover will send back pictures to the driver. [23] Subsequent rovers may be controlled from amusement parks, where ordinary people get a chance to take a drive and have a look at the old Apollo sites. [24]

"Joyrides"

The first space tourism trips will be simple rides where the tourists stay inside the craft all the time, watching the Earth and playing in Zero-G. There are two different phases that these rides will go through.

Sub-orbital jump

If a spacecraft makes a ballistic trip to an altitude of 100 km (62 miles), basically flying in a wide arc from the ground and back down again, it is called a sub-orbital jump. The shape of the trajectory is the same as if one throws a stone up in the air. It is also the flight path used by sounding rockets.

The speed required to reach a height of 100 km is about 1 km/s. At the top of the arc, there will be a few minutes of weightlessness and a grandiose view of the Earth.

Orbital trip

To reach Low Earth Orbit ( LEO) you need a speed of 7.8 km/s. Once the craft is in orbit it will circle the Earth once every 90 minutes. 2-3 orbits will probably give tourists enough time to have a proper look at the Earth and try out weightlessness.

Space hotel

When orbital trips are available, tourists will want to stay for a while. Some kind of facility will be needed. Using the ISS, perhaps with an extension, could be a way of getting an early tourist facility up in orbit.

A space hotel will also provide a platform for further ventures into outer space, such as being the home base for a Moon vehicle.

Some companies have already given quite a lot of thought to orbital facilities and hotels:

Shimizu

The Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese construction company founded in 1804, has what is maybe the most famous concept for a space hotel. They plan to have a hotel in orbit by the year 2020. The hotel will be orbiting 450 km (279 miles) above the surface of the Earth. There will be 64 rooms having a gravity level of 0.7 G in order to facilitate the use of showers and rest rooms. To produce this the hotel will be spinning slowly. However, there will be areas of the hotel that are completely free of gravity, to enable tourists to play and have fun. [25]

The structure is 240 m long. At one end is the platform area, where tourists arrive and depart. An elevator takes them up the public area, composed of several modules such as a lobby, a restaurant and an amusement hall (for playing in weightlessness). The guest room area is a ring further up the elevator. The ring is connected to the main structure but rotates separately. Finally, there is the energy support area, where solar panels and batteries provide energy for the various facilities. [26]

Using the external tank of the Space Shuttle

A number of suggestions have been made on how to use the external tank ( ET) of the Space Shuttle for habitats and other orbital facilities. Using the ET could be a way of getting an early space hotel.

Barron Hilton, then the Chairman of the US company Hilton Hotels, made a famous speech at a space conference in 1967 about future Hilton hotels in orbit and on the Moon. Hilton also had their name on a space hotel in the movie 2001-A Space Odyssey, released in 1968. [27] The company paid to be part of the film.

Hilton announced in 1999 that they will be the first sponsors of a planned space hotel, designed by the Space Island Group and made out of ETs, forming a ring. British Airways is also said to be interested. The estimated cost would be $6 - $12 billion. This is compared to the cost of the International Space Station, which is around $40 billion. The hotel would take 6 years to build. A new generation of space vehicles would be needed to transport passengers up to the station. Author Arthur C. Clarke is also a backer of the project and was the one who contacted Hilton. [28]

Lunar flyby

Taking a trip around the Moon, without landing, may seem to be a daunting step, but the Apollo program did it 30 years ago. In late December 1968, Apollo 8 made just such a trip, in preparation for later landings.

Watching the Moon up close, maybe through a strong pair of binoculars would be the main activity. Seeing the Earth rise beyond the Moon would be another experience destined never to be forgotten.

Lunar hotel

As with orbital trips around the Earth, when there are regular trips around the Moon the need to actually go down to the surface and take a walk will be large enough to warrant the construction of lunar facilities. Even here, there are already plans made by companies.

Lunar Hilton

Hilton International, the large multinational hotel chain, has been working on plans for a lunar hotel ever since water was discovered on the Moon in 1998.

The hotel would be a 325 meter-high complex with 5000 rooms. Power would come from two huge solar panels and there would also be a beach with a sea and a working farm. Drinking water would be pumped up from the ice reserves by the poles and would also be used to fill the sea. There would be a restaurant, a medical center, a church and even a school. High-speed lifts would take guests between floors. Lunar buses would take tourists on excursions outside the hotel.

Hilton is working closely with experts at NASA on the project. They also hope to form some kind of partnership to ferry guests to the hotel. [29]

"...where there are travelers there must be Hiltons." as Barron Hilton proclaimed in his 1967 speech. [30]

What to do as a space tourist

What will the tourists do once they are out there? The surveys that have been made show that the potential space tourists have very clearly defined ideas of what activities they wish to occupy themselves with.

Earth sight-seeing

"...the view of Earth from low orbit is literally breathtaking, both by night when the globe flickers with lightning storms and polar aurorae, and by day when the ever-changing terrain below is dazzlingly clear." [31]

Market research has shown that what most people want to do in space is watch the Earth. [32] There seems to be an endless fascination in seeing the different continents roll by, with no borders visible between countries.

Photographs and films of the view is an impressive thing in itself, but to see it for real is a remarkable experience. Astronauts in Skylab spent hours on end watching the Earth whenever possible. [33]

The views of Earth available will be determined in detail by the space vehicle's ground track. Flights could be named after the main sightseeing targets, for example "Polar Flight" and "Big City Lights". Passing over oceans may tend to be quite dull, so care should be taken to minimize that.

Different seasons will also provide different views. This may be an incentive for customers to come back, in order to get a view of their home during different times of the year. It may also cause a variance in demand of flights, as weather conditions tend to be more severe at certain times of the year, with cloudiness blocking a lot of the view.

Watching space

Without the atmosphere in between, the stars are much brighter and clearer when viewed. Astronomical observations will be popular. The best time to do this is when the vehicle passes through the Earth's shadow, during the nighttime part of the orbit.

Eating

Since the trips will be fairly short in the early space tourism stages, meals will not really be needed. However, the passengers will want to try eating and drinking in a Zero-G environment, so food should be provided. The passengers might also want to play with the food, like drinking from a ball of water floating in the air, as well as taking pictures to remember the event.[34]

Playing

Floating in weightlessness is guaranteed to be something the tourists will want to try. Films of astronauts on the Space Shuttle often show them playing around, doing all sorts of acrobatics. This can take place even on the early rides, where the tourists stay inside the launch vehicle.

Once there are hotels, more advanced activities can take place. One idea is to have a Zero-G swimming pool. This would be a large spherical mass of water floating around inside the orbiting spacecraft. Body movements will still be effective in moving through the water or towards the surface, but the body does not float naturally up to the surface, so some kind of emergency air equipment may be necessary to wear.

There could also be an artificial gravity swimming pool, where people would swim around in a rotating cylinder. A swimmer would see other people swimming in the ceiling. Since the gravity level would be lower than on Earth, water activities would be very relaxing. Water polo, for instance, could be enjoyed by more people.

Sports would take on an extra dimension in space. 3-D soccer, for instance, would require completely new tactics.

Flying using simple wings attached to the arms will be possible. Races could take place, both speed and slalom, or people could just soar around as they wished. [35] On the Moon, a crater could be covered and filled with air to let people fly around inside.

Finally, there is of course the so-called "rendezvous and docking" activity which is so popular on honeymoons, and which would definitely take on a new dimension in space.

Space walk

According to the market survey made in Japan, USA and Germany (see the Market Surveys section) taking a space walk was the second most popular thing people wanted to do in space. Although performing a space walk will probably not be available in the early phases of space tourism, space walks are being performed routinely by trained astronauts today and there is nothing that says that it can not be implemented for future tourists as well.

Recognition

Being able to talk about the trip afterwards may be just as important as taking the trip itself. Getting some kind of recognition after having made the trip is guaranteed to be appreciated. By going into space the space tourists qualify for astronaut wings. These could be given out at a ceremony after the tourists are safely back on Earth.

Adventure tourism: a customer base for space tourism

Space tourism will not be anything revolutionary in the tourism industry, except for the fact that it represents a completely new place to go. Adventure tourism on Earth is in itself already a fairly well established industry. It seems reasonable to assume that the people who take part in these more extreme forms of tourism will also be the ones who will embrace space tourism at its earlier stages. The adventure tourism industry therefore warrants a closer look in order to get an early perspective on space tourism. A few of the better-known companies offering adventure tourism are described below. All prices are for the 1999/2000 season.

