23 August 2001
- Tourism (None)
Space Tourism and Survival
How space tourism can save humanity
by Alan Breakstone
by Alan Breakstone 

Space colonization is not just a cool idea--it is necessary for humankind’s long-term survival in the universe. As long as we are stranded on one tiny planet, we are vulnerable to extinction by everything from asteroid impacts to global nuclear and biological war. We have visited space for over forty years. It is high time to move decisively toward the next stage: colonization.

Unfortunately, neither governments nor the world’s wealthiest citizens will move us in this direction. In America, for example, public interest in expanding the national space effort is high. But Americans do not see space as something directly touching their lives, so they are not willing to pressure the politicians to pursue an aggressive space program. If the politicians see no threat to their re-election chances, they will take no action. Hence, we dream about colonies in orbit and on Mars, but no government monies will turn that dream into reality. And NASA’s desire to tinker endlessly with ever-more complex technologies will draw energy away from developing cheap, practical space vehicles using existing technology, further hampering the aggressive development of space colonies.

The world’s billionaires and financiers will not fill that vacuum with funding for a private space colonization program. The stars are meaningless to them, as Ivan Boesky reminded us in the Reagan era when he asked what good was the moon, since you can’t buy it or sell it.

So how do we insure humanity’s future through development of a spacefaring society? The answer is space tourism. And it can begin with the simplest and cheapest approach: short suborbital flights to the edge of space at affordable prices. The large aerospace companies can easily and quickly develop practical suborbital tourist rockets with the millions of dollars they otherwise award their CEOs in the way of stock options. But the large aerospace firms would rather make billions in taxpayer money without spending a cent, using NASA and other space agencies as a corporate welfare program.

This leaves the small, struggling entrepreneur to attract the scared, reluctant, post-dot-com-bust investors of the early 21st century. But there is evidence that some of these entrepreneurs are making progress. By 2010, it is possible that the first suborbital tourist flights will have begun.

As a result, the public will no longer see space as irrelevant and inaccessible to them. The demand for flights will likely be great, even overwhelming. The first successful suborbital entrepreneurs will become very wealthy in a short time. This will persuade heartened investors to take the next step: orbital tourism.

Evolutions of the suborbital vehicles will be built to take the millions of space tourists on short orbital whirls around the globe. Demand will grow, profits will soar, and the next step will be taken. Orbital hotels will be built, possibly even inflated like bubbles above the atmosphere. Fuel depots could be attached, permitting the same orbital spaceships to take tourists around and even down to the moon. Hotels will be inflated on the lunar surface for longer stays.

This spaceborne infrastructure will require people from the same walks of life found on earth: cooks, janitors, administrative assistants, maids, waiters, security guards, repairmen, doctors, lawyers, farmers, tour guides, etc. They will need comfortable, long-term living quarters in the new tourist establishments. They will live and work there for months, even years. Some will take their families with them, or find mates in the heavens and start families there. Some of these will see no need to return to earth, except for visits. More and more of them will have so many interests in space that they will see no need to return to earth at all. The space hotels will evolve into space colonies.

All this would be the inevitable result of the development and popularity of space tourism, creating a profit-pressure that will fuel greater expansion of humanity into space. That expansion has no limit. By the mid-century mark, humankind could be settled throughout the inner Solar System and already looking farther into space. Oases of life scattered through space will ensure that when (not if) an extinction-level event engulfs the earth, life will go on. And it will not be government space programs or large corporations that will make this possible. It will be a small group of skilled enthusiasts and their little rocketship at the local airport. From that space-age Kitty Hawk, the human story might go on forever. 
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Alan Breakstone 23 August 2001
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