Dr. Parshotam S. Manhas
Too much travel on earth now, let’s shifts gear. Space tourism is based on the idea of people traveling in space. Traveling to space provides an unprecedented experience and excitement. The most exciting is the sightseeing flights in space while enjoying the zero gravity. This recreational space travel, either on established government-owned vehicles such as the Russian Soyuz and the International Space Station (ISS) or on vehicles fielded by private companies have opened new frontiers since the flight of the world’s first space tourist, American businessman Dennis Tito on April 28, 2001. With the advancement of science and technology, the ranks of spaceflight participants will grow, and suborbital and orbital flights will inevitably give way to lunar excursions and trips to Mars and beyond, by which time-space tourism will be operating as a full-fledged industry capable of truly opening the frontier of space.
The era of private space tourism has in fact begun with the commercial flight into suborbital space with six passengers: two pilots and four passengers including Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group completed the first space travel trip abroad the Virgin Galactic, a supersonic space aircraft developed by Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic boasts a flight time of around 90 minutes from take-off to landing, including several minutes of weightlessness. Virgin Galactic’s flight reached 86km above Earth. Today, Branson’s Virgin Galactic is reported to have more than 600 ticket reservations already, priced around $250,000 (roughly Rs. 1.8 crores). It expects to begin a full commercial service in 2022 and eventually hopes to slash the ticket price to around $40,000 (roughly Rs. 30 lakhs).
Jeff Bezos, the American businessman, and Amazon founder made history on July 20, 2021 aboard his company Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket on the world’s first unpiloted suborbital flight, with three crew members to reach the Karman line and head back safely to Earth. The space trip lasted about 10 minutes at an altitude of 66.5 miles (107 km) above Texas desert and the crew members experienced a few minutes of weightlessness and witnessed the curve of the Earth from space. Billionaire Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark Bezos, a private equity executive, were joined by 82-year-old pioneering female aviator Wally Funk, and recent high school graduate 18-year-old Dutchman Oliver Daemen to reach space.
Billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s space transportation company SpaceX’s Inspiration4 sent four civilian crews on a three-day trip around Earth aboard its Crew Dragon capsule on September 15, 2021 in the first-ever crewed orbital mission that didn’t include any professional astronauts and the landmark flight wrapped up on September 18, 2021 with an ocean splashdown off the Florida coast. The team of amateurs includes 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, who personally financed the trip; Hayley Arceneux, 29, a childhood cancer survivor and current St. Jude physician assistant; Sian Procotor, 51, a geologist and community college teacher with a PhD; and Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Lockheed Martin employee and lifelong space fan who claimed his seat through an online raffle. SpaceX will also fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon with its forthcoming Starship rocket in 2023.
All these space tourism and adventurism have opened up new horizons and frontiers to explore more about space. As billionaires with private space companies, space travel is now going to be the destination that people would love to travel to.
Interestingly, American companies are not the only ones looking at the commercial space race. Japanese spacecraft developer PD AeroSpace is developing an airport on an island in Okinawa for space tourism by 2025. China is also showing interest in space tourism after successful space missions last year, while Europe is also looking to follow suit.
The main objective of space travel is to demonstrate that going to suborbital space is perfectly safe and affordable for the average person whence we have large company vying for the space tourism trips. Perhaps modern technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) have improved the operation for such flights with real-time data and analytics providing better information.
While the momentum for space tourism grows, there are still concerns about the entire idea of space travel, regulations, safety, and the security of such flights from any cybercriminal. The space tourism industry will give fillips to jobs in the form of pilots, programmers, manufacturing units, and manpower as multiple companies are evincing interest in the space tourism business. Space tourism is going to renew interest in space exploration, technological innovation, and high investor interest. But the space tourism is currently considered “the club of rich” due to the huge initial investment and exorbitant ticket cost of a single seat.
Space tourism is another niche segment of the aviation industry that seeks to give tourists the ability to become astronauts and experience space travel for recreational, leisure, or business purposes. Many people find this idea futuristic and setting up commercial space tourism services is a realistic target for business today.
Dr. Parshotam S. Manhas