Incredible Adventures

Incredible Adventures in Sarasota, Florida, USA is into a number of different adventure tourism programs. Apart from offering space tourism (see the Space-related tourism already available section) it offers things such as to:

  • Be the pilot of a real jet fighter aircraft, taking off from Cape Town, 6 days, $6,500-$22,000, depending on the number of jets one wishes to try

  • Take part in an army boot camp, called Covert Ops, 3 days, $2,995-$3,795, depending on the date

  • Go around the world by rail in 40 days, $13,250

  • Drive a truck in a truck racing event, half a day, $495, or 1 day, $795

  • Take a trip under the Arctic ice in a submarine, visiting wrecks of ancient ships. A cooperation with Deep Sea Voyages, 8 days, $9,980 [36]
Quark Expeditions

This British company operates Russian nuclear icebreakers, taking tourists on trips to the Arctic and Antarctic. Some examples are:

  • Antarctica, 25 nights, $11,995 - $28,980, depending on the type of room and date of departure

  • Circumnavigation of the Arctic, 2 months, $27,390 - $50,650, depending on the type of room wanted. [37]
Society Expeditions

Located in Seattle, Washington, USA, this company was one of the first to offer space tourism in the mid 1980s. For reasons explained in the The story so far section that venture failed to get off the ground. Today, Society Expeditions offers small ship adventure cruises to Antarctica, Alaska and the South Pacific. The focus lies on the wildlife, natural history and culture of each region. Activities such as bird watching and wildlife viewing are a central part of the journeys. A team of experts in various fields related to the area gives lectures onboard along with guided field studies. [38]

Zegrahm Expeditions / Deep Sea Voyages

Zegrahm Expeditions in Seattle, Washington, USA offers trips all around the world. Examples include:

  • Galapagos Islands, 10 days, $3,690 and up
  • Madagascar, 18 days, $6,350
  • viewing ancient cities by aircraft, 23 days, $28,950 [39]

Deep Sea Voyages, a division of Zegrahms, offers submarine trips. Examples are Undersea volcanoes of the Azores and a soon-to-be 10-day trip to the wreck of the Titanic for $35,500. [40]

Space-related tourism already available

A few travel agencies are already offering space-related tourism. A brief description of the major ones follows. Many companies offer similar activities, for example parabolic flights and flights to high altitude with the MIG-25 Foxbat. Those trips are described fully under Space Adventures and then only referenced to under the rest of the companies. All prices are for the 1999/2000 season.

Space Adventures is based in Arlington, Virginia, USA and run by President Mike McDowell, the founder of Quark Expeditions. The company offers a program called Steps to space. The ultimate goal of this is to offer trips into space, i e to become a true space travel agency. While waiting for that to become a possibility, tourists may experience different levels of Earth based space tourism. These steps are:

  • Terrestrial Tours

    The tours here include:

    • visiting various historical sites around the world where ancient astronomers did their work, 3 days, $919 or 5 days, $1,499
    • a seminar where you build your own model rocket, 1 day, $279
    • a visit of Russia's most famous space sites, 9 days, $5,005
    • viewing a Shuttle launch, 3 days, $750

  • Zero Gravity Flights

    Tourists take part in a parabolic flight aboard a jet aircraft, either in France or Russia. Such a flight gives several periods of weightlessness, each lasting about 20-30 seconds. 4 days, $4,980

  • Journey To The Edge Of Space

    This is a flight in the Russian MIG-25 Foxbat aircraft, taking place in Russia. The plane reaches an altitude of more than 80,000 ft at 2.5 times the speed of sound. At this altitude, the curvature of the Earth is visible and the sky above is black. 2 days, $11,900

    Other aircraft are available as well.

  • Sub-Orbital Space Flights

    Expected to begin in 2002-2003, this program will offer sub-orbital flights into space, using any of a number of vehicles now under construction. $90,000.[41]

  • Zegrahm Space Voyages

    Scott Fitzsimmons runs this division of Zegrahm Expeditions, an established adventure tourism agency. Space Voyages, a Seattle, Washington, USA based company, plans to begin offering sub-orbital flights in the later part of 2002. This will be realized through a cooperation with Vela Technology Development, Inc., an aerospace company who is building the spacecraft. The price will be $98,000.[42]

  • Space Tours

    This company is run by Hartmut Muller and Augustinus Boots and is located in Syke, Germany. It has a wide range of space related activities on offer. Tourists may:

    • Take part in a space camp in Belgium, training like the European Space Agency astronauts.
    • Go on parabolic flights in Bordeaux, France.
    • Visit aerospace related sites in Germany, Holland, Belgium and the USA.
    • Do a flight simulator trip in the Lufthansa training facility in Germany.

    Space Tours also organizes and hosts the International Symposium on Space Tourism. The second conference was held April 21-23, 1999 in Bremen, Germany. [43]

  • Spacetopia

    This company is aimed primarily at the Japanese market. It offers parabolic flights in Russia as well as flights to the edge of space on the Russia MIG-25 Foxbat. It also has an adventure tourism program, in which you can take a trip in a submarine to watch the wreck of the Titanic.

    Future plans include offering sub-orbital flights and Earth based tourism similar to Space Adventures' Terrestrial Tours.

    Rikko Wakamatsu and Patrick Collins, who also operates the space tourism web site Spacefuture.com, manage the company. [44]

  • Incredible Adventures

    This company, in Sarasota, Florida, USA, offers a wide range of extreme adventure tourism activities. The space related ones include parabolic flights in Russia as well as flying with the MIG-25 Foxbat. Incredible Adventures has also teamed up with Zegrahm and will be offering their sub-orbital flights when they get going. [45]

  • Interglobal Space Lines

    Rand Simberg runs Interglobal, based in Jackson, Wyoming, USA. It offers two space courses involving parabolic flights, taking place in the USA.

    • Introduction To Weightlessness, $1,950
      This gives a chance to try out weightlessness. Learning stability and mobility in a Zero-G environment are emphasized.
    • Shirtsleeve Operations in Weightlessness, $2,950

    Here the participants learn how to design weightless systems, such as crew aids and work stations, through lectures as well as the actual parabolic flight. [46]

  • The People's Republic of China

    USA, Europe, Russia and Japan are all involved in the space tourism industry, as seen above. China, one of the 5 major space faring countries in the world, so far has no officially declared space tourism programs.

    However, according to R Gao, Deputy General Manager of the Space Division at China Great Wall Industry Corporation, the company in charge of the Long March rocket launches, a few travel agencies are organizing tours to the space museum in Beijing, space manufacturing and testing facilities, launch sites etc.

    The space interest in China is large. Before a launch of the Long March rocket, some people drive all the way to the remotely located launch site, or go there by airplane or train, just to visit the launch.

    The going-on manned space program and the result of that could boost the interest of some pioneers in space-oriented tourism in China. The realization of space tourism will need strong and long-term financial support, so space tourism in China is seen as being at least twenty years into the future. [47]

Supportive non-profit organizations

Non-profit organizations are an important tool in spreading the message about space tourism to the public. A few of the space-related organizations in the world are mentioned continually when the space tourism issue is discussed and therefore warrant a closer look.

Japanese Rocket Society

The JRS was formed in 1956 by Japanese rocket pioneers in order to conduct an experimental study of rockoons, rockets being launched from underneath balloons, for sounding the atmosphere at high altitudes. Since then, the activities have expanded to cover a number of related subjects. [48]

In 1993, JRS initiated a Space Tourism Study Program. The goal of this program is to widely research all aspects of space tourism. A number of papers and reports have been published. [49]

In 1995, the first phase of the program was completed. This was the design of the Kankoh-Maru, a 50-passenger, VTOL vehicle constructed specifically to take tourists out into low Earth orbit.

Kankoh-Maru

A number of Japanese industrial companies were involved in the project, e g Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Nissan Motor Company and All Nippon Airways.

After this, a Business Research Committee was established in order to discuss the business aspects of the Kankoh-Maru project. It was quickly realized that before any manufacturing of the vehicle could take place, the potential operating companies needed understanding of many additional issues concerning the operation of the craft, so further studies are taking place. [50]

At the end of 1998, the program was focusing on regulatory matters. [51]

The goal of the Space Tourism Society is

To conduct research, build public desire, and acquire the financial and political power to make space tourism available to as many people as possible as soon as possible.

STS believes that space tourism is the most logical way for private enterprise to go in order to expand humankind into space. It wants to stimulate a profitable and expanding space tourism industry.

The organization is modeled after the National Geographic Society. Major research will be performed and the findings promoted to the world public. The founder and executive president, John S. Spencer, is leading the work.

Currently, the STS is working on a 30-year plan. The focus lies on in-orbit activities, what the tourists do once they are up there, not on how to get there. This is mainly because STS does not believe that the main obstacles to space tourism are technical, but rather on the financial and marketing side. The plan talks of modeling the industry more after cruise lines than the hotel industry. [52] [53]

The STA is an interest organization for the space transportation industry. The name of the current President is Tom Rogers, who was one of the founders of the External Tank Corporation.

The goal of the STA is to encourage and promote commercial space transportation as well as the development of reusable launch vehicles. It does this by:

Developing and promoting standards and regulations that make operations easier for commercial space transportation, expendable and reusable, as well as space enterprises.

Keeping a database of space transportation materials, which may be accessed by STA members.

Educating the US government, business and the general public about commercial space transportation and its benefits.

Being in close contact with members of Congress, the White House and regulatory agencies and business interests engaged in expanding commercial space activities. [54]

In 1998, the STA released a study on space tourism together with NASA called General Public Space Travel and Tourism. The main conclusions of this study are:

  • The US national space policy should be modified to encourage the creation of a large general public space travel and tourism business.

  • Precursors to space tourism on the ground should be expanded.

  • People with a profession which may be related to future space tourism, such as hotel architects, theme park developers, airline and cruise ship operators, should start informing themselves of public space travel and tourism to see what their interests are therein.

  • A complete spectrum of people and businesses must be engaged, everything from financing to travel agencies. Especially small businesses and entrepreneurs should be encouraged.

  • Non-profit organizations should take part in the needed communications efforts.

  • Universities that give travel and tourism programs should begin considering space tourism.

  • The Federal government should cooperate closely with the private sector to reduce its initial technological, operational and market risk, which it has already done in aviation.

  • Government-sponsored research and development should focus on bringing launch costs down by a factor of 10-100 for high-safety, reliable and comfortable space vehicles.

  • The X-33 and X-34 programs should give specific attention to the prospects of general public space travel and tourism and so should private space transportation companies such as Rotary Rocket and others.

  • Experiencing space from inside the transportation vehicle itself will be enough for the initial business, however, to enable large-scale market expansion, orbital facilities will be needed. [55]

This report led to the establishment of a Space Travel and Tourism Division of the STA, which will go on working on space tourism issues.

X PRIZE Foundation

The X PRIZE Foundation is located in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. It is a non-profit organization inaugurated in 1996 and is arranging a competition called the X PRIZE.

The X PRIZE is a $10 million prize which has been put up in order to promote the creation of the first spaceships that will do sub-orbital space tourism. To win the prize, a privately funded organization or company must build their own space vehicle and fly it to an altitude of 100 km (62 miles) carrying at least 1 person, plus the equivalent mass of 2 people. Carrying 3 real people is of course preferred, but that may require passenger certification of the craft, the rules of which have not been completely worked out by the FAA yet.

In order to prove that the vehicle is reusable, the same craft has to make the same trip again within 2 weeks.

The X PRIZE is modeled after the Orteig prize, put up by hotel owner Raymond Orteig in the 1920s. He wanted to improve relations between USA and France, which were bad after World War I, and offered $25,000 to the first team who could fly non-stop between New York and Paris. Nine teams spent 16 times the purse of $25,000 in pursuit of the prize. By offering a prize instead of backing one particular team or technology Orteig automatically backed the winner.

Charles A. Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize in 1927. He was the least expected to win, since he chose to go with a single pilot/single engine approach, whereas the other teams often had up to three engines and two people in the cockpit. Lindbergh's flight changed the public's perception of aviation, leading the way to today's multibillion-dollar aviation industry. The X PRIZE Foundation hopes to accomplish a similar thing for space travel. History has shown the power of prizes to accelerate technological development.

A gathering of St. Louis businessmen called The Spirit of St. Louis backed Lindbergh. The X PRIZE foundation has a similar group of sponsors called The New Spirit of St. Louis.

Peter Diamandis is the founder and President of the X PRIZE Foundation. The day-to-day operations are managed by the Executive Director, Gregg Maryniak. 16 teams are currently registered, coming from North America, South America and Europe. The Foundation hopes to be able to give the prize away around 2001-2002. [56] [57]

Potential impediments to space tourism

As for any new industry, space tourism faces some potential impediments, which need to be resolved before the industry will get going. The more well known ones are listed here, along with suggestions for solutions.

Law, regulations and risks

A proper legal system is an essential part of all space activities. A number of new issues concerning space law are raised as private companies are entering space to do business. Suddenly the old treaties are inadequate and insufficient to deal with all the legal situations that may occur.

Today: International treaties

At the moment, all activities in space are conducted by nations. Even if it is a private company operating, the nation where the company is established still has full responsibility for what the company does. This is due to a number of international treaties, which were drafted during the 1960s and 1970s. These were meant to create some basic legal structure in a young and unpredictable governmental activity. At that time no one gave serious thought to the advent of commercial services or routine space travel. Under these agreements, virtually all international disputes are settled on an ad hoc basis between nations, rather than between the individual parties to a dispute. [58]

This treaty from 1967 is the main international agreement on space activities. It lays down the basic issues of space law, saying that space and all celestial bodies are free for use by all mankind. No one can make any territorial claims on for instance the Moon. The thought was that whenever situations arise which are not covered by this treaty, a new treaty would be negotiated and added to the legal regime of space. The new agreement should be in harmony with the Outer Space Treaty. [59]

The Liability Convention

This agreement says that governments are liable for damage caused by any launches from their territory. This is different from other transport industries, for instance shipping and air travel, where commercial law rules and liability for damage caused by an accident is carried by commercial insurance companies. [60]

The Liability treaty gives any government the obligation to license launches. This prevents people from launching freely, putting the public in potential danger.

Astronauts within the current space law have to be:

  • in an object located in space
  • conducting their activities for the benefit and in the interests of all countries
  • regarded as an envoy of mankind in outer space

This type of space traveler is covered by the Rescue Agreement. It provides immediate notification, search and rescue by all countries even if the astronauts in an accident, distress, emergency or unintended landing are on the high seas or in any other place not under the jurisdiction of any nation.

This is all well and fine as long as governments are handling the space activities, but the new wave of space tourists will confuse the terms somewhat. Tourists in general do not play a direct role for the benefit and in the interests of all countries. Instead, they go for the sake of personal pleasure. This may disqualify them as envoys of mankind, thus not being seen as real astronauts. [61]

It may seem improbable that space tourists in distress will be ignored by countries close by, simply because they are not proper astronauts. Most likely the treatment will still be the same. However, this illustrates the fact that the Rescue Agreement will need to be updated. There should be no argument about who is responsible if an emergency situation occurs.

Future: New commercial space laws

US Congressman Robert Walker has stated "Most of our laws and regulations governing space activity were written to make it easier for the government to function in space. Now we need to make it easier for the private sector to undertake space development". [62]

The US government is taking the coming wave of public space travel and the commercialization of space very seriously. The first sign of this was seen in the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan created the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST), which is now a part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA is a US governmental institution in charge of regulating and overseeing the aviation industry in the USA.

The Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Patricia Grace Smith, is the head of the OCST. [63] This office handles things such as:

  • commercial launch licensing
  • developing regulations and procedures for operations
  • developing technical standards
  • intergovernmental cooperation
  • connections with Congress
  • overseeing the development of new commercial launch ventures
  • working out passenger service standards

It also does assessments of launch vehicles, telling the owner the amount of insurance needed for a launch. If a rocket blows up during launch, it pays the difference between the actual cost of the accident and the amount the mandated insurance covers. In other words, the US government acts as an excess insurance carrier; it provides a layer on top of the required insurance. [64]

Another important step in simplifying commercial space transportation is the Commercial Space Act, which was passed in 1998. The main issue in this act is giving the FAA the authority to license the reentry of reusable launch vehicles. Previously, the FAA could only issue launch licenses. This was of course mainly due to the fact that rockets were expendable, they were launched but never reentered, so a license to land a rocket was never needed.

However, this act will directly affect the new reusable launch vehicles being manufactured, making it easier to permit them being launched from the United States.

The act also says that the US government should as far as possible buy its launches and scientific data from commercial actors. [65]

Manned reusable launch vehicle classification

A major issue is how to handle the classification of the new reusable launch vehicles. A lot of parallels can be seen in the aviation industry. Passenger-carrying aircraft must go through a certification process before they are allowed to carry fare-paying passengers or cargo. The FAA handles this certification. More than 1000 test flights are typically needed to gather enough statistics. The cost may be over $100 million and the process may run for over 3 years. If the space tourism industry would have to go through the same thing it would mean great economical difficulties which would probably put a stop to any start-up company before it even got off the ground.

For the space industry, one country could take it upon itself to make the procedure easy, like Liberia did for the shipping industry. This does not guarantee that the craft can actually fly out of another country than the one it is licensed in, but at least there will be one place from which to start. [66]

Accredited Passengers

There are, however, suggestions on how to allow launches from within the USA and other countries with similarly strict aviation regulations.

Compared to commercial passenger-carrying aircraft, the FAA has much more relaxed rules on privately owned, home-built and experimental aircraft. Provided that he or she has a license to fly it, a person with a private pilot's license may bring along another person in such an aircraft, if that person goes for free. Licensed flying instructors can, however, charge other people for flying-lessons, provided that the student is the owner of the experimental aircraft. [67]

This is the reason why P Diamandis and P Collins have proposed something called Accredited Passengers as a model for the first space tourists. Such a passenger will be exempt from certain FAA regulations that apply to normal, regular airline flights. These people may choose to undertake certain risks in return for a valuable and exciting experience. They should have enough experience of aviation and space-related matters, or be willing to obtain it through training, to be able to judge the risks they put themselves into. Having a good knowledge of the vehicle will also be essential. If all these demands are fulfilled, the person may buy a ticket on a space flight.

To be allowed to carry such passengers, the space carriage operator must have made at least two successful and consecutive flights, report all accidents and failures that occur, have approved operations, emergency and safety procedures and obey all other regulations that apply. [68]

The "Warsaw Convention" for space

The potential liability for accidents is a major obstacle to tourist flights in space. The threat of lawsuits is a sure way of scaring away investors. To take out a huge insurance will not help, since the cost of that has to be passed on to the customers, thus raising the price for tickets far beyond a reasonable level.

The airline industry once faced similar problems. When airlines started operating internationally, there was a need for some regulation in order to limit the air carrier liability, since flights in the early days of aviation was more risky than today.

The solution was an international agreement called the Warsaw Convention. This convention limited the liability for airlines, which encouraged operators to enter the market.

The Warsaw Convention helped getting a new industry started and made it economically feasible. Today, the ability to gauge risks is much higher, as there is a lot of experience from air travel, so the Warsaw Convention may seem somewhat outdated, but it did a lot of good in its time.

Space tourism will probably need a similar agreement, at least in the beginning in order to get the industry started. Either the Warsaw Convention could be modified for space travel or a completely new document written along similar lines. [69]

If there is no regulatory framework the uncertainty can actually be worse. Any agency can then claim regulatory authority and issue licenses even if they do not have the right to do so. The absence of regulations may also make investors afraid that any unknown future regulation may kill the business they are investing in. Some regulation in this case is better than none. [70]

Precedents

An important way of establishing laws for outer space is to make precedents, that is to actually go out and do something, thereby claiming the right to do it. An example of this is the flight of Sputnik 1 in 1957, which established the principle that spacecraft in orbit may fly over any nation, which is not allowed without permission if you are in an airplane. [71]

Another example is the sample returns from the Moon made by the American Apollo landings, which determined that once you pick something off the surface of an extraterrestrial body, it is yours.

Physical fitness

Flying into space takes very high speeds and may also demand high accelerations depending on the type of rocket used. The early astronauts were test pilots in excellent physical shape, because no one was sure of what they would experience. This is a picture of the astronaut that still lingers in people's minds.

The G forces experienced on a trip to orbit are not very difficult to handle if the person is lying down. It does not hurt, but feels more like having a baby lying on your chest, nor is it hard to breathe. 5 G is about the maximum a person can take standing up. Beyond that the blood pressure in the head is so low that there will be a shortage of oxygen supply to the brain.

Basically, anyone who can fly in an airplane or ride on a roller coaster will have no problems with Space Shuttle levels of acceleration, around 3 G. [72] The flight by 77 year-old US Senator John Glenn on the Space Shuttle in October 1998 effectively ended all doubts that anyone in sufficiently good health can go to space. [73]

Space sickness

Sometimes when astronauts are in space, they feel sick and may even vomit. This is called space sickness and is caused by the same reasons that people get sick while riding in a car or on a boat. A conflict arises between what the eyes are telling the brain and what the inner ear is telling the brain about the bodily position. Inside a ship you may not see that you are moving but your inner ear tells you that you are.

The reasons for space sickness and other similar illnesses are not fully understood. Nevertheless, it is believed that it can be treated to a sufficient level with some kind of motion sickness medicines. This may be enough for space tourists to enjoy their flight.

The reasons astronauts are sick on the space shuttle is mainly because the NASA scientists tell them not to take pills, so that they can do research on the sickness. [74]

Cost

Even though space tourism has the potential to radically decrease the cost of launching a payload into space, the price for a ticket will still be beyond the general public, at least in the early years.

In 1986, Patrick Collins and David Ashford, by analogy with commercial developments in the past, expected the demand for space tourism to evolve through a number of phases:

  • Phase 1 - Pioneer phase
    Price per trip - $1,000,000-$100,000

    The market would consist of very wealthy individuals with an interest in space. A high degree of comfort would not be necessary; neither would a long stay in orbit. Staying within the launch vehicle would be all right for the entire trip.

  • Phase 2 - Exclusive phase
    Price per trip - $100,000-$10,000

    People would now be able to go on a regular basis. The price is still very high, so only high-income groups could go. The quality of the service, comfort, food and entertainment would be more important and changes in marketing would therefore take place. As the price goes down, more exotic trips would be needed to be able to maintain a feeling of exclusivity for the part of the market that so demands.

  • Phase 3 - Mature phase
    Price per trip - $10,000-$2,000

    A significant proportion of the population would now be able to go. Things such as technological advances would have made this possible. Price competition would exist between different suppliers, making the market go on growing.

  • Phase 4 - Mass market phase
    Price per trip - $2,000 +

    This is equal to the phase that international air travel has reached in the industrialized countries. A large proportion of the population can go, at least once in their lives. Although this stage is far into the future, it is still possible that space tourism will once mature to the stage where present day air-travel is, transporting many tens of millions of passengers every year. [75]

Waiting for the market to mature may be too long for those eager to go but without the immediate means to do so. Another option is to have sweepstakes or lotteries, where the prizes are trips to space. The problem is that the US government very strictly regulates such arrangements. Sweepstakes in the US are generally only legal if the competitor does not pay anything to join. Some attempts at organizing space raffles throughout the last decades have taken place.

Space Travel Services

In 1990, the US Company Space Travel Services obtained an exclusive contract for an American to travel to and spend one week on the Soviet space station MIR. A sweepstakes drawing was to be used in order to select the winner. The company received hundreds of thousands of entries before the Texas authorities deemed the contest an illegal lottery and closed it down. [76]

The X PRIZE platinum VISA card

The X PRIZE foundation, in cooperation with First USA, is currently offering a VISA card which automatically enters you into a sweepstakes competition when you make a purchase using the card. When the X PRIZE itself has been awarded, a Grand Prize winner will be drawn. This prize is a sub-orbital space flight.

Every three months, a First Prize winner is drawn. The price is one of the following, depending on what drawing of the year it is:

  • MIG-25 Flight to the Edge of Space.
  • Zero Gravity Parabolic Flight Adventure.
  • Astronaut Training Adventure.
  • Trip to an exciting space-related place, such as watching a Space Shuttle launch.

The travel agency Space Adventures handles these prizes. The first prizes were awarded during 1998. There are also 232 other prices in 4 categories given out, ranging from telescopes to X PRIZE mugs.[77]

Suntory Ltd.

The Japanese Pepsi Cola distributor, Suntory Ltd. offered a sweepstakes competition in 1998, in which five winners would get a chance to fly to space. The sub-orbital flights will take place through Zegrahm Space Voyages, as soon as the company starts offering them.

Due to legal restrictions, the winners would have to pay 15 percent of the $100,000 spaceflight themselves. Nevertheless, the campaign was considered a great success, generating 650,000 responses from the general public. The sales of Pepsi-Cola in Japan increased more than 30% in the first half of 1998. [78] [79]

Sharespace Foundation

This is an idea proposed by Buzz Aldrin, known as the second man to walk on the Moon. The purpose of Sharespace is to give "ordinary citizens with ordinary means the chance to fly in space". By contributing to the foundation, with as little as $10 and up, a person will be part of a random selection process to select a pool of astronauts. All participants, irrespective of the amount of their contribution, will be part of future drawings as well.

The selected astronauts will then undergo training and compete for a ride into space. The winner(s) will get to fly; the others will receive other benefits, such as parabolic flights or tours of space facilities.

The space flights themselves will be made available mainly by participating companies, who donate seats on their flights in return for promotion of their products to Sharespace members and participation in Sharespace events.

Ron Jones is the Executive Director. At the moment, the foundation is in its early stages and contributing is not yet possible. [80]

The new space vehicles

In order to make space tourism economically feasible, new kinds of vehicles are needed. The old expendable rockets will not do the job. Instead, reusability is the key word.

There is a big difference in speed between doing a sub-orbital jump into space, which requires 1 km/s, and going all the way to orbit, which requires 7.8 km/s. Therefore, many companies are initially planning to offer sub-orbital jumps. Apart from giving a quick space tourism trip, such vehicles could also be used for fast-package delivery, e g from New York to Tokyo in 45 minutes, or as the first stage of a satellite launcher.

History

Many concepts for reusable vehicles have been presented over the years. However, few of them have ever reached the production stage. Nevertheless, a few test flights have been conducted with this type of vehicle as part of US military programs.

X-15, the first reusable space vehicle

In the 1940s NASA started up the X program. The X was a designation, meaning experimental flying vehicle. In 1947, the X-1 was the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. Over the next 20 years, the X program saw a 6-fold increase in speed. A number of test pilots lost their lives flying these dangerous craft. [81]

The X-15 was the high point of the X-program. It was a missile-shaped, one-man vehicle powered by a rocket instead of a jet engine. Dropped from a B-52 at 45,000 ft, it crossed the boundary of space, 60 miles up. It was first flown in 1959 and the 3 aircraft made a total of 199 flights up until 1968. The highest altitude reached was 67 miles and the highest speed Mach 6.7. In the beginning it was used to provide data on high-speed, high-altitude flight. A follow on program used the X-15 to carry various scientific experiments beyond the Earth's atmosphere on a repeated basis. When the mission was completed, the aircraft landed on a conventional runway. [82]

Delta Clipper Experimental (DC-X)

The DC-X was a test vehicle ordered by the Air Force. It was originally part of the Strategic Defense Initiative. What the Air Force wanted was a fast turnaround craft requiring no more than 20 people all in all to control and maintain it. The contract was given to McDonnell-Douglas in the early 1990s.

The DC-X was aimed to be a demonstrator of a fully reusable, Single Stage to Orbit ( SSTO) vehicle. It was supposed to be followed by more advanced models.

The first flight took place in August 1993 and was a major success. The craft went up into the air, hovered for a while, flew to the side and then landed again in the same way it had taken off. A total of 8 test flights were performed during the next 2 years.

In 1996, NASA's X-33 program was announced. A DC-X derived craft was one of the competitors, but lost to the Lockheed-Martin-Martin">-Martin"> VentureStar concept. A continuation of the program, called the DC-XA, was still initiated, but 1996 would prove to be a fateful year for the cone-shaped craft. During a test flight it fell on its side and exploded just after landing, ending the DC-X program. [83]

The challenge faced by the new launch vehicles

In the early operations of a new SSTO vehicle, most of the costs will be taken up by paying off the development costs. The cost of fuel, the cheapest component, is a very insignificant part of the total cost, less than 3%.

This can be compared to the operations of a commercial airliner, where the transportation system has matured to a degree that fuel makes up 40% of the total cost. The challenge of any new space transportation system is to be able to make enough flights to rapidly pay off the development cost and trim the operations cost down to a degree where the cost of fuel begins to approach that of a commercial airliner. When that point is reached, the space transportation system has matured and one can truly talk about airline style operations to space. [84]

Under development

A number of private companies are at the moment trying to construct their own space vehicles. This is highly visible in the X PRIZE competition, which has 16 competitors. The US government has also issued new contracts to build reusable launch vehicles.

Commercial programs

These are a few examples of commercial programs to develop new launch vehicles. For more examples, look in the Space Vehicles section on http://www.spacefuture.com.

Dynamica is situated in Houston, Texas, USA. They are X PRIZE competitors and their craft is named the Cosmos Mariner. It will be used to launch small payloads for the LEO satellite market. It will take off from a conventional runway using regular jet engines. It also lands at a regular airport.

The craft has the ability to do horizontal cruise, allowing for larger launch windows. At the proper altitude the rocket propulsion system will take over and the craft will perform a complete sub-orbital trip. The system needs very little support infrastructure. [85]

The President and CEO, Norman LaFave, manages the project. [86] No launch date is set as yet.

Kelly is developing the Eclipse Astroliner, a two-stage-to-orbit vehicle. The vehicle will be towed by a Boeing 747 up to an altitude of 20,000 ft, where the tow cable will be released and the craft will go on using its own rockets. The advantage of doing a towed launch is that the vehicle can be much larger than with other air-launch methods, thereby giving a larger payload capacity. It also means that the vehicle can be launched at a geographically ideal location, eliminating the need for an orbital plane change.

At an altitude of 400,000 ft, the nose door is opened and, for satellite payloads, the payload is released. The expendable upper stage propulsion ignites and carries the payload into the desired orbit while the Astroliner reenters and lands at an airport.

Michael Kelly is the president of the company, which is based in San Bernardino, California, USA. They are X PRIZE competitors and expect the first flight to take place in 2002. [87]

Motorola has awarded a contract to Kelly valued at $89 million for launching a number of their satellites. This is the main market that Kelly aims to serve. [88]

Based in the Mojave Desert and in Redwood City, CA, USA, this company is developing the Roton, a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle, set to offer commercial service in 2000-2001.

The Roton has a rotating engine, using centrifugal force to spin the fuel and oxidizer out to a dozen small combustors arranged in a ring pattern. This design eliminates the need for heavy and expensive turbopumps used in most current rockets to transport the fuel.

When landing, the Roton deploys helicopter-style rotors from the top of the vehicle. This enables the Roton to land gently and precisely.

The Roton will initially be targeted at the satellite market, launching telecommunication satellites to LEO. However, the Roton will be available for purchase to space tourism companies and others. [89]

The president of the company is Gary Hudson, who also designed the Phoenix-E spacecraft, originally planned to be used by Society Expeditions to offer tourism flights in the 1980s. See the Tickets to Space! section.

Burt Rutan, who designed the Voyager, the first aircraft to fly non-stop around the world without refueling, runs this company, based in the Mojave desert in California, USA. It is an X PRIZE competitor. In September 1998, Scaled Composites did an official flight demonstration of the Proteus aircraft.

This plane is designed to carry payloads in the 2000-pound class to altitudes above 60,000 ft and remain there for 14 hours. Heavier payloads can be carried for shorter missions. [90]

The Proteus is the first half of a planned space transportation system. The spacecraft will be launched hanging underneath the Proteus. When the aircraft has reached the proper altitude and launch attitude, the spacecraft will be released, carrying three passengers onboard. Each of the three passengers will play an active role in piloting the ship on the sub-orbital flight. One person will control the ascent portion of the flight, the second will be in charge of the part outside the atmosphere and the third the landing phase. Before flying, the participants will undergo a training program in a resort-style environment. [91]

Governmental programs in the USA

NASA is currently running test programs to develop new technologies for easier access to space. These projects have been contracted out to well established space companies.

X-33

The X-33 will never go into orbit itself. Instead, it is meant to try out technologies necessary to construct an SSTO vehicle. The Lockheed-Martin-Martin">-Martin"> vehicle will feature an aerospike engine, a new technology which is more easily integrated with the X-33 lifting-body design, where wings have been replaced by making the entire craft in the shape and function of a big delta wing.

When the X-33 is fully developed, the technology will be made available to the private industry, which will hopefully continue the development into a full scale SSTO vehicle called the VentureStar. This is sometimes referred to as the next-generation Space Shuttle. [92] Work has also been done on how to turn it into a passenger-carrying vehicle, suitable for tourism. [93]

X-34

The X-34 is seen as the bridge between the DC-XA and the X-33. Orbital Sciences Corporation is developing it under a NASA contract. The craft is a small, reusable technology demonstrator. It has a single engine and can fly up to Mach 8 at a maximum altitude of 250,000 feet.

It will demonstrate low-cost reusability, autonomous landing, subsonic flights through rough weather and landing in high winds. The key technologies needed for this will be applicable to a future RLV that will dramatically lower the cost to orbit. [94]

Market surveys on space tourism
Japan, USA and Germany standardized study 1993-1995

In 1993, P Collins at the National Aerospace Laboratories and Tokyo University in Japan did the first market research on the demand for space tourism. 3000 people were interviewed. The results were very positive, with 70% of the Japanese expressing an interest in going to space.

Studies using the same questionnaires as the ones in Japan were performed in Germany in 1994 and in the USA in 1995. Because of this standardization of the questions, S Abitzsch at the Aerospace Institute of the Technical University in Berlin, Germany, were able to do a direct comparison between the three surveys in his paper Prospects of Space Tourism from 1996. Those results are presented here. The diagrams are taken from the paper.

Fig. 1 describes the basic level of interest in travelling to space, broken down by age and country. The bars to the right represent the total percentage of people willing to travel to space. As can be seen, the Japanese are very enthusiastic. Germans do not seem to be that interested, with only 43%. Abitzsch attributes this to the more prosaic German life-style.

Fig. 1: Percent of respondents interested in going to space by age and country

Fig. 2 shows the preferred activities of the respondents while on their space trip. The simplest thing to do, watching the Earth, is also the most popular. This goes for all the nationalities included. With the exception of taking a space walk, the other activities are fairly easy to realize as well.

Fig. 2: Preferred activities during a space trip by country

These numbers give a lot of info on how the space vehicle should be constructed. As long as everyone has the possibility to easily see the Earth the customers will be satisfied.

Fig. 3 shows the preferred length of a space trip. Obviously, once people are up there they prefer to stay for a while. There is no major difference between the different surveys in this matter. A logical conclusion of this is that the full potential of space tourism will not be reached as long as there are no orbital hotels.

Fig. 3: Preferred length of space trip by country

How much are these people willing to pay? Shown in Fig. 4, this is maybe the most interesting question of all. The problem with comparing these numbers is that people earn different amounts in different countries, as well as there being a difference in how much they can buy for what they earn.

To remedy this, the amounts are shown as a multiple of an average income per capita in each country. In order not to have to worry about exchange rates and inflation rate distortions, the so called Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) in international dollars ($int.) have been used as a common monetary database. Based on a globally standardized market basket, the real purchasing power of an income could be compared directly among several countries.

The PPP values used are (year of comparison: 1994):

Germany16580 $int.
Japan 20200 $int.
USA 25850 $int.
Fig. 4: Amount people would pay for a space trip by country

The numbers are presented as cumulated data, which means that if a person says that she is prepared to pay 1 year's salary to go, it is assumed that she would be even more willing to pay 6 months' salary to go, thereby including her in that figure as well. This is why the 1-month's bar is nearly 100%.

The exact length of the trip for the price given is somewhat undetermined. Abitzsch finds further market research to be necessary.

Fig. 5 shows the reasons why people are not interested in going to space. 5-10% didn't think it was realistic and about 1/3 said safety was their main concern. This could mean that when space tourism becomes a reality and proves to be safe enough, these two groups might change their mind.

Fig. 5: Reason for not being interested in going to space

Abitzsch sums up his comparison by noting that the surveys show no great variation in the data, with the exception of the overall interest of going to space. The yearning to go to space seems to exist in all cultures to some degree. This is of course very encouraging for the prospects of space tourism, as it means that this could be a global industry, thus assuring that the demand is big enough to get space tourism started.[95]

Every summer, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) holds a convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA. In 1997, the X PRIZE Foundation used the event as an opportunity to capture data on the demand for space tourism via a survey. A total of 6000 people were present at X PRIZE held events at the convention.

Oshkosh demographics

Almost all the visitors to the convention are pilots, own airplanes or have access to them, work in aviation or aerospace fields and are well educated. The income of the average attendee is over $70,000.

  • Gender
    72.3%Male
    27.7%Female

  • Average age is 46.8 years.

  • Pilots
    52%Pilots
    2% Obtaining their pilot license
    16%Arrive at Oshkosh in a private plane
Survey results

95.6% of the survey respondents under the age of 50 expressed an interest in traveling in space.

91.7% of the respondents aged 50 and over expressed an interest in traveling in space.

Fig. 6 shows the percentage of the survey population who would be willing to pay for a 10-orbit flight given a variety of pricing options. This data suggests that:

  • approximately 65% of the population would be willing to actually pay to fly in space
  • 16% of the population would spend $50,000 or more for an orbital trip
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Fig. 7 shows the percent of the surveyed population who would be willing to pay for a sub-orbital trip to space.

About 70% of the respondents indicated that they would be willing to pay for a sub-orbital flight into space.

14% said that they would be willing to pay more than $24,000 for such a trip with some 6% willing to pay over $50,000.

Fig. 8

Fig. 8 shows the age distribution of the people who are prepared to pay for an orbital flight. The percentages correlates with the overall survey respondent population, shown in Fig. 9.

Fig. 9
Fig. 10

Fig. 10 shows the distribution of income among the people saying that they would pay to take a ride in space. A similar distribution was found in the distribution of income among the survey respondents in general, shown in Fig. 11.

Fig. 11

In order for this survey to be comparable to the studies conducted by Abitzsch and others in Japan, USA and Germany, the data was extrapolated over the entire US population to create a demand curve shown in Fig. 12. It was pointed out, though, that the results of the Oshkosh survey might not represent the entire population.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Fig. 12 [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] Conclusions [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Preliminary analysis of the survey suggests that most of the US population would favorably consider the idea of space tourism. Between 65-75% of the population surveyed said that they would pay for sub-orbital and orbital trips. The extrapolated demand curve for the US population in Fig.12 is similar to the results from the Japan, USA and Germany surveys. [96] [an error occurred while processing this directive] NASA-STA [an error occurred while processing this directive]

In March 1998 the Space Transportation Association released a 2-year study called General Public Space Travel and Tourism. This study was sponsored by NASA and included a tourism survey made by Yesiawich, Pepperdine and Brown of Florida, along with Yankelowich Partners of Connecticut. The survey encompassed 1,500 families and was conducted in 1997.

The study was said to apply to the 130 million of "...all US consumers who took one or more pleasure trips of 75 miles or more in 1996 that required overnight accommodations. Accordingly, the percentage of potential Shuttle travelers and potential cruise [-like space] vessel travelers can be applied to this base for purposes of estimating the [space tourism] market potential."

The results were the following:


QuestionAnswer in %

1.   Would you be interested in taking a two-week vacation in the Space Shuttle in the future?33.9 (Yes)

2.   If yes, what would you be willing to pay per person for such an experience?
  Less than $500 11.7
  $500 - $1,999 22.5
  $2,000 - $4,999 26.7
  $5,000 - $9,999 22.5
  $10,000 - $24,9999.1
  $25,000 - $49,999<1
  $50,000 - $99,999<1
  $100,000 or more 7.5
  Mean $10,812

3.   Thinking ahead about the likely advances in space travel within the next decade, would you be interested in travel in a space cruise vessel capable of taking passengers into space which would offer similar accommodations and entertainment programs of an ocean going cruise ship?42.2 (Yes) [97]

[an error occurred while processing this directive] CNN Interactive [an error occurred while processing this directive]

In March-April of 1999, the CNN Interactive web site ran a "quick vote" on the question

What's the most you would spend on a lottery ticket if the prize was a trip into space?

People could vote directly on the web site, choosing between 4 alternatives. The votes were then put up for everyone to see. After a few weeks the voting was ended and the results turned out as follows:


$10 36%1040 votes
$100 30%880 votes
$1,000 19%543 votes
Wouldn't buy one16%452 votes

Total:2915 votes

The poll was located in the Space section of the CNN web site. Thus, people who responded to the poll may be assumed to have an above average interest in space.

CNN added that "This poll is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate. The results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of Internet users in general, nor the public as a whole". [98]

Nevertheless, it is interesting to see that the choices $10 and $100 gave percentages that were not too far from each other. People seem to be prepared to make a fairly substantial investment in order to have at least the chance to go to space. [an error occurred while processing this directive] Interviews [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] People interviewed [an error occurred while processing this directive]

The people interviewed are, in first name alphabetical order:

Alan Ladwig Senior Advisor to the AdministratorNASA
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Burt Rutan[an error occurred while processing this directive] President Scaled Composites
Chuck Kline Special Assistant Office of Commercial for External Affairs, Space Transportation, FAA
David Gump President Lunacorp
Gary Hudson President Rotary Rocket
Gregg MaryniakExecutive Director X PRIZE Foundation
Hartmut MullerPresident Space Tours
[an error occurred while processing this directive]John Spencer[an error occurred while processing this directive] Executive Director Space Tourism Society
Norman LaFave President Dynamica Research
Patrick CollinsVice President Spacetopia
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Peter Diamandis[an error occurred while processing this directive]President X PRIZE Foundation
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Rand Simberg[an error occurred while processing this directive] President Interglobal Space Lines
Robert ForwardAuthor, Vice-PresidentTethers Unlimited
Ron Jones Executive Director Sharespace
Scott FitzsimmonsPresident Zegrahm Space Voyages
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Tom Rogers[an error occurred while processing this directive] President Space Transportation Association
[an error occurred while processing this directive] Questions [an error occurred while processing this directive]
  1. What are your visions on space tourism for the next 25 years?
  2. When do you think we will have sub-orbital jumps available on a regular basis?
  3. How much will the first tourists pay for a sub-orbital jump?
  4. When do you think we will have [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive] trips available on a regular basis?
  5. How much will the first tourists pay for a trip to [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive]?
  6. When will the price be $1000/kg to [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive]?
  7. What role, if any, should the government play in the development of space tourism?
  8. What effects will space tourism have on people making money in space (space commercialization)?
  9. What do you see as the best way to make space tourism affordable for the public?
  10. What is the biggest impediment to space tourism today and what is the best way to deal with the problem?
[an error occurred while processing this directive] Answers [an error occurred while processing this directive]

  1. What are your visions on space tourism for the next 25 years?

    Everyone agrees that there will be some kind of space tourism, although the individual predictions on the extent of it vary greatly.

    The most conservative opinions say that not much will happen in such a short run as 25 years. Reasons given for this are:

    • There is no real business in the space tourism area at all today. For any field one can say that if there is no business today then you won't see the fruits in less than 5 years. Because of this uncertainty it is very hard to predict what will happen. If you start a new business for $100,000 then all is OK, but if you need $10,000,000, then you have a problem. People start wondering why the government hasn't done it if it is so good.

    • Unless there is a major breakthrough in technology not much will happen for a larger number of people. The launch cost would have to go down to $1000/lb to really open up the market. No funding is being committed today for that to happen.

    • We are not really ready for space tourism yet. First, space travel will go through a similar period as aviation went through in 1908-1912. Thousands of airplane pilots were educated and hundreds of different airplane types were built. There was no tourism at that stage; people just gathered a lot of experience flying airplanes. Space travel will go through a similar phase, then we will have space tourism.

    Space-related tourism on Earth, such as parabolic flights, as well as virtual trips and telepresence experiences are seen as being vital precursor activities to the real thing.

    There seems to be a general consensus that sub-orbital jumps are the first step when it comes to taking people up into space. However, one interesting comment made is "When flights to orbit become possible the sub-orbital flights will be discarded, because it is in [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive] trips that the major market is."

    Some companies are currently developing spacecraft that will go straight to [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive], which may render the sub-orbital market obsolete at a very early stage.

    10 out of 16 mention private orbital hotels and facilities being constructed soon after orbital flights appear. A few see the [an error occurred while processing this directive]ISS[an error occurred while processing this directive] as being a reasonable first step for an early space hotel.

    6 out of 16 say that trips to the Moon will be available to tourists. Some kind of base will be available where people can stay. The kinds of tourists that will be able to go range from journalists only to everyone who can put up the cash needed.

    Finally, the most optimistic view predicts that there will be:

    • rotating hotels offering all kinds of activities on different gravity levels
    • a lunar gambling resort similar to Las Vegas with excursions to the Apollo sites
    • year-long trips to Mars to climb the highest mountain in the solar system and fly through the longest and deepest canyon in the solar system.

  2. When do you think we will have sub-orbital jumps available on a regular basis?

    This is the first major step in space tourism. A lot of activities are going on at the moment to bring this kind of trip to life and so the predictions are very optimistic. 2002 got the highest number of votes, but the 3 following years are also probable candidates. [an error occurred while processing this directive] images/space_tourism_and_its_effects_on_space_commercialization.25.gif [an error occurred while processing this directive]

  3. How much will the first tourists pay for a sub-orbital jump?

    A few companies, like Zegrahm Space Voyages, have already stated the price for this kind of trip and this is the figure used in many of the replies. The price will most probably be around $100,000.

  • When do you think we will have LEO trips available on a regular basis?

    This is farther into the future and so the predictions are more widespread. It therefore made more sense to arrange the answers into intervals to get a better overview. Regular flights to LEO are likely to start between 2006 and 2010. [an error occurred while processing this directive] images/space_tourism_and_its_effects_on_space_commercialization.27.gif [an error occurred while processing this directive]

  • How much will the first tourists pay for a trip to [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive]?

    What is interesting to note here is that the price most people think will be the initial price, about $100,000, is also the most popular price under question 3. The market is seen as having matured enough, together with the technology, at this stage. The price is most likely to be between $50,000 and $200,000 for the first flights. [an error occurred while processing this directive] images/space_tourism_and_its_effects_on_space_commercialization.28.gif [an error occurred while processing this directive]

  • When will the price be $1000/kg to [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive]?

    This is often mentioned as a break-even price for commercial space activities to really take off. Thus, the question is important when it comes to predicting how early the market might open up to more diverse activities in space. The price is predicted to reach this level between 2006-2009. [an error occurred while processing this directive] images/space_tourism_and_its_effects_on_space_commercialization.29.gif [an error occurred while processing this directive]

  • What role, if any, should the government play in the development of space tourism?

    "They should stay out of the way." is without a doubt the most common comment. The government is seen as slowing things down through their bureaucratic structure.

    There are a few things the government is allowed to do. One thing is to build a legal framework. Most agree that some kind of regulations will be necessary. Suggestions around this are to:

    • put ceilings on liability
    • provide loan guarantees
    • help out in the area of licensing

    The government may also do basic technological research and development, provided that it benefits the private industry, although a few questions the efficiency with which the government could do it. They must not hurt private companies through subsidized projects. Bringing about low-cost transportation systems is a priority.

    Space exploration is what the government does best, however. Nobody is against them continuing to do that.

    This comment well describes the situation today:

    "When telecommunication satellites became available in the 1960s, they were very quickly adapted as a new means of communication, mainly because the structure to deal with them was already there. There were telecommunication companies, like AT&T. People were already sending telegrams over radio for a very high cost, if there was no existing infrastructure available. The government had a regulatory body in place for all telecommunication. For space tourism, none of this exists. A regulatory body is beginning to form in the Department of Transportation, but no established companies are yet ready to take over and run it. A lot of hard work will be needed to convince the hotel and cruise line industry, the advertising industry and other important entities that space tourism has an enormous potential."

  • What effects will space tourism have on people making money in space (space commercialization)?

    The opinions are very unified on this question.

    Space tourism will build an infrastructure in space, because space tourism is the only payload that can support a high flight volume. Tourism has practically no saturation limits, just look at the growth of theme parks and cruise lines. There are definitely limits to how many telecommunication and remote sensing satellites that are needed. The market size of space tourism will be 1-2 levels of magnitude larger than telecommunications.

    The high number of flights and the establishment of an infrastructure will get launch costs down. This will open the floodgates to all kinds of commercial ventures, since everything concerning space commercialization is tied to the cost of going to orbit.

    Space tourism will also build an awareness of space, which is the first step in any business to get people involved. As more of the industry gets aware of space, their excitement will play a major role.

    When private industry comes in, the prices will be explicit and open to competition, not hidden behind things like bartering. Now, government agencies are doing things for governmental purposes, so no real incentive to lower launch costs exists.

    Some quotes:

    "In 1908 no one envisioned Concorde or the 747. This question is a little like asking me to envision a similar thing for space. It is OK for us to have a low initial vision on this, because we can do it anyway. We don't need a long term vision, just let it sort itself out later."

    "As more people experience the space environment, new ways will form to think about space. People who have been in the industry a long time may not be able to think about it in the same ways. To get the public involved would make a difference."

  • What do you see as the best way to make space tourism affordable for the public?

    There are no contradictory answers among the interviews, so all suggestions are presented below.

    In the beginning, it will definitely not be affordable to everyone. Wealthy individuals would open up the market. Then over a number of decades, or maybe even generations, the industry would mature. This is how the cruise industry developed, where enough customers were prepared to pay the initially high price to get the business started.

    In the short run, sweepstakes could be a way of giving everyone at least a chance of going. Even today this makes it possible for people to win trips on Earth they would never be able to pay for.

    In the long run, commercial competition will be a main way of getting the price down radically. Several different business groupings would compete with each other. This should develop rapidly once it begins for real. If it became a worldwide endeavor the price would really fall.

    The vehicles are also important. A rocket today is a complicated thing; it demands a lot of testing and various safeguards. Improvements in technology will make spacecraft cheaper to operate. Less expensive engines and lighter-weight materials will make it easier for people to build space vehicles. [an error occurred while processing this directive]SSTO[an error occurred while processing this directive] will be an important step, however the first vehicles may have several reusable stages.

    A quote from one of the interviews highlights the dangers of being too early in offering flights to everyone:

    It is dangerous to hype space tourism too soon. One should not promise that it will happen before it actually happens. In the mid 1980s, [an error occurred while processing this directive]Society Expeditions[an error occurred while processing this directive] did a premature thing and took money for reservations on a spacecraft. Later they had to return the money. You can only do things like that a certain number of times before the public gets cynical about it. It also scares off investors."

  • What is the biggest impediment to space tourism today and what is the best way to deal with the problem?

    An open question, where the replies do not contradict each other. They are all presented here in a summary form.

    Since space tourism is a completely new industry, no data whatsoever on previous experiences are available. The only data available are the few space tourism surveys that have been conducted. No one exactly knows how large the market will be and no vehicles today have yet passed the safety standards needed to be able to carry passengers. This makes the space tourism industry very speculative. Investors become hesitant, especially considering the large amount of funds needed to develop a completely new spacecraft.

    There are different kinds of money available to start-up companies:

    • Investment money, such as venture capital. To get hold of this money, though, one needs to show at least 2-3 successful companies in the same field. That is where the Internet companies are today, with hundreds of successes. The space business has no such thing at the moment. The history consists mostly of failures and the successes have been only partial at best.

    • Entertainment money and money from wealthy individuals. People backing competitions like America's Cup or other events where there is a strong competitive spirit offer a source of money that space companies previously have not had access to. The X PRIZE, for instance, makes such money available to the space industry.

    Because of the money problem, most spacecraft manufacturers are initially focusing on the cargo market. There are a lot of data on launching satellites, which investors like. Commercial launch companies will start by launching satellites cheaply, then move on to including tourism.

    The regulatory structure is somewhat unclear at the moment. This could cause concern about investing in something that would later be deemed to be illegal. The FAA is working on it, though, and says that it will be ready when the time comes to start certifying spacecraft.

    Another problem is the images created by governmental agencies of space being a place where only governmental astronauts and scientists can go. This causes people to think "If space tourism is so good, why isn't NASA doing it?". The high cost of operating the shuttle also has an effect on peoples' opinions. Some think the price is the same for operating any space vehicle, but NASA's costs are not what businesses have to pay. Launch costs can definitely be brought down, even for manned flights.

    All in all, people in general can't really picture what space tourism is all about. Creating a vision of space tourism so strong and appealing that financial sources will jump at the idea is one of the challenges today. When the trips become real, people will be able to go and see the launches, talk to the crews and people who made the trip. That will drastically change their perception. The major issue is getting things started.

    The focus needs to be less on technology and more on advertising, merchandising and financing. Space is a place for business people in the future, not the government. [an error occurred while processing this directive] Conclusions [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    Based on my research and my interviews I present the following conclusions: [an error occurred while processing this directive] Space tourism [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    There is a great yearning among the public to travel in space. All market surveys point to this. People are prepared to pay a relatively substantial amount to do it.

    Space tourism is unique in that it is a manned space activity that makes economic sense. It is the only activity that can support a high number of flights, which is essential to bringing costs down. There is practically no saturation limit to tourism, just look at the growth of theme parks and cruise lines all over the world.

    Chances are good that within the next 25 years a remarkable sequence of events will take place in space. We will witness the birth of a completely new industry. An infrastructure between Earth and [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive] will be constructed. There will be regular passenger tours to [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive] and back, carrying mainly tourists.

    As soon as the infrastructure is in place, a number of orbital facilities will rapidly be constructed.

    Because the new launch vehicles will be carrying passengers on regular trips, they will be much safer and quicker in turn-around than the launch vehicles of today, which are made to be used once and take months to be prepared for each flight.

    Manned, sub-orbital flights will be regularly available within 2-3 years. They will give the first true taste of space tourism. The price for the ticket will be high at first, about $100,000, but that will drop relatively quickly as the market matures.

    Manned, orbital flights to [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive] on a regular basis are a bit farther away, but will occur within 10 years. This will be the start of the real wave of space tourism. The price at the beginning will be above $100,000, but will fall rapidly.

    People can't be charged different rates for different weights. The price of a ticket has to be uniform. On the other hand, when it comes to cargo the exact price per kg is highly important. The price today to get something into orbit is $13,000-$22,000/kg which is very expensive, but the price will drop to $1,000/kg within 10 years, much thanks to space tourism.

    National space agencies and other governmental institutions are not interested in doing space tourism themselves and rightfully so. They do, however, have a role to fill when it comes to creating a legal and regulatory framework around this new industry. Apart from that, they should stay away and let private enterprise run the show.

    Several companies will be competing for the customers. The cost of a ticket may fall very quickly because of this. It will also increase the rate of technological development of launch vehicles.

    The main problem of space tourism today is raising capital. The costs are huge for developing spacecraft. Investors in general are naturally hesitant towards investing in a so far purely speculative business area. Luckily enough, the telecommunication industry is experiencing a boom at the moment, with several large satellite constellations, such as Iridium, being put into orbit over the coming years. This enables the developers of launch vehicles to initially focus on the launching of satellites, which is a well-known market with lots of data available. This is more likely to please investors

    Since space tourism is such a new thing, people may have problems perceiving exactly what it is all about. Work needs to be done to educate the public about this, which is perhaps a task for non-profit organizations. [an error occurred while processing this directive] The effects of space tourism on space commercialization [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    All commercial space activities are tied to the cost of going to orbit. Space tourism is a way to bring down the current high costs. It is the only way to open up space on a major scale.

    Thanks to the infrastructure established to do space tourism, other commercial space ventures will also have an improved chance of getting going. Space tourism will be the main market driver for this.

    Solar power satellites are one example of a potentially feasible commercial product as the launch costs come down.

    The industry will become more aware of space as a place to do business because of space tourism. New thoughts and ideas will come up on how to use space.

    It will be much easier for newcomers to the space industry to establish themselves.

    The following is more a speculation than a conclusion. It illustrates a possible scenario of future space commercialization through the advent of space tourism:

    When tourists are going regularly to [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive], orbital facilities will need to be built. Initially this can be done by bringing material up from Earth, such as an external tank from the Space Shuttle. When tourism turns into a large-scale industry it may make sense to get the material elsewhere, such as from the Moon or a near-Earth asteroid. This raw material will need to be processed, thus opening up for a refinement and manufacturing industry in [an error occurred while processing this directive]LEO[an error occurred while processing this directive]. This industry will attract companies from other fields of business. Eventually, the old dreams about new materials and medicines as well as polluting industries being moved off the surface of the Earth will have a good chance of coming true.

    [an error occurred while processing this directive] Finally, a few quotes: [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    "Life in the rich countries has reached a level of comfort that leaves many peoples' need for challenge unsatisfied. Sports and drugtaking may provide ways of passing the time, but they're hardly foundations for a great society in the future. The Internet may provide an interesting "virtual frontier", but ultimately it's a means of communication - not a real frontier, with all the challenges and new experiences that offers. And without a real frontier there is a growing shortage of opportunities for meaningful exploration for lively minded people." [99]
    - Space Future Journal, on the need for space tourism

    "We have met the payload of the future and he is us."
    - G. Maryniak, X PRIZE Foundation

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    [an error occurred while processing this directive] Appendix A: Contact information [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] Author [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    [an error occurred while processing this directive]Anders Lindsköld[an error occurred while processing this directive], Sweden

    Email: alindsko@hem.passagen.se [an error occurred while processing this directive] Companies and Organisations [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    • Dynamica Research

      3811 High Falls Drive
      Houston, TX 77068, USA
      281-893-3517
      Fax: 281-893-1265
      Info: nlafave@dynamicar.com
      http://www.dynamicar.com

    • Experimental Aircraft Association

      EAA Aviation Center
      [an error occurred while processing this directive]P[an error occurred while processing this directive].O. Box 3086
      Oshkosh, WI, 54903-3086, USA
      920-426-9800
      http://www.eaa.org

    • Federal Aviation Administration

      Washington, DC, USA
      800-322-7873
      http://www.faa.gov

    • Incredible Adventures

      6604 Midnight Pass Road
      Sarasota, FL 34242, USA
      941-346-2488
      Fax: 941-346-2488
      Info: migsetc@packet.net
      http://www.incredible-adventures.com

    • Interglobal Space Lines, Inc.

      PO Box 8947
      Jackson, WY 83001, USA
      01-307-739-1296
      Fax: 01-307-733-1391
      Info: simberg@interglobal.org
      http://www.interglobal.org

    • [an error occurred while processing this directive]Japanese Rocket Society[an error occurred while processing this directive], use Spacetopia address

    • Kelly Space & Technology

      Info: kstadmin@kellyspace.com
      http://www.kellyspace.com

    • LunaCorp

      4350 North Fairfax Drive, #900
      Arlington, VA 22203, USA
      703-841-9500
      Fax: 703-841-9503
      http://www.lunacorp.com

    • Quark Expeditions

      Info: enquiry@quarkexpeditions.co.uk
      http://www.quark-expeditions.com

    • Rotary Rocket Company

      595 Penobscot Drive
      Redwood City, CA 94063, USA
      650-298-3300
      Fax: 650-298-3301
      Info: media@rotaryrocket.com
      http://www.rotaryrocket.com

    • Scaled Composites, Inc.

      1624 Flight Line
      Mojave, CA 93501, USA
      805-824-4541
      Fax: 805-824-4174
      Info: Info@scaled.com
      http://www.scaled.com

    • [an error occurred while processing this directive]Society Expeditions[an error occurred while processing this directive]

      2001 Western Avenue, Suite 300
      Seattle, WA 98121
      206-728-9400
      Fax: 206-728-2301
      http://www.societyexpeditions.com

    • Space Adventures, Ltd.

      4718 N. 24th Street
      Arlington, Virginia 22207, USA
      (703) 524 - 7172
      Fax: (703) 524 - 7176
      Info: info@spaceadventures.com
      http://www.spaceadventures.com

    • Space Tourism Society

      [an error occurred while processing this directive]John Spencer[an error occurred while processing this directive]
      1242 Berkeley St #15
      Santa Monica, CA 90404, USA
      310-472-0846
      Info: jssdesign@aol.com
      http://www.space-tourism-society.org

    • ip Space Tours GmbH

      Postfach 1330
      28847 Syke, Germany
      +49 171 285 4103
      Fax: +49 4242 3891
      Info: hm.123@T-Online.de
      http://www.spacetours.de

    • Space Transportation Association

      2800 Shirlington Road
      Suite 405
      Arlington, VA 22206, USA
      703-671-4111
      Fax: 703-931-6432
      Info: spacetra@erols.com
      http://www.spacetransportation.org

    • Spacetopia Inc.

      Murase Building
      Hamamatsu-cho 1-20-2
      Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-0013, Japan
      03-5404-7802
      Fax: 03-5404-7802
      Info: info@spacetopia.com
      http://www.spacetopia.com

    • X PRIZE Foundation

      5050 Oakland Avenue
      St Louis. MO 63110, USA
      314-533-2002
      Fax: 314-533-6502
      Info: info@xprize.org
      http://www.xprize.org

    • Zegrahm Space Voyages

      1414 Dexter Ave. N., Suite #2001
      Seattle, WA, 98109, USA
      1-888-SPACE66
      Fax: (206) 285-7390
      Info: zsv@spacevoyages.com
      http://www.spacevoyages.com
    [an error occurred while processing this directive